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 8 – 5/23-5/29/16
As the 2016 Phillies have continued to win, in spite of pre-season predictions, an anemic offense and everyone waiting for the bubble to burst, the doubters have continually pointed to the weakness of their schedule. That all changes this week. The Detroit Tigers have awakened from an early-season slumber and are hitting on all cylinders. The Chicago Cubs are taking out a century of frustration on the league and do not appear to have an exploitable weakness in their lineup or their rotation. So … this should be fun.
The Phillies are 144-184 in Interleague play and, facing a Tigers team that has won six of their last seven, it was hard to imagine that record improving.
Vince Velasquez struck out two in the first inning. But, he also walked two and threw 30 pitches, escaping a bases loaded situation unscathed. Meanwhile, Odubel Herrera’s RBI knock in the top of the 3rd gave the visitors a 1-0 lead. It didn’t last. With two-outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the 3rd, Miguel Cabrera smoked an 0-1 pitch into the rightfield seats to tie things up. This was followed by a Victor Martinez single and a double by Nick Castellanos. Martinez tried to score on the play, but he was gunned down on a textbook relay – Herrera to Freddy Galvis to Cameron Rupp – to keep it tied. Maikel Franco immediately rewarded their efforts with a solo shot on Mike Pelfrey’s second pitch of the 4th inning. An inning later, Carlos Hernandez’ sacrifice fly scored Tyler Goeddel to make it 3-1. Velasquez entered the bottom of the 5th having thrown 87 pitches. Eight pitches later, he had allowed back-to-back homers to J.D. Martinez and Cabrera, surrendered the lead and handed the ball to Pete Mackanin. Colton Murray entered the game and served one up to Castellanos to make it 4-3.
Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph were both in the lineup thanks to the DH rule in the American League park. The juxtaposition of their career arcs was evident in the top of the 6th when Pelfrey effortlessly whiffed the declining Howard and then was taken deep by the ascendant rookie Joseph to once more tie the game. With two outs in the 7th and Peter Bourjos on second, Franco was intentionally walked to get to Howard. Anyone who remembers ’06 & ’07, when The Big Piece was given more than 30 free passes in each of those seasons, would see the painful irony in that. Three pitches later, Howard had struck out and the inning was over. Cabrera struck again in the bottom half with a double to the gap in rightcenter. Martinez then singled him home with what would become the winning run. Tigers, 5 – Phillies, 4
On the 81st anniversary of the first night game in MLB history (Phils vs. Reds in Cincinnati), the Phillies and Tigers met under the lights in the Motor City. For Detroit, it was 6-time All-Star, former Rookie of the Year, MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. For the Phils … Jeremy Hellickson.
In fairness, Hellickson was the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year. But, this looked like a mismatch. The Tigers jumped ahead 1-0 in the 1st on an RBI double by Cabrera (maybe don’t pitch to him anymore?) Both pitchers cruised from there until Detroit tacked on two runs in the 6th. Hellickson fanned seven in seven innings. But, Verlander struck-out 10 in his eight innings of work, turning a 3-0 lead over to Francisco Rodriguez. Galvis and Franco opened the 9th with a double and a single to create a 1st-and-3rd situation with no outs. But, Rodriguez stiffened and retired the next three batters to close it out. Tigers, 3 – Phillies, 1
Losers of four of their last five, the Phils sent Aaron Nola to the bump in hopes of changing their fortunes. The young righthander may just be the man for the job. Thus far in 2016, only the last two NL Cy Young winners, Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta, are allowing fewer baserunners than Nola (0.90 WHIP).
With the Phillies leading 2-1 in the 4th, Herrera crushed a three-run bomb to right off of Anibel Sanchez. In the Tigers half of the 5th, Nola got Cabrera to pop up for an easy out. Unfortunately, four other Detroit hitters had singles and Andres Blanco committed a key error as the Tigers plated three to get back in the game.
With the score 5-4 in the top of the 7th, THE SEVENTH SEAL WAS OPENED AND THE END TIMES BEGUN!!! Peter Bourjos hit a home run. Again … PETER BOURJOS HIT A HOME RUN!!! This is not a drill. This is the real thing.
Undaunted by the potentially cataclysmic events unfurling before them, the visitors added another run in the inning to make it 7-4. Cabrera had an RBI hit in the home half of the 7th, because … Cabrera. Back-to-back doubles in the 8th by Rupp and Blanco restored the three run lead and Jeanmar Gomez pitched a shut-down 9th for his 17th save of the year. Phillies, 8 – Tigers, 5
In an apparent homage to Ferris Bueller, our boys took a day off in Chicago.
This gives us a moment to once more tip our collective cap to the closer out of nowhere, Gomez. In our season preview, he was referred to as “the definition of a middle innings, keep it close guy”. So, naturally, the 28-year-old Venezuelan has become the first closer in franchise history to reach 17 saves in only 47 games. That’s also an astounding 65% of their 26 wins.
While we’re at it, Herrera’s dinger on Wednesday was his fourth of the season. The Phils got a total of three taters out of the leadoff spot in all of 2015 (703 AB). He’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. But, still …
The last time the Phillies visited ‘The Friendly Confines’, Cole Hamels said ‘goodbye’ in style by tossing a no-hitter. This time, they sent a different lefty to the hill, Adam Morgan. He would be facing Jon Lester, who was finally starting to pitch like the big-money free agent the Cubbies paid for after the 2014 season before the San Francisco Giants lit him up in his last start. The teams traded early runs and entered the 4th at 1-1. Morgan, who has exhibited a tendency to hit a wall during most of his starts, struggled through the home half of the inning. He allowed four runs, including three on David Ross’ 100th career home run. When Kris Bryant led off the 5th with a homer of his own, Morgan’s evening was finished. The 6-1 hole proved too deep as the Cubs pen finished what Lester started. Cubs, 6 – Phillies, 2
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was 2-4 and had yet to complete the 7th inning in any of his eight starts. So, naturally he went the distance for only the second time in his career. Had it not been for a fluky run in the 9th, the Phils would have been shut out. Jerad Eickhoff did strikeout seven Cubs. But, he twice allowed run scoring hits with two outs instead of making the pitch that would have ended the inning. Once more, his struggles were lethally mixed with the lineup’s anemia. Cubs, 4 – Phillies, 1
Vince Velasquez carried a 5-1 record out to the mound, but was clearly not at his best. The Cubs hitters were swinging like beer league softball sluggers. First, catcher Miguel Montero thumped a solo bomb in the 2nd. Then, it was Ben Zobrist launching a three-run missile in the 3rd. It was 7-0 before Goeddel finally figured out Cubs starter John Lackey with a tater of his own. Joseph added a big fly of his own in the 9th. But, by that point, the Cubs’ dominance was clear and the brooms were out in Wrigley for the first time against the Phils in 21 years. Cubs, 7 – Phillies, 2
Everybody just breathe, ok? Just breathe. Vegas had this team struggling to win 65 games this year and, even after the humbling slap they took to the face this week, they are still above .500 and on pace for 82 wins. It is clear that much still needs to improve and the young talent needs to continue to develop. The growing pains are far from over. But, don’t read too much into this week. They played two superior teams – in their yards – and the resulting 1-5 record was not entirely unexpected.
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Looking ahead –
There doesn’t appear to be much mercy from the scheduling gods in the near future. The Phils return home for a set with the Washington Nationals that begins on Memorial Day. The Nats will have revenge on their minds after being swept at home during their last series against the Phillies. The Phightins have only played 22 of their 50 games at CBP. But, they hold a 13-9 record in those games. After Washington, it’s the Milwaukee Brewers. That may seem like a good thing. But, that means Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy. No two active players in baseball hold higher averages against the Phils than they do.
Mightier Pen of the Week –
At the close of business on Sunday, the Phillies bullpen boasted a 3.58 ERA (2.92 since that disastrous first week – 15 ER / 10.2 IP) and a scoreless innings streak of 11.1. As well as, Hector Neris and David Hernandez who are running first and second among NL relievers in strikeouts and holds. Then, there’s the Major Leagues’ saves leader, Gomez. After a rough week for the squad, it’s comforting to know that something is working on this team.
Glove Story of the Week –
Freddy Galvis is putting together the kind of season at shortstop that the Phillies haven’t seen since Jimmy Rollins’ MVP year in 2007. In 48 games, he has made only one error and is currently riding a 44-game errorless streak. His fielding percentage of .995 is behind only Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants for the best in the majors.