Phillies Notebook: Utley Trade Rumors Not True

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun


With the Phillies struggling, there is speculation that the Phillies could trade second baseman Chase Utley by the July 31trade deadline.

With the Phillies struggling, there is speculation that the Phillies could trade second baseman Chase Utley by the July 31trade deadline.

PHILADELPHIA–Despite rumors to the contrary, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Philadelphia media before Tuesday’s game, the team has no interest in trading second baseman Chase Utley.

“First off, no one wants to trade Chase Utley and no.2 I don’t think Chase Utley wants to go anywhere and he has the power to decide what he wants to do,” Amaro said. “The point is kind of moot. The same with Jimmy. The same story.”

The website, Rant Sports, recently reported the Yankees were interested in Utley in exchange for some top-rated prospects and a mid-level veteran.

Amaro said those rumors happen all the time because the Phillies (22-26) are not in first place. Utley is currently batting .337 with four home runs and 25 RBI. His contract runs to the end of 2015.

Sandberg open to Platooning Howard and Ruf

In Monday’s win over the Colorado Rockies, Ryan Howard had a breakout performance with five runs batted in and three hits after batting just .088 in his last 10 games coming into the game and hadn’t hit a home run since May 8.

As much as Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg would like to keep Howard in the lineup just to keep his groove going, he rested Howard Tuesday and replaced him at first base with Darin Ruf in order to give him some time with a lefthanded pitcher on the mound for the Rockies.

“I’ve been looking for a day to give (Howard) a break. He’s played a number of games in a row and he had a real good approach against a right-handed pitcher (Monday) and I was happy with that,” Sandberg said. “I want to give Darin a chance against a left-hander with four right-handed pitchers in a row after that.

“After a big game like that, sometimes it’s a good time to give a guy break, make it a positive and let (Howard) build on that against the right-handed pitching that’s coming up after tonight’s game.”

Sandberg said if Ruf, who bats right, can be productive at hitting left-handers on a consistent basis, he will be open to platooning Howard and Ruf against right and left-handed pitchers.

“If it happens to work, it’s an opportunity to have a lineup like that that produces, it becomes an an opportunity and a possibility going forward just to get some consistency in the offense against right and left-handed pitching,” Sandberg said.

“If it’s effective and if it works, maybe it’s a positive for two players. It’s a positive for the team, but that’s yet to be seen. (Tuesday) is an opportunity to take a look at that.”
Sandberg may have to at some point. Ruf homered in tonight’s game.

There’s seems to be a belief on the Phillies (22-26) that if they can just somehow put every aspect of their game together on a consistent basis, especially the offense, they can contend for a division title.

“It’s hot, it’s cold, but at some point we can get scalding hot,” Howard said after Monday’s game. “For as hot and cold as we’ve been all year, we’re still not out of it. That’s the bright side of things. If we can get on a good streak, we’ll be right there.”

Franco Not Ready for Prime Time Just Yet

Maikel Franco needs more time at Triple-A Lehigh Valley to get ready for MLB competition according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

Maikel Franco needs more time at Triple-A Lehigh Valley to get ready for MLB competition according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

Even with starting third baseman Cody Asche on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said rising prospect Maikel Franco, who missed a couple of games with a respiratory illness, is not ready to come up from the Triple-A Lehigh High Valley Iron Pigs to the big league ball club just yet.

“He’s just not playing good enough baseball yet, he’s not really ready to be a big leaguer yet. And he’s not feeling all that well,” Amaro said. “He played like he was sick yesterday. There’s no reason to bring Franco unless he’s ready to be a big leaguer as far as I’m concerned.”

So far this season, Franco is batting .231 with a .358 slugging percentage and a .311 on-base percentage with the Iron Pigs. In the month of May, the 21-year-old Franco is batting .291 with three homers and 12 runs batted in. He also has .384 on-base percentage and a .465 slugging percentage.

“Offensively, he’s made some adjustments, he’s made some improvements better than in the earlier part of the season, but he’s not really going on all cylinders now. We’re still contemplating it,” Amaro said. “If he was ready to be in the big leagues, he would be up.”

Phillies Bounce Back From No-Hitter With An Offensive Explosion Led by Howard’s Five RBIs

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Ryan Howard was placed on the 15-Day disabled list on Saturday and will have an MRI on Sunday or Monday.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Ryan Howard drove in a season-high five runs batted in against the Colorado Rockies. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard had been mired in a horrific slump in his last 10 games coming into Monday’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

He was batting .088 (3-for-34, 3 runs batted in) and 0-for-16 coming into the fourth inning of the series opener against Colorado. Suffice it to say, Howard was way overdue.

A little more than 24 hours after his team was no-hit by Josh Beckett and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Howard drove in a season-high five runs on three hits including a two-run homer to lead the Phillies to a 9-0 shutout win over the Colorado Rockies in front of 27, 289 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

“It’s always good. It’s a crazy game, you’re bound to break out at some point,” Howard said. “(Monday) we were able to, so we just got to be able to take that into tomorrow, and the next day and the next day after that.”

For a team that suffered through a demoralizing Sunday afternoon at the hands of Beckett, seeing the hard-hitting Howard, who went 3-for-4 against the Rockies, break out of his slump was something like manna from heaven for a team that has been starving on offense.

“It was a good game for him to see him connect,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “He had some good swings today and made some things happen.”

Howard said he wanted to build on his last at-bat against Beckett when he hit a line drive out to center. For him, it was about hanging and there and finding places where the ball can drop in for a hit to get things going.

“Found some real estate, found some grass out there,” Howard said. “You go through those times, those lapses, those scuffles and all kinds of stuff. You just have to keep pressing. That’s what I was trying to do. It gets tough, it’s gets frustrating. It gets bad at times. I was trying to build off that last at-bat from (Sunday).”

The Phillies also got a big performance from second baseman Chase Utley who also went 3-for-4 with a run batted in. Centerfielder Ben Revere also had three hits including his seventh run batted in of the season. John Mayberry Jr. also contributed to the Phillies cause with a two-run homer as a pinch hitter in the Phillies five-run seventh inning.

The offensive explosion by the Phils ended a 10-game losing for starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (1-5), who got his last win on Aug. 11th of 2013. In six and two-thirds innings of work, he allowed no runs on six hits with two strikeouts and a walk.

“That’s what you’re looking for to pitch well and get the “W.” That’s what you want to do,” Kendrick said. “The guys were able to put up some runs. On the pitching side, we were able to keep them from scoring. I was just trying to worry about one pitch at a time and I was able to do that today.”

The Phillies got their first four runs off Rockies starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, who gave up seven hits including Howard’s sixth inning two-run homer. He pitched five innings and to two men in the sixth before leaving the game.

Phillies relievers allowed just one in the last two and one-third innings. The closest the Rockies came to scoring was in top of the seventh with two on and two out and their best hitter, Troy Tulowitzki coming to the plate.

But Phillies setup man Mike Adams fanned Tulowitzki to end the Colorado threat. The Phils scored five runs in their half of the seventh to put the game away.

While this game was good for the team’s psyche after going through a devastating no-hitter, the Phillies have to figure out a way to do this on a consistent basis. That’s something they’ve struggled with all season.

“That’s the potential that is possibly there with any given game the way I look at it,” Sandberg said. “It’s starts at the top of the order. Ben (Revere) getting on base and making things happen. Chase (Utley) has been solid. It’s good to see (Howard) connect on some balls and drive some runs in. It’s seems like the potential is there when we go out there. Hopefully, it’s the start of something with this new series against Colorado.”

Notes–Cliff Lee Needs further Evaluation

Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who is on the 15-day disabled list, will have his has strained left elbow re-evaluated over the next three days and has not been clear to pitch. While the team was hoping he would be back on June 3, Lee’s stint on the DL maybe longer than what the team planned.

Lee said he still felt some soreness in the elbow when he was tested by Phillies team doctors on Monday.

“It’s definitely better, but it’s still there,” Lee said. “That’s fine whenever I can do some of the tests they put me through if I can without feeling it at all, then I’ll start throw. Until then I got to continue to work on it and let it heal.”

Lee has as Grade 1-2 of the flexor tendon and had been complaining about soreness since April. Lee is 4-4 with a 3.18 earned run average.

128 Pitches and A Hit Ain’t One: Beckett’s No-Hitter Reflective of Phillies Poor Offense

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Dodgers starting pitcher Josh Beckett held the Phillies hitless in LA's 6-0 win. Photo by Chris Murray.

Dodgers starting pitcher Josh Beckett held the Phillies hitless in LA’s 6-0 win. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett threw 128 pitches on a warm Sunday afternoon at Citizen’s Bank Park and the Phillies couldn’t hit any of them.

Thanks to an effective mixing  of his pitches, Beckett tossed his first career no-hitter as the Dodgers came away with a 6-0 shutout victory over a visibly frustrated Phillies squad that has forgotten how to hit and score runs at their home park.

“Amazing,” said Phillies rightfielder Marlon Byrd. “He used his curve ball like I’ve never seen him. He did everything off of that. The guy hit his spots. All nine, no hits.”

Beckett said he wasn’t nervous about throughout the course of the game. He said he was kidding around with his teammates in the dugout about it during the fourth inning. In baseball lore, it is supposedly bad luck to even think that you’re going to toss a no-hitter, especially in the middle innings.

“I was joking around about it. No one else was joking about it,” Beckett said. “I was telling (manager Don Mattingly) in the fourth inning, it’s threes inning than I’ve taken one before. It was an ongoing joke. In the fifth inning, this four innings than I’ve ever taken on before.”

While you definitely have to tip your cap to an outstanding performance by a pitcher who is probably heading to the Hall of Fame, Beckett’s no-hitter against the Phillies was something that was bound to happen sooner or later given the Phillies inability to get timely hits and score.

“We’ve had our ups and downs at home with scoring runs,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We’ve scored in bunches and we’ve had some closed spots. It’s something we need to improve on and that’s the whole lineup that needs to care of that.”

The no-hitter was reflective of the Phillies offensive’s inconsistency and in their inability to figure out the problem and solve it.

In five of their last 10 home games, the Phillies haven’t been able to score runs. It’s the second time in two days they have been kept off the scoreboard. They can’t buy hits when they have runners in scoring position. In the Phillies two losses to the Dodgers this weekend, they are 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

In Beckett’s no-hitter, the Phillies didn’t get a runner in scoring position until the bottom of the ninth inning when Jimmy Rollins reached on a walk and then stole second base without a throw from the catcher, which is ruled as a fielder’s choice- defensive indifference.

You have to wonder are they this bad on offense? Is it a case of them pressing or trying too hard in their approach to the plate?

“You want to get the job done regardless,” Byrd said. “Nobody goes out there and tries not to get any hits. You want to drive in runs, you want to get on base and make things happen. Pressing? It’s a good possibility when you have chances with runners in scoring position and need a big inning and they put up one or two runs and you’re trying to come.

“The way it looks when you’re watching games, it could look like we’re pressing.”

In spite of all their hitting woes, Sandberg is optimistic that his team won’t wallow in their current funk for long. He said he expects to them to get back on the wagon and starting hitting again.

“I’d say the attitude of our guys is to get right back out there tomorrow and do something about it,” said Sandberg when he was asked if his team would feel a snow-ball effect from their hitting woes. “That’s the character of the guys they’ve been able to bounce back from losses and some tough games that’s what I anticipate tomorrow.”

Conspicuously absence from the Phillies postgame club house were its long time stars in Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Rollins, who gave a short, terse response to reporters as he was leaving the locker room: “(Beckett) was good. There’s nothing else to be said.”

For those guys, the three faces of this franchise not to speak to the media about this game and the way this team is playing is absolutely appalling. Phillies fans deserve a lot more than that from their franchise players. You have to be a stand-up guy when things are going well and be able to face the music when things are going bad.


Phillies Are a Team Going Nowhere Fast

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Roberto Hernandez had another good outing wasted by Phillies lack of offense.

Roberto Hernandez had another good outing wasted by Phillies lack of offense in Friday’s loss to the LA. Dodgers.

PHILADELPHIA—The Phillies 2-0 shutout loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday night at Citizen’s Bank Park typified what has been a bad to mediocre 2014 season.

First off, you had a pretty good pitching performance by Roberto Hernandez, who allowed just two runs in six and one-third innings of work. Unfortunately, Hernandez’s efforts went by the wayside because his offensive teammates couldn’t hit with men in scoring position.

“I thought Hernandez was outstanding, battling through his seven innings with his 110 pitches,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We had three opportunities with two men and no outs.”

On three separate occasions—the fourth inning, the sixth inning and the seventh inning—the Phillies had runners in scoring position with less than one out.

Not only did they not score, they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. In the fourth and in the sixth, it was their three, four, five and sixth hitters-Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf that came up empty. They were 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.

“I kind of felt, it could have went the other way with something here or there,”  Sandberg said. “Against a tough pitcher, we created some opportunities with some base runners.”
On one level, you have to give credit to Dodgers starting lefthander Clayton Kershaw who kept the Phillies off the board with nine strikeouts while scattering two hits in six innings on the board. The Phils had their chances to put the knockout punch to Kershaw, but came up short.

“Kershaw did the job when he needed to and we didn’t,” said Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. “He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.”

When you’re going up against a quality pitcher and you let him off the hook, you’re not going to win. That’s why this team is now five games below .500 and on a path to another bad season when their chase for the postseason will have an early ending.

I know you’re saying, dude it’s only May and we have a lot of baseball left to play. True, I am normally not in the habit of saying a team’s season is toast just two months into the season. But unless they can find some consistency on a regular basis in every aspect, they will head into an abyss from which they may never recover.

Throughout this season, the Phillies losses have been a continuum of not playing a complete game. If the starting pitching is going well, the offense falters. The Phils have been shut out in five of their last eight games at home. It was the If they’re hitting well, the pitching or the defense falls by the wayside. On some occasions this season the bullpen has been blown leads.

This is the kind of up and town play that makes me wonder if this is really the best team they can put out on the field. If that’s the case, this is going to be a long year which means the Phillies will be sellers at the July 31st trade deadline.

Yes, it’s only May and it may not be fair to some of you that we may be counting this team out early. But the reality of it is that we have to grips with the idea that this team is simply not that good and will not get better anytime soon.

It’s getting to the point where we may to cue former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora’s playoff rant and apply it to this team: “Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs…”
At this point, the Phillies need to start winning games, starting with the next one.

Asche and Brown Lead Phillies in Rout over Reds, Hamels Gets 100th Win

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Domonic Brown had a career-high five runs batted in the Phillies win over Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Domonic Brown had a career-high five runs batted in the Phillies win over Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Coming into the second game of their three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, the Phillies had been scoreless in their last 20 innings.

The real culprit behind the Phillies lack of run production has been their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Before Saturday night’s contest against the Reds, the Phillies were 0-for-16. They had been batting .193 when they’ve had men in scoring position.

“A lineup creates scoring opportunities and then it comes down to execution and it comes down to a big at bat and a swing to drive one run or maybe two or three,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “That’s the one punch that we want to see and that’s what we need to get us over the hump, to get us going.”

For the first three scoreless innings, the Phillies offense was going nowhere fast until the fourth inning when everything Sandberg talked about came to fruition.

In that fourth inning, the Phillies broke out of their slump with a vengeance. They sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs on six hits that included a two-run double by third baseman Cody Asche, a two-run homer by left fielder Domonic Brown and RBI singles from Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley.

The offensive outburst, along with a stellar outing by Cole Hamels, enabled the Phillies to come away with a 12-1 win over the Reds at Citizen’s Bank Park to end a four-game losing streak.

The Phillies offense broke out of their hitting with runs in scoring position slump by going 7-for-15. For Sandberg, it was a matter of time before they broke out of their inability to score runs. It was Asche’s two-run double to end the Phillies scoreless streak that opened the flood gates.

“It was big. That’s what we were looking for to build on,” Sandberg said. “We were able to build on that for the rest of the game. It was the hit that sparked everybody.”

As the Phillies offense was rising from its slumber, Hamels was mowing down Reds hitters in a way that was reminiscent of his MVP performance in the 2008 World Series. He struck out 10 while allowing just one run on three hits. He threw 90 pitches in seven innings of work. It was Hamels 100th career win.

“Cole was outstanding for his 100th career win,” Sandberg said. “It was by far the best that he’s looked this year with velocity and command, throwing strikes and using all of his pitches. He had that (third inning) where struck out the side with nine pitches.”

Hamels said he was happy to get that 100th win playing for the Phillies and for Philadelphia fans.

“They’ve seen a quite a few wins here personally (at Citizen’s Bank Park) or on Comcast,” Hamels said. “It’s nice to be able to do it for everybody to feel they’ve been a part of it from the start to where it is now.”
Doing the bulk of the damage for the Phillies were Asche and Brown who changed places in the Phillies lineup. Asche batted sixth and Brown batted seventh.

“It was great to see and maybe that sparked them,” Sandberg said.
Brown, who had been batting .113 (6-for-53) in his last 14 games coming into Saturday, drove in a career-high five runs including his second homer of the year in the fourth and a three-run double in the seventh. He had the green light to swing at a 3-0 pitch that got crushed into the seats in right field in that big fourth innin.

“I knew a fast ball was coming, especially with a guy that’s been struggling,” Brown said. “I was trying to make a good, short sweet to the baseball. I just happen to do so. … It definitely feels good, but it’s just one game, fellas. I’m trying to build forward, stay positive and keep having fun.”

Meanwhile, Asche continued his hot hitting with a double and a single while driving in three runs.

“We’ve been putting pressure on teams and getting runners in scoring position. We just haven’t been able to cash in,” Asche said. “It was good to some runs for Cole because he was out there pitching his ass off. “

After putting up those six runs in the fourth. The Phillies scored five more in the seventh and got a solo home-run from shortstop Cesar Hernandez in the eighth. It was his first career major-league homer.

Notes-With his first inning single, Jimmy Rollins moved into third place on the Phillies all-time hitting list with his 2,212 career hit that moved him past Hall-of-Famer Ed Delahanty. He is five hits shy of tying Richie Ashburn for second.

Phillies Having Problems Getting it Together

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd says Phillies need to play better. Webster Riddick.

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd says Phillies need to play better. Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The definition of a mediocre is a team in baseball is one that can’t seem to get all the aspects of the game together on a consistent basis.

Ladies and gentleman, your 2014 Phillies have been teetering around the .500 mark all season and they have been a team that can’t seem to get a handle on itself. If the Phils are consistent in one thing is that they aren’t on a regular basis.

“It’s just the consistency of putting everything together for a string of games,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We show signs of it in all areas. We just have to be consistent in all the areas and put it all together.”

In Wednesday afternoon’s 3-0 shutout loss to the Anaheim Angels at Citizen’s Bank Park, the Phillies bats were missing in action and the starting pitching struggled, but could have use some run support.

“On the offensive side, we’ve got guys that are a capable of doing the job,” Sandberg said. “I’d say (Chase) Utley, (Ryan) Howard, (Jimmy) Rollins and Byrd have been fairly consistent in the last couple of weeks…our better players are doing a good job and they’ve been fairly consistent.

“We have to get better as a full lineup, up and down the lineup. Ben (Revere) is a catalyst at the top of the order when he gets on base. He hasn’t gotten on base in the last couple of weeks.”

The Phillies offense just couldn’t solve the riddle of Angels’ right-handed pitcher Garrett Richards, who had eight strikeouts while allowing just five hits in seven innings of work.

Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett didn’t have a bad outing, but it wasn’t a good one either. He allowed three runs on five hits with five walks and six strikeouts in five innings on the mound. He gave up single runs in the first, second and third innings.

Burnett’s gritty effort was wasted by another poor effort from the Phillies hitters. It was another example of how one aspect of the Phillies game can be engaged and locked in while the other one is completely out to lunch.

On the days and nights when they pitch well, they can’t buy a hit. A starting pitcher like Cliff Lee can have a solid outing in Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and not give up an earned run only to have it spoiled by errors in the field.

“I think that’s what every team tries to do—pitch good, play good defense and hit good,” said third baseman Cody Asche, who committed three errors in the loss on Tuesday.

“There’s no secret in how to win baseball games. Those three facets are what’s going to win you games. When you’re doing the right things in those three areas, you’re going to lose more than you win.

At this juncture of the season, the Phillies are exactly the 17-21 record you see in the standings. They will get swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in one series, sweep the New York Mets in another and get manhandled in the next series.

That’s the sign of a mediocre, up and down team. The Phillies are in last place and four and a half games out of a first place in a lackluster National League East. Watching this team on a regular basis it makes you wonder is this team as good as they’re going to be?Can they get better or will they be sellers by the July 31st trade?

Yes, it’s still May and they play in a fairly mediocre National League East, which means they’ll face teams like the Mets, Braves, Marlins and Nationals—teams they are capable of beating.

“We just got to put it all together, “ said Phillies rightfielder Marlon Byrd. “If it’s not all together, you lose games. If it’s all together, you win games. That’s the bottomline—pitching, defense and timely hitting are the keys to winning.”


Hernandez Comes up Huge For Phillies in Win over Washington

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Roberto Hernandez allowed no runs on four hits in the Phillies win over the Washington Nationals.

Roberto Hernandez allowed no runs on four hits in the Phillies win over the Washington Nationals.

PHILADELPHIA-Whenever a Phillies starting pitcher has a good outing with a slim lead, the question in the back of your mind nowadays is how will the bullpen blow this one?

Against the Washington Nationals, Phils right-hander Roberto Hernandez pitched seven and one-third third innings of scoreless baseball. He threw 104 pitches and allowed just four hits with three strikeouts. He left the game in the eighth inning with one out and a man on second.

This time the bullpen came through for the Phillies (15-14) and preserved a 1-0 shutout on a cool, breezy Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 37,490 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Relievers Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo got Hernandez in the last two outs in the inning.  In the ninth inning, Closer Jonathan Papelbon finished off the Nationals by striking out pinch hitter Zack Walters with a man on first. It was his ninth save of the season.

“It was situational,” Manager Ryne Sandberg said of his pitching moves in the eighth inning. “We were going with the match-ups there. Both guys were effective.”

After a shaky first inning, Hernandez settled down and kept Washington off the scoreboard even though had men reached base at various times in the contest. Throughout the game, Hernandez, who was a last minute substitute for Cole Hamels who missed his start because of illness, was in command of pitches and kept Washington hitters off- balance.

“I think (Hernandez) has gotten better as we’ve gone along as far as command and control and using his pitches and his pitch count,” Sandberg said. “He retired 12 out of his last 13 hitters, which was impressive. He got into a groove as far as establishing the strike zone and using all of his pitches.”

In the first inning, Hernandez struggled a bit. He gave up a hit and two walks while throwing 17 pitches. But he didn’t allow a run to score. For the next six and one-third innings after that, Hernandez found his mojo and kept Washington from scoring.

“I think for me it was important to keep the ball down,” Hernandez said. “I had a little bit of trouble in the first inning, but after that I kept the ball down and kept the ball in play.”

Adams and Bastardo helped Hernandez to get the win by getting the last two outs of the eighth inning. Adams had pitched in every game in the series including Friday’s eighth inning meltdown in a 5-3 loss. He said it was the kind of effort the bullpen has to do on a consistent basis.

“It all worked good. We got the ‘W’ and I think that’s what our bullpen is capable of doing there,” Adams said. “Hopefully, we can get this thing turned around and going in the right direction. Bad outings are going to happen, but at the same time you want to get out there and do it on a consistent basis.”

The Phillies jumped on the board in the first inning on Chase Utley’s run-scoring single that drove home Jimmy Rollins, who tripled. That was all they needed to win with the effort from Hernandez and the bullpen.

Winning a series from a Nationals team that’s expected to be at the top of the National League East standings gives the team a decent boost early in the season, said Phillies center fielder Ben Revere.

“The Nationals are a great team and they got great pitching bullpen and hitters,” Revere said. “Winning the first series is big because last we kinda fell behind. Winning this series is a big step up so hopefully we’ll keep at it for the rest of the season.”


Phillies Bullpen Lets Them Down In Loss to Nationals

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee pitched seven strong innings.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee pitched seven strong innings. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When Cliff Lee and Stephen Strausburg took the mound for the Phillies and Washington Nationals, you were expecting a pitcher’s duel where a run or two was going to decide the game with plenty of strikeouts along the way.

It wasn’t the prettiest performance by either pitcher, but it wasn’t bad. In fact, there was only one earned run and 10 strikeouts between them. Lee nor Strausburg got the decision either way.

In seven innings, Lee gave up two runs (one earned) and struck out five on just four hits.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, Lee’s solid start was ruined by a poor outing by the bullpen that gave up three runs on five hits in the eighth inning to propel the Nationals to a 5-3 win Friday night at Citizen’s Bank Park.

In that decisive top of the eighth, the Phillies had a 3-2 lead. But Mike Adams gave up a double to Denard Spann and an RBI single to third baseman Anthony Rendon. After another single by Jayson Werth and manager Ryne Sandberg yanked Adams, who got the loss, from the game.

“I’ve got to do a better job of holding the lead,” Adams said after the game. “I’ve been doing this long enough to know what adjustments need to be made. It’s bad that (Lee) threw way he did and gave us a chance to win. As a whole, I’m guessing we need to get better.

“We need to make sure the coaches and the starting pitchers have enough confidence in us that they’re not afraid to go to us in the eighth inning.”

Reliever Jake Diekman couldn’t stop the bleeding giving up an RBI single to first baseman Adam LaRoche and a run-scoring double to shortstop Ian Desmond. Those runs were charged to Adams. It was the sixth time this season the Phillies bullpen has blown a lead in the late innings.

You had to be wondering why Antonio Bastardo, the Phillies regular eighth-inning set-up man wasn’t on the mound that inning? He did pitch the ninth inning, allowing a single and a walk. Sandberg said went with the right hander Adams because he liked the matchup with two right-handed hitters Rendon and Werth.

The bottom of the eighth was equally troubling for Phillies fans. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins opened the inning with a walk and second baseman Chase Utley singled to put runners on first and second.

Then disaster struck.

Ryan Howard inexplicably swung at a 2-0 curve ball and popped out to short. Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard fanned Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown to end the Phillies threat and that was your ball game.

“We had two had men on and no outs, we did not come through in that situation which was one of our few chances throughout the game to add after the first inning,” Sandberg said. “That was the big thing was scoring early and not adding on.”

Byrd took the blame upon himself for not driving in the runs when his team had the chance.

“I had a chance with runners on first and second, but it was bad mechanics, bad approach,” Byrd said. “I didn’t make Clippard have to work. I feel that’s why I’m here to drive in runs. I take pride in doing it when the runners are in scoring position and I didn’t do it.”

Reliever Jerry Blevins was credited with the win in relief for the Nationals.

Strausburg went six-innings for the Nationals with five strikeouts and six hits and got a no-decision. He gave up a three-run homer to Byrd in the first inning. The runs were unearned because rightfielder Jayson Werth dropped a foul ball hit by Byrd to prolongthe inning. It would have been the final out.

After Strausburg retired the first two batters in the first inning, he gave up a pair of singles to Utley and Howard. Byrd parked a 2-2 Strausburg pitch into the right centerfield seats for a three-run homer to give a Phillies a 3-0 lead.

The Nationals got a couple of runs back on a solo homerun by left fielder Tyler Moore in the third and an RBI ground out by Denard Spann that drove home Moore, who singled to begin the fifth  inning.

It was that particular at-bat between Lee and Spann that almost turned into a bench-clearing brawl. When Spann stepped out of the batter’s box a fast ball by Lee came close to hitting him in the chest. The Nationals centerfielder stared at Lee.

“Obviously, I made a pitch and he wasn’t ready,” Lee said. “I’ll do that every time if they want to stand there and not look. I’ll take a strike. I threw a ball. Maybe he was mad because it was close to him. If they’re going to stand there and not look I’m going to throw a pitch. I think it’s on the hitter to be in the box and make sure they’re ready.”

As Spann was heading toward the dugout, the two apparently exchanged words, but were separated by umpires as both benches cleared. No punches were thrown.



Phillies Can’t Overcome Youth and Inexperience in Loss to Nationals

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says Ethan Martin needed to use his fastball more in loss to Washington, Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says Ethan Martin needed to use his fastball more in loss to Washington, Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When you’re playing a bunch of young players from your Triple-A farm club, you’re going to see some flashes of brilliance and how far they have to go to play at the major league level on a consistent basis.

With the exception of catcher Carlos Ruiz, first baseman Kevin Frandsen and right fielder John Mayberry Jr., the Phillies lineup consisted of players that have spent the summer with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

The Phillies youth and inexperience definitely showed in their 9-6 loss to the Washington Nationals Tuesday night at Citizen’s Bank Park in front of a small crowd of 28, 826 fans.

Starting pitcher Ethan Martin struggled with his control, walking five batters and allowing five runs on five hits. He also hit a batter.

“It was a frustrating game on the pitching side of it,” said Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg. “There were a lot of pitches thrown, base on balls. He gave them baserunners and then they answered with hits. “

The first bad inning for Martin was the second inning came when hit Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth. After retiring Nats shortstop Ian Desmond on a pop fly to shortstop Freddy Galvis, Martin walked Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche and then gave up a three-run homer to catcher Wilson Ramos.

“Martin right from the get-go didn’t really establish his fast ball,” Sandberg said. “Pitched a little careful, a little bit backwards early and he had some success in his middle innings with his fastball, which is a good one. He got some outs.”

In the fourth inning, the Phillies cut the margin to 3-2 on two-run single by third baseman Cody Asche (3-for-4) that scored Frandsen, who reached on a single and Ruiz, who got on base on a throwing error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

After getting through the next two innings, Martin ran into trouble again in the fifth innings when he gave up a leadoff double to Denard Span. After getting Zimmerman to bounce out on a grounder to second,  Martin walked left fielder Bryce Harper.

Martin managed to get the second out of the inning by getting Werth to pop out to first. But just when it looked like Martin was going to work his way out of the inning, he walked Desmond to load the bases and then walked LaRoche to score Spann from third.

“I didn’t make that final pitch to get out of that inning,” Martin said. “It’s kind been that way for the majority of the starts that I’ve had up here. It’s just that one pitch that I haven’t been able to get. It’s one thing we’ve been talking and I just have to bear down and get that pitch.”

That spelled the end for Martin. The Nationals got another run that was charged to Martin when relief pitcher Justin De Fratus walked Ramos to bring home Harper.

The Nationals added two more runs in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Werth that scored Zimmerman and a run-scoring hit from Desmond that brought home Harper to make the score 7-2.

“The bullpen came and struggled with base on balls and with the base runners,” Sandberg.

But the Phillies made things interesting in the sixth by scoring three runs in the inning by taking advantage of Nationals fielding errors.  Darin Ruf scored from second on a throwing error by Desmond who was trying to throw out Mayberry at first. The Phillies cut the deficit to 7-5 on RBI singles by Mike Martinez and pinch hitter Chase Utley.

The Nationals added another run on a solo homer to right by pinch-hitter Corey Brown in top of the seventh.

The Phillies got that run back in the eighth on a home run by Asche to right center.

The Nationals added a run in the ninth on wild pitch strikeout by B.J. Rosenberg that scored Span.


Phillies Get Third Straight Walk-Off Win Over Arizona

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Chase Utley's walk-off base-on-balls gave teh Phillies a 4-3 win over Arizona. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Chase Utley’s walk-off base-on-balls gave teh Phillies a 4-3 win over Arizona. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—For the third straight game, the Phillies gave the fans at Citizen’s Bank Park something to smile about with their 4-3 walk-off win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Chase Utley’s walk-off base-on-balls with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning against Diamondbacks reliever Eury De La Rosa gave the Phillies their third straight walk-off win.

“Anytime you have a walk-off, it creates some excitement with the guys getting out there on the field …three straight walk-offs, you’re lucky if you get that in a month,” said Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg. “Right now, it’s carrying over into the next day. It feels good and we’ll continue to build on it.”

In the ninth inning, the Phillies got a leadoff single by pinch hitter Cody Asche. A single off the hit and run by shortstop Jimmy Rollins drove Asche to third. After an intentional walk to third baseman Michael Young that loaded the bases, Kevin Frandsen struck out.

But Utley did a good job of working the count against De La Rosa, who threw an inside breaking pitch that wasn’t even close to the strike zone. The walk scored Asche from third.

“Winning is winning, I’m just glad we’re able to battle and stay with it throughout the whole game,” said starting pitcher Cole Hamels. “It’s a good feeling just to have something going the right way for as long as we had it this week.”

Hamels had another quality start, going seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and just one walk. He allowed those runs in the fourth inning.

“Hamels threw the ball well for his seven innings,” Sandberg said. “He ran into some trouble in the fourth with a hit batsman on an 0-2 pitch and then the twilight ball Domonic didn’t see.”

That fourth inning started when Hamels hit Diamondbacks right fielder Adam Eaton with the pitch. A double to left by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt that fell between shortstop John McDonald and leftfielder Domonic Brown, who apparently lost the ball in the lights, moved Eaton to third.

Both runners scored on an RBI double by left fielder Martin Prado. An RBI single by third baseman Matt Davidson drove home Prado. Arizona was held scoreless for rest of the game.

The Phillies bullpen, which has struggled throughout the season, kept the team in the game and did not allow a run. The combination of B.J.Rosenberg and Jonathnan Papelbon allowed just one hit over the last two innings.

“They put up zeroes, seventh through ninth,” Sandberg said. “The games have been somewhat tight and it allows the offense to do something. Also the way that they’re putting zeroes up, the defense is coming off the field. It’s all about manufacturing a  run or two and puts it on the offense.”

The Phillies started the scoring in the bottom of the second with a solo home run from Darin Ruf. It was his 10th of the season and his eighth since Aug. 1.

“(Ruf) continues to swing the bat with some pop,” Sandberg said.

But Arizona bounced back to take the lead with a three-run fourth. The Phillies would come back in their half of the sixth inning with a bases loaded RBI double by catcher Carlos Ruiz that scored first baseman Kevin Frandsen and Brown.

The Phillies tied the game in the sixth inning on an RBI bases-loaded double by Carlos Ruiz, who is hitting .373 in 19 games since Aug. 1.