The Phillies Week in Review, everything you need to know about the week that was for the Philadelphia Phillies 2016 season.
2016 Phillies – Week in Review – Week 5 – 5/2-5/8/16
The Phillies carried an unexpected 6-game winning streak into the season’s 5th week. Given their recent history at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium (6-9 since the disappointing playoff loss in 2011), there was no guarantee that the streak would continue. If they could get through the 4-game gauntlet in the Gateway City, their reward was the Miami Marlins … quite possibly the only team in the league as hot as they were.
Nobody circles the trip to St. Louis on their calendar like Ryan Howard. Not only does it mean coming home. But, ‘Deep Six’ has done some serious damage in the shadow of the Arch (.328, 13HR, 43RBI, 1.102 OPS). Clearly not the threat he once was, the idea of him finding his swing against the Cardinals was an inviting prospect.
In the top of the third, a Freddy Galvis single plated two and a sacrifice fly by Mikael Franco scored another, as the bats handed Jeremy Hellickson a 3-0 lead. The Cards seemed lifeless through the first three innings. But, in the fourth, with two out and two on, Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright worked a 3-1 count and then crushed the seventh (and, without question, the longest) home run of his career. The 3-run bomb soared into the second deck, an area usually reserved for the likes of McGwire, Pujols and Holliday. The home dugout sprung to life and the rejuvenated Redbirds started rolling. Especially the bottom of the lineup as, for the first time in franchise history (that’s 134 years and about 20,000 games, kids!!), the 6, 7, 8 and 9 hitters all went junk yard in the same game. Every hot team eventually throws in a ‘clunker’. This one quickly became exactly that as the streak ended at six. Cardinals, 10 – Phillies, 3
This team seems hell bent on showing the world that they are not the 99-loss pushovers they were in 2015. One of the ways to do that is to respond after bad losses. It would be up to Aaron Nola to quiet the Cardinal bats. Meanwhile, the tepid Philadelphia offense would be dealing with Fozzie Bear’s favorite pitcher Michael ‘Waka-waka’ Wacha.
This was an old-school pitchers’ duel to behold. The two impressive righthanders traded zeroes through five innings. Then, with one down in the top of the sixth, Howard made himself right at home. He blasted Wacha’s first pitch over the home bullpen to break the scoreless tie. Nola would carry that lead through the seventh. He allowed only two hits and a walk while fanning seven. He extended his scoreless streak to an impressive 20 innings. It was also the second straight start in which he went seven and allowed two hits or fewer, the first time a Phillies starter has done that since Dick Ruthven in 1979. As is becoming their custom, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez brought the proceedings to a close with Neris striking out the side in order in the eighth and Gomez claiming his ninth save. Phillies, 1 – Cardinals, 0
Lefty Adam Morgan took the ball and, for four innings, it appeared he had picked up right here Nola left off. Howard continued his homecoming feast with a 3-run missile in the fourth and Odubel Herrera smoked a solo shot into the Cardinal bullpen in the top of the 5th. Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the 5th, the Cardinals seemed to get a little bit of ‘home cooking’. Ruben Tejada pulled an 0-2 pitch down the line past Franco. Third base umpire Ryan Blakney spun and confidently called the ball foul as it curled toward the crowd. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny requested a video review of the call and, although the broadcast cameras were unable to provide an undisputable view, it was overturned and called fair. To make matters worse, Tejada was awarded a double, curiously assuming that he would have made second. The review process had taken more than five minutes to complete and the standing around seemed to affect Morgan. He walked the next hitter and then allowed consecutive RBI singles that cut the lead to 4-3. Phils’ manager Pete Mackanin challenged a play at the plate that seemed to have more visual evidence than Tejada’s liner had in favor of a reversal. But, the safe call was upheld. Annoyed, but still leading, Mackanin turned once more to his bullpen.
As had happened nine times already this season, Gomez entered the game in the ninth to nail down a win. Kolten Wong worked a seven pitch walk to start the inning. Then, with one out, pinch-hitter Matt Adams doubled high off the centerfield wall. Matheny once more called for a review, believing the ball was a home run. But, this time the call was upheld and Adams double moved Wong to third. Shortstop Aledmys Diaz was walked intentionally to load the bases. With the infield set up for a double play Stephen Piscotty found the hole between Franco and Galvis for an infield single that scored Wong to tie the game at 4-4. On the play, Galvis was able to flag down the grounder and get it to Franco just as pinch runner Carlos Martinez stumbled around third. Franco tossed to Carlos Ruiz, who eventually tagged the elusive Martinez for the second out. That brought the stupid, rage-inducing face of Matt Holliday to the plate. While it has been more than eight years since he managed to send the Colorado Rockies to the playoffs by failing to touch home plate in the 13th inning of game 163 in 2007, some of us simply can’t get over it. So, when Holliday singled in the winning run, the words ‘ugh … I friggin’ hate that guy’ may have been uttered in a certain man cave in the Philly burbs. Gomez first blown save of the year was a painful one, to be sure. Cardinals, 5 – Phillies, 4
One of the continuing themes for the Phillies over the last several years is a pathological inability to hit lefthanders. Jaime Garcia was happy to carry on that tradition, allowing only two hits through seven innings. The Phillies lineup seemed more devoted to the tradition of the visitors being flat and lifeless during a getaway day matinee. Jerad Eickhoff settled in after a first inning big fly by Brandon Moss. He would keep the Cards in check through six innings. But, when he started the seventh with a walk, balk and single, Mackanin replaced him with the big lefty Elvis Araujo, who allowed a run to score on a sacrifice fly before giving the ball to Colton Murray. Piscotty greeted Murray with a ground-rule double that put the game out of reach for the inert Phillies’ offense. Cardinals, 4 – Phillies 0
Vince Velasquez (4-1, 1.44) faced off with Wei-Yin Chen (2-1, 4.26) in the opener in Miami. Before the first vendor had shouted “Hot Dogs Here!!”, Christian Yelich cracked a two-run shot to put the Marlins ahead. J.T. Realmuto and Martin Prado added RBI singles in the second to put Velasquez and the Phils in a 4-0 hole. The rookie righthander dug in and retired 10 straight Marlins as his mates clawed back to 4-4 on RBI hits by Franco and Peter Bourjos, including Franco’s sixth tater of the season that lead off the fifth and tied the game.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth, when Giancarlo Stanton hit a 1-0 pitch from Neris nearly 500 feet. As it soared past the monstrous eyesore that ‘decorates’ left-centerfield, Yelich strolled home ahead of Stanton with the eventual winning run. Suddenly, the Phils had punctuated their 6-game winning streak by dropping four out of five. Marlins, 6 – Phillies, 4
One peculiar note, Realmuto is the first catcher ever to hit in the leadoff spot in 24 years of Marlins baseball.
Thirty games in and the Phillies were 16-14, much to the joyful amazement of The Phaithful. Back at the top of the rotation, Mackanin called on Hellickson (2-2, 4.88) who had balanced stretches of effectiveness with patches of very hittable mediocrity. Such was again the case on Saturday night in south Florida. Five relatively strong innings were perforated by solo home runs, first Marcell Ozuna and then Justin Bour in the first and fourth respectively. When the Fish manufactured another run in the sixth, Hellickson exited, dragging a 3-1 deficit behind him. David Lough walked to open the top of the eighth. Andres Blanco followed with a double. After RBI hits by Herrera and Cesar Hernandez, the game was tied at 3-3. ‘El Torito’ then scored the go-ahead run when Miami first baseman Chris Johnson dropped Miguel Rojas’ pivot throw on Franco’s tailor-made double play grounder. The solid relief work of Brett Oberholtzer and David Hernandez had allowed the offense to claw their way back and now it was Gomez’ turn to get back on the horse. The surprising closer attended to business as the Phils got back into the win column. Phillies, 4 – Marlins, 3
Aaron Nola took to the hill looking to extend his streak of scoreless innings and, through the third, he did just that. Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino matched him empty frame for empty frame. In the bottom of the fourth, the Marlins strung together three singles and then a Derek Dietrich ground-rule double, tossing up a three-spot that ended Nola’s run at 23 innings. To his credit, he immediately started a new streak that currently stands at two innings (wink). In the meantime, the bats went to work in the sixth, loading the bases with one out. Galvis slapped a ground ball to the left of shortstop Adieny Hechevarria, who fielded it cleanly. But, his hurried throw sailed over Dietrich’s head into rightfield allowing two runs to score. Tyler Goeddel’s RBI groundout then tied the game at 3-3. An inning later, Herrera would single and steal second. Then, Hernandez hit a grounder to Boul’s right that he smothered and tossed to pitcher Nefi Ogando as he raced to cover first. The ball, Ogando and Herrera came together as the lanky righthander tumbled and brushed the bag with his glove to record the second out. Herrera and third base coach Juan Samuel recognized the opportunity Ogando’s stumble offered and #37 raced home with the go-ahead run. It’s never that simple though, is it? With Andrew Bailey pitching in the bottom of the inning, Johnson atoned for his fielding error the night before with a game-tying dinger. The ageless Ichiro Suzuki then singled and scored to make it 5-4. But, as we have said before, this team just keeps coming. With two outs and a man on first, Goeddel and Andres Blanco smoked back-to-back doubles that tilted the seesaw back in their favor. Gomez whiffed the imposing Stanton en route to pinning down his league-leading 11th save, as the Phils took the series and cooled off their red-hot division rivals. Phillies, 6 – Marlins, 5
Even when we think the wave is crashing (or at the very least cresting), these guys find a way to keep it rolling. Their last six wins have all been by one run and they are an improbable 11-3 in such games for the season. The offense is still fairly anemic and it is putting enormous pressure on the pitching staff. But, the arms have been up to most of the challenges and the bats have delivered in several key situations. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for the wave to crash and just hang ten and enjoy the ride.
Since Herrera was written into the lead-off spot in ink on April 20, he is hitting .375 (.461 OBP) and the Phils are 12-5. In the 15 games prior, they were getting nothing from the one-hole (.148, 2 runs scored).
More Phillies: Should Philadelphia Consider Trading Carlos Ruiz?
Looking ahead –
Three games in Atlanta will wrap up a run of 16 road games in their last 19 contests. They may be homesick. But, they are none the worse for the wear. At 18-14, they are looking down at the likes of the Blue Jays, the Yankees, the World Champion Royals, the Cardinals and the ENTIRE NL West.
That being said, Turner Field has been a house of horrors for this team (30-45 since 2012, including losses in 6 of their last 7 there). But, these are not your father’s Atlanta Braves. Hell, they aren’t even last June’s Atlanta Braves. At 7-23, they are at the bottom of the major leagues in nearly every category and their famously indifferent fan base is staying away in record numbers in this their final season at Turner Field. The weekend brings the Phils home to CBP and offers a shot at revenge against the Cincinnati Reds who stole the first two games of the season in Great American Ballpark on their way to a sweep.
Keep an eye on Tommy Joseph in Lehigh Valley. While Howard and Darin Ruf have been providing a largely punchless platoon (.174, 8HR –all by Howard, 19RBI) at first with the big club, the former catcher, who was acquired in the Hunter Pence deal with San Francisco, has been scorching the International League (.392, 6HR, 17RBI in only 23 games). If the cycle of futility continues, we could be seeing Joseph sooner rather than later.
Solo Artist of the Week –
Howard’s game-winning tater against St. Louis on Tuesday night was worthy of note. It was the second time this season that the Big Piece had supplied the offense in a 1-0 win with a solo dinger (the other, April 9th against the Mets). He is the first player in franchise history to hit a solo homer in two different 1-0 wins during the same season.
Shutout Shout Out of the Week –
After throwing only seven shutouts all of last season, Tuesday night’s blanking of the Cardinals was already the sixth whitewash by the Phils staff this season. The last time a Phillies team had as many as six shutouts this early in a season was 1913. That year they tossed 20 of them in total.