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 9 – 5/30-6/5/16
The Phillies’ Cinderella story is collapsing. Seven losses in their last nine games have tarnished their shimmering start and exposed the fissures in their thin veneer. As they limped home from Chicago, having been shredded by the Cubs, they found a Washington Nationals team bent on avenging the sweep they suffered in DC just a month earlier. Even with their recent struggles, the Phils entered the week 26-25 and only 4-1/2 games behind the first place Nats. If they could get things back on track, they could establish a foothold and begin climbing back toward the top of the standings.
Dressed in military fatigue inspired uniforms in honor of Memorial Day, the home team took an early lead on starter Jeremy Hellickson’s squeeze bunt in the second inning. Former New York Met Daniel Murphy tied the game in the 4th with a solo homer, it was one of only three hits Hellickson would allow while striking out eight in his seven solid innings of work. Freddy Galvis opened the home half of the sixth with a dinger of his own and, as has happened in so many games this season, a one run lead was placed in the heretofore capable hands of the bullpen. Hector Neris may have been the league’s most dependable set-up man for the first eight weeks of the season, leading all other relievers in Holds and Strikeouts. But, on this particular Monday evening, the split-fingered pitch that had served him so wondrously wasn’t the same. When paired with a fastball he had been trusting less and less, it meant trouble for Neris and the Phillies. That being said, he was able to wrap a strikeout and a lineout around a seemingly innocuous walk. But, with two down and Danny Espinosa on first, former Phillie Ben Revere worked a walk. Then, our old friend Jayson Werth singled in Espinosa to tie the game.
It was the first blown lead of the season for Neris and he responded by walking Chris Heisey to load the bases. Murphy followed with a two-run single that chased Neris. The Nationals 4-2 lead was far from secure in the hands of Jonathan Papelbon, another former Phillie and one who has struggled against his ex-mates. True to form, ol’ Cinco Ocho allowed a Maikel Franco single and a Ryan Howard double that halved the lead and placed pinch-runner David Lough on second with nobody out. Manager Pete Mackanin opted to have Tommy Joseph hit for Carlos Ruiz. A curious decision in a situation that called for a ground ball to the right side, which is well within Chooch’s skill set. He could then have had Joseph hit for Carlos Hernandez with the tying run on third base. None of that mattered after home plate ump Greg Gibson’s brutal strikezone and Joseph’s inexperience teamed to create a three pitch strikeout. Hernandez was fanned, as well. When Tyler Goeddel lined out, the rally and the game were over. Nationals, 4 – Phillies, 3
A loss tonight would drop the Phils back to .500 for the first time since April 26. To stem the negative tide, the Phils looked to Aaron Nola. He would be facing Joe Ross, the former first-round pick of the Padres who had stymied the Phils in a 9-1 blowout in early April. Notably, for the first time since April 19, Mackanin returned the pitcher to the more conventional #9 spot in the lineup. For the record, the results of the grand experiment … 20 up and 16 down.
Nola was tagged by Werth with a solo tater in the 1st. Trailing 1-0, Nola seemed to be grinding without his best stuff as he worked out of a small jam in the 2nd. After Hernandez tied the game with an RBI triple in the bottom of the 3rd, both pitchers settled into good rhythms. It was still 1-1 with two out in the 6th when Murphy homered to put the visitors ahead. For the second straight game, the bullpen faltered. This time, it was Colton Murray who surrendered a two-run shot to Espinosa in the 9th. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the next hitter, Stephen Drew (yep … JD’s little brother), smoked a 1-1 pitch toward the scoreboard wall beside the bullpens. Just short of being a souvenir, the ball ricocheted off the concrete at the top of the wall above Odubel Herrera and bounced wildly past Goeddel toward the infield. By the time the rookie chased it down, Drew was rounding third and being waved home. Goeddel has displayed a strong and accurate arm thus far in his young career. But, this throw sailed up the third base line and Drew raced home with an inside-the-park homerun. Papelbon, in a non-save situation, locked it down without incident. Nationals, 5 – Phillies, 1
Before they took the field for the series finale, the Phils made a move to bolster the bench. They acquired switch-hitter Jimmy Paredes from Toronto for cash considerations. The lanky Dominican has played third base and rightfield, also serving as a DH in six years with the Astros, Royals, Orioles and Blue Jays. To make room, braided benchwarmer Emmanuel Burriss will take his laughably slow bat up 476 to Triple A Lehigh Valley.
The Phightins finished May 12-16, having dropped a season-high five games in a row. It would be up to the lefty Adam Morgan to help right the ship. There seemed to finally be a plan in place for slowing down the red-hot Murphy when Morgan plunked him with two out and the bases empty in the 1st. Ryan Zimmerman made him pay immediately with an RBI double. It was 2-0 in the 6th when the wheels came off for Morgan. Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon singled to start the inning before Wilson Ramos drove a 1-0 pitch into the opposite field seats to make it 5-0. Two hitters later, Espinosa added a solo bomb to left-center. Former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer struck out 11 in eight innings and, by the time he had allowed his league-leading 16th homerun (a two-run bomb by Goeddel), he was front-running with a comfortable lead. The Nats would be leaving town with a sweep even though their wunderkind rightfielder Bryce Harper had been hitless in game one and unavailable in games two and three after being hit on the right knee by a Hellickson pitch Monday night. Nationals, 7 – Phillies, 2
The Milwaukee Brewers and our old friend Proptosis O’Hormone rolled into town at 24-29. If there was anything close to a ‘soft spot’ in the schedule, this was it. But, this would be far from easy. For one thing, Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy is a career .285 hitter, against the Phillies … he is averaging .365.
In roster news, Cody Asche returned to the big club, having sufficiently rehabilitated his strained oblique muscle. David Lough was returned to Lehigh Valley to make room in the clubhouse.
Jerad Eickhoff didn’t have the ‘swing and miss’ stuff that he has been tossing in most of his starts this year. He allowed a single and two doubles in the second. A well executed relay from Paredes to Andres Blanco to Cameron Rupp limited the damage to a single run. Again the weakness of the offense would be Eickhoff’s undoing. He pitched into the 7th, allowing only two runs. The bats could only offer a solo shot by Franco in support. Jeanmar Gomez, whose workload has lessened considerably during this losing streak was summoned to keep it close in the 9th. He failed. Former Phillie farmhand Jonathan Villar popped a two-run homer to put the game out of reach. Brewers, 4 – Phillies, 1
Mackanin had slotted Paredes into the 3-hole in his first start as a Phillie. The new arrival, who had struck out as a pinch hitter Wednesday in his first at-bat, was fanned three more times before a double in his final plate appearance of the evening.
The losing streak stands at seven games. This offense has been held to one run or been shut out 13 times in their first 54 games. With one third of the season played, is it time to start asking what it is that Hitting Coach Steve Henderson is teaching these guys?
Wait, hold that order …
The bats awakened with three runs in both the 3rd and 4th innings, keyed by big flies from Rupp and Blanco, to hand Vincent Velasquez a 6-0 lead. It had taken him 72 pitches to get through the first four innings. In the top of the fifth he allowed a single, a double and two walks, while only recording one out. He exited having not qualified for the win. Andrew Bailey tidied up his mess and was awarded the win as the bullpen went the final 4-2/3 allowing only a Villar solo homer. The Phillies had finally gotten back into the win column. Phillies, 6 – Brewers, 3
The question now was if this team could build on their first win in a week. They couldn’t. The game’s first hitter was Villar, he worked a seven pitch at-bat that resulted in a solo homer (why, yes … that is his third homer of the series). The Phils answered with taters by Tommy Joseph and Hernandez to take a 3-1 lead. But, Milwaukee tied things up with single runs in the 4th and 5th. Hellickson allowed 10 baserunners in only five innings of work that required 108 pitches to complete. With the game still even at 3-3, it was Neris again who faltered. He fell behind the first hitter he faced 3-1. The hitter was Domingo Santana … anyone? Anyone? Domingo Santana?? He was the hulking Dominican with eye-popping potential that Ruben Amaro accidentally included in the Hunter Pence trade with Houston. Well, the Astros included him in their deal for Carlos Gomez. Now, here he was jacking Neris’ 3-1 offering way back into the leftfield seats. Andrew Bailey surrendered a two-run single in the ninth that pretty well sealed the deal. Brewers, 6 – Phillies, 3
Nola had spent part of Saturday handing out his souvenir t-shirts to fans entering the park. He would spend his Sunday handing out zeroes to the Brewers offense. He struck out nine in only six innings, while deftly scattering eight hits and two walks without allowing a run. Meanwhile, the bats came roaring to life. Franco, Paredes and Rupp all homered as the offense cranked out eight runs on 13 hits. The bullpen guided the glider in as the Sunday afternoon crowd enjoyed that rarest and sweetest of pleasures, a blowout win. Phillies, 8 – Brewers, 1
This team is leaking oil … big time. The long prophesied demise of the rotation and bullpen appears to be upon us. The offense provides no help. Either their approach to each at-bat is flawed or entirely non-existent or they simply aren’t good major league hitters. But, until there is improvement, nothing will change. Honestly, could you ever have imagined a Phillies team that would hit only 19 homers in 28 games at CBP? A team without power had better have some speed. But, the ‘speed guys’ on this team don’t seem to know how to use it.
Looking ahead –
This week brings three with the Chicago Cubs at home and three with the Nationals in DC. Ugh …
Maybe we should just focus on Thursday’s Entry Draft where the Phillies hold the first overall pick for the first time since they selected Pat Burrell out of the University of Miami in 1998. If they opt for pitching, it should be University of Florida lefthander A.J. Puk. The hitter they seem to like is a 5-tool California high schooler named Mickey Moniak. Either way, keep an eye out for whoever goes 2nd overall. This town never forgets who the next team took … Frank Thomas, Paul Pierce, Warren Sapp, Jaromir Jagr!!
Player of the Month of the Week –
Reading rightfielder Dylan Cozens was named the Eastern League Player of the Month for May. The 2012 second round pick had nine homers and 26 RBI, while reaching base safely in 25 of his 30 games in the season’s second month. He is currently leading the EL in several offensive categories including homers, doubles and slugging percentage, as well as sitting second in hits and runs batted in.
Full disclosure: He is also averaging a little more than one strikeout per game. So …
Grand Old Home of the Week –
Wednesday was the 1000th regular season game in the 13–year history of Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies’ record at CBP is 545-455, the fifth best home record in the National League during that period. If you’re anything like us here at The Cave, you’ve done the math and figured out that 12 seasons of 81 home dates (972) and the 25 games they’ve hosted this year is only 997. Does anybody remember the three-game interleague set in June 2010 against the Blue Jays that was moved south to Philly because of tensions at the G20 Summit? Yup … they appear as road games in the record books, but they still count as games played at CBP. For the record, the Phightins are 2-1 as a road team at home.