Phillies 2015 – Week Twenty-Two
After a 2-5 week at Citizens Bank Park, three game sets in Queens and Boston didn’t offer much comfort to a team whose youthful exuberance seemed to be giving way to its youthful inexperience and a fan base that seemed to be casting its eyes across Pattison Avenue in anxious anticipation of football season.
In a rematch of the prior Wednesday in Philadelphia, rookie Jerad Eickoff was pitted against Bartolo Colon. The change in location did little to change the Phillies’ fortunes. Colon once again baffled the Phightins, tossing zeroes through eight innings while striking out nine. On the other side, Eickhoff was solid, matching Colon goose egg for goose egg until a few regrettable pitches in the fifth inning resulted in home runs by Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson and a 3-0 lead for the Mets. After loading the bases with nobody out in the ninth against closer Jeurys Familia, the Phils could only manage one run as the Mets took the opener. Mets 3, Phillies 1
Having now lost 26 of their last 33 against the Mets, it was fair to say this team was due to take out a little frustration. Five days prior, they had gotten to Jonathan Niese for five runs before falling 9-5. Armed with that little bit of confidence against the Mets lefty, they again tagged him for a five-run inning. As before, a Darin Ruf three-run homer was the centerpiece. Unfortunately, starter Aaron Harang seemed intent on reprising his role in giving those runs back to the Mets. He left with a 6-4 lead, having pitched only 4-2/3 innings. In the top of the sixth, after walking the first two hitters, Mets reliever Bobby Parnell committed a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt and then walked Cameron Rupp to load the bases. He was replaced by Carlos Torres, who allowed RBI hits to Darnell Sweeney, Ruf and Andres Blanco before an error by shortstop Ruben Tejada allowed Blanco to score the eighth run of the inning. New York produced single runs in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth. But, in the end, it was that rarest of games … a comfortable win over the Mets. Phillies 14, Mets 8
With a long-awaited win against the Mets under their belt, the Phillies sent rookie Aaron Nola to the hill. Nola was coming off two spectacular starts in which he allowed only one run in 15 innings of work. Full disclosure: those starts were against anemic lineups from Miami and San Diego. This was the Mets, a lineup of experienced, professional hitters who were brimming with confidence and momentum. In the second inning, Tejada followed Kelly Johnson’s RBI double with a slicing line drive down the rightfield line. Domonic Brown not only failed to catch it, but he flipped over the waist-high wall and vanished. By the time second baseman Cesar Hernandez had run the ball down on the warning track, Tejada was well on his way to an inside the park home run. In the third, it was Conforto following David Murphy’s RBI double with a more traditional homer that would give the home team a 6-0 lead. The Phillies plated three in the fifth, but never really threatened. Mets 9, Phillies 4
A travel day allowed us all a chance to ponder the future of Domonic Brown. The once untouchable prospect has never been as good as he was for those six weeks in May and June of 2013. Now, with the team holding an option at season’s end, he more than likely will be shut down after his acrobatics at Citi Field appear to have resulted in a concussion. All signs would point to the organization cutting ties and their losses.
The Phillies limped into Fenway Park with a 23-46 road record. Their all-time record of 8-14 in the shadow of the Green Monster didn’t provide much hope. Boston sent their red-hot righty Joe Kelly to the bump against rookie Adam Morgan. The Red Sox blew open a 3-2 game with a four-run seventh inning. Odubel Herrera’s two-run tater in the ninth triggered a rally that fell short as Kelly won his seventh consecutive start. Red Sox 7, Phillies 5.
Rookie Alec Asher worked his way through three scoreless innings before a nightmare fourth ruined his second career start. With one-out and David Ortiz on second base, the Sox strung together three singles, a double and a walk to reload the bases. After Hernandez cleverly came home to force Josh Rutledge, shortstop Xander Bogaerts lined a two-out pitch into Fenway’s tricky rightfield corner. When Hernandez cut-off throw to the plate bounced away from Carlos Ruiz, Bogaerts raced home, having cleared the bases and finished off Asher. Ortiz greeted reliever Jerome Williams with a solo big fly to complete the eight-run onslaught. Boston lefty Wade Miley whiffed eight on his way to the complete game victory. Red Sox 9, Phillies 2
For the second-straight day, a Boston lefthander stymied the Phillies lineup while a Phillies rookie was roughed up by the BoSox. Sunday’s cast featured Eduardo Rodriguez, the Venezuelan rookie who was 8-5 for the Red Sox so far this year, and Jerad Eickhoff, who had shown himself worthy of his major league promotion in his first three starts. In the bottom of the first, Eickhoff joined the large fraternity of big league hurlers who have been taken deep by Ortiz when his 3-1 fastball became career home run #497 for the one they call ‘Big Papi’. When the Sox tacked on four more in the second, the 6-0 hole gave Rodriguez the comfortable lead he would ride to win number nine. He struck out seven in seven innings as the home team completed the sweep. Red Sox 6, Phillies 2
As you may remember, the Phillies charged out of the All-Star break on an 18-6 run. Since then, they are 8-16. Has the competition improved? Sure, it has. But, something else happened in that 25th game that cannot be ignored. Maikel Franco was lost when he was hit by a pitch, breaking a bone in his wrist. Without his presence in the three-hole, manager Pete Mackanin has struggled to find a consistently effective line-up. As frustrating as these last 3-4 weeks have been, it may be showing us what a vital piece we have in the 23-year-old third baseman.
Looking ahead –
It’s time for a ten game homestand featuring an Atlanta Braves team that is in absolute freefall, having dropped 12-in-a-row, the Chicago Cubs who appear to be headed to the post-season and finally the Washington Nationals who find themselves chasing the Mets down the stretch. After that, only divisional foes remain … which is not the best news in light of the Phils’ 22-33 record against the NL East.
Why Don’t You Just Do That Every Time? of the Week –
If you’re wondering if there is a recipe the Phillies could follow to improve their record, there is. When they fail to score more than three runs, they are 8-56 … when they score more than three, they are 45-28. To take it a step further, if they can get a lead to the eighth inning, they are 42-1.
False Starts of the Week –
Over the last two weeks, the Phillies are 3-10. During that stretch, their starters are averaging just over five innings per start. In fact, in the 66 innings they have pitched in the last 13 games, they have allowed 53 runs (49 of those were earned), which rings up a 6.68 ERA. We are seeing potential in these kids. But, we’re also being reminded that they are kids. As far as Harang and Williams, they get no such dispensation. Williams’ mediocrity has banished him to clean-up duty in the bullpen. While Harang continues to take the ball every fifth day, seemingly intent on making us all forget A. J. Burnett.