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Phillies Week In Review: Reality Bites

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Phillies Week in Review

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 10 – 6/6-6/12/16

On May 22, this team was six games above .500 and only two games out of first place in the National League East. After just two short weeks of stark reality, they are a game below .500 (28-29) and six games back. A rematch with the Chicago Cubs doesn’t offer much of an opportunity to turn it around and neither does a weekend in Washington, DC. But, hey … that’s why they play the games, right?

Monday –
In the opener, Cubs lefty Jon Lester was dominant. He allowed only four singles, two of which were followed immediately by double play ground balls, and struck out nine Phillie hitters in eight scoreless innings. On the other side, Adam Morgan was shaky in the 1st inning, allowing doubles by Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant to put Chicago ahead. He worked his way into the fourth before allowing a double to Lester and a two-run home run to Jason Heyward, the former Braves phenom who hasn’t posed much of an offensive threat to anyone this season. Morgan would retire the last seven Cubs he faced.

But, with Lester cruising, that 3-0 hole looked like the Grand Canyon. After tossing 9-1/3 scoreless innings against the Brewers, the bullpen was tagged for three runs. Specifically, Elvis Araujo (two in the 7th) and Brett Oberholtzer (one in the 9th) were nicked. Trailing 6-0 and having not come back from any 9th-inning deficit all season, the Phils seemed to find a little spark in their final turn at bat. Singles by Andres Blanco and Cesar Hernandez led off the frame and back-to-back bombs by Freddy Galvis and Tommy Joseph made things interesting. But, that was as far as it went as the Phils dropped their 12th consecutive Monday game, dating back to July of last year. Cubs, 6 – Phillies, 4

Tuesday –
Having dropped four straight to the Cubs for the first time since the year 2000, the Phillies sent Jerad Eickhoff to the hill and the 25-year-old righty responded. He allowed only two hits, two walks and a single run while striking out eight in his seven innings of work. The bats rewarded his effort with RBI hits from Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera, as well as a solo dinger by Ryan Howard.

The 3-1 lead was handed to Hector Neris in the 8th. But, after an error by Hernandez and consecutive singles loaded the bases with no outs, manager Pete Mackanin asked Jeanmar Gomez to get the last six outs. After a sacrifice fly and a double play, the immediate threat was ended. He wasn’t perfect in the 9th, but he locked down his 19th save in 20 tries and the Phils improved to 15-5 in one-run games. Phillies, 3 – Cubs, 2

Wednesday –
Rookie Vince Velasquez got the call in the matinee series finale. The lightning that shot out of his right arm in April had quieted to something more like the spark of static electricity that kids like to zap each other with in recent starts. Since he won his fifth start to go 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA on May 1st, he has not gone further than six innings in any start. His ‘swing and miss’ fastball, once 95-97mph now closer to 91-93, is being fouled off, which is prolonging at-bats and shortening his outings by running up his pitch counts. Without his top end velocity, he is being punished for missing his spots and it shows. He is 1-1 with four no decisions and a 6.00 ERA in his last six starts.

An even more notable lack of velocity raised concerns in his pregame bullpen session. But, the kid wanted the ball. It took only two pitches, both fastballs in the mid to high 80’s, before Mackanin had seen enough. Velasquez left the game, was diagnosed with a biceps strain and will miss a couple of starts. Meanwhile, Brett Oberholtzer stepped in and held the Cubbies to a single unearned run in four-plus innings of work. In the sixth, Andrew Bailey was lit up by Bryant and Ben Zobrist for homers that gave Chicago a 4-0 lead. That was plenty enough for John Lackey who struck out eight while scattering three hits across seven innings of work. They added four more off Colton Murray in the eighth before packing up and heading for the airport. Cubs, 8 – Phillies, 1

Thursday –
A day off on the schedule, but there was some serious business to be done. With the first overall pick in the MLB Entry Draft, the Phillies selected lefthanded hitting outfielder Mickey Moniak from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, CA. The 6-foot-2, 180lb 18-year-old was ‘the best player available in the draft’ and has ‘the potential to be a perennial all-star’ according to Phillies Director of Amateur Scouting, Johnny Almaraz. Per last week’s commentary, watch the career of Nick Senzel, the University of Tennessee third baseman that was selected by the Cincinnati Reds with the second pick.

As expected, Velasquez was placed on the 15-day DL. Luis Garcia was called up to bolster the bullpen until Vinny’s spot in the rotation comes around. At that point, it is expected that Zach Eflin, the prospect they received in the Jimmy Rollins trade, will be promoted to make his major league debut.

Friday –
Jeremy Hellickson faced off against Stephen Strasburg in the opener. After RBI hits by Cody Asche and Tyler Goeddel and a two-run dinger by Joseph, the visitors had an unlikely 4-0 lead early on. Then, the Nationals awakened … two in the 3rd on a Jayson Werth double … two in the 4th on back-to-back taters by Wilson Ramos and Stephen Drew … two in the fifth on a Daniel Murphy double … one more in the 6th when Danny Espinosa went junk yard … and finally two in the 7th off Garcia via RBI doubles by Murphy and Espinosa. When the smoke cleared, it was 9-4 Nats. Joseph thumped a two-run shot in the 8th for his first multi-HR game. But, that was as close as they could make it. Nationals, 9 – Phillies, 6

Saturday –
With the Nats’ hitters tasting blood, Mackanin sent out his most dependable arm. Aaron Nola entered the game having thrown nine consecutive quality starts and carrying a WHIP just south of 1.00, stats that are usually next to names like Kershaw, Arrieta and Bumgarner. He is 5-2 with a 1.67 ERA during that stretch.

Scoreless in the 2nd, Nola hit Ramos with a 1-1 pitch to start the inning. Four different Nationals added singles as the home team marched out to a 4-0 lead. With two-out and a runner on second in the bottom of the 4th, Nola was pulled having thrown only 82 pitches. It was the shortest outing of his young career. Araujo and Bailey teamed up to allow three runs in the 5th that made it 7-0. The offense was unable to do anything against Tanner Roark as the Phils were shut out for only the 3rd time this season. Nationals, 8 – Phillies, 0

Sunday –
For the first time since their 0-4 start, the Phillies find themselves four games below .500. Adam Morgan is still searching for the rhythm and consistency that made him the best Phillie starter in Florida this spring. He allowed a single and two walks in the first and was facing a ‘bases loaded with no outs’ situation faster than you could say “Pat Combs”. To his credit, he retired the next three hitters, the first two on sacrifice flies that made it 2-0. Danny Espinosa led off the 2nd with a homer to extend the Nats’ lead. Morgan would settle in and pitch into the 7th, at one point he retired 10 consecutive hitters. Cody Asche popped a solo shot in the 5th to get the Phillies going. Galvis and Herrera added RBI hits in the 6th to tie things up against Nats’ starter Joe Ross, who had been very effective in two prior starts against Philadelphia this year.

Tied 3–3 in the 9th, Franco lit up our old buddy Jonathan Papelbon with a rocket into deep left field. His 11th bomb of the season, it got Gomez up and throwing in the pen. Looking for his 20th, Gomez retired Anthony Rendon to start the bottom of the 9th, Bryce Harper followed with a ground ball to Hernandez that resulted in a bang-bang play at first. Harper was called safe and Mackanin challenged it. The replay seemed unclear and the call was upheld. A single and a lineout followed and, with two out and two on, Gomez walked Clint Robinson. When you have two outs and a .230 hitter at the plate – YOU HAVE TO GET THAT GUY. Gomez’ reward was facing Werth with the sacks full. The lanky and hirsute former Phillie promptly hooked a line drive toward the leftfield corner that plated the tying and winning runs to complete the Nationals’ second sweep of the Phillies in as many weeks. Nationals, 4 – Phillies, 3

More Eagles: Buddy Ryan: Remembering One Of The Greats

Thoughts –
Pete Mackanin appears to be managing differently these days. It’s easy to say that when you look at the losses piling up. But, he seems to be making, not necessarily panicky or desperate decisions, but certainly decisions that reflect a level of discomfort – asking Gomez to get six outs on Tuesday, the quick hook for Nola on Saturday night, even the much discussed benching of Herrera a few weeks ago on a night when he had three hits and had already reported back pain before he stumbled out of the box and trotted to first. These are not the relaxed decisions of a skipper with a steady hand. This team was expected to lose more than they won this season and Mackanin knew that. But, these last few weeks may be taking a toll on him.

Looking ahead –
An Interleague home-and-home with the Toronto Blue Jays should be a test. The league’s only Canadian contingent rolls out a lineup of nine legitimate threats on a nightly basis, even with Troy Tulowitski back on the DL. The Arizona Diamondbacks come in for a wacky wraparound four gamer after that and that means Paul Goldschmidt’s mighty bat.

Catalyst of the Week –
The importance of the leadoff hitter to the success of any lineup is an unquestioned fact of baseball. But, the difference in Odubel Herrera’s numbers in wins and losses this year is a prime example. Through the season’s first nine weeks, ‘El Torito’ is hitting .351 (.492 OBP) with 24 runs scored in the 28 wins and .287 (.361 OBP) with only eight runs scored in the 29 losses.

New Guy of the Week –
Since his call up on May 13, Tommy Joseph has been making a case for a permanent place in the lineup. In 23 games, the rookie is hitting .301 with 7 HR and 12 RBI. He’s the first Phillie in over a century to begin his career with seven homers in his first 21 games. As a result, manager Pete Mackanin has publicly stated that Joseph will be seeing the lion’s share of the playing time at first base, turning Ryan Howard into the league’s most expensive bench guy. Not for nothing, but in those 23 games, the Phillies are 6-17.

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