Big Man and the Doctor: 'Nuff Said for Phils Victory

Big Man and the Doctor: 'Nuff Said for Phils Victory

It's always a nice feeling when you feel like your team has the game in
the bag in the first inning. When Ryan Howard lifted off on a three-run
blast in the Phillies' first time up in their second game at Miller Park
this trip, you could be pretty sure that the Brewers were just about
sunk with Cy Young candidate (and reigning winner) Roy Halladay taking
the mound in the bottom of the frame. Sure enough, Doc was dominant, and
despite some unnecessary suspense from the bullpen in the ninth, the
Brew Crew were shut down as the Phils won their fifth in a row, by a
score of 5-3.

The game was a relatively boring one in between that rockin' first
inning and a mildly heartburning ninth (the Brewers began the inning
down four but managed to bring up the possible tying run several times),
so rather than doing straight recapping, let's look at some player and
team numbers instead. Cool?

The Big Piece

Though
Ryan Howard's percentages have fallen this year pretty much across the
board, his counting numbers remain about as impressive as ever. Ryno's
three-run no-doubter tonight give him 32 dingers and 111 RBIs for the
season, both more than he had all of last year, and in only 137 games so
far. (Howard played 143 in '10.) His .836 OPS (as of yesterday,
probably in the low .840s with his performance tonight) is way too low
for a slugger of his stature and pay-rate, but good to know that the big
man still knows how to put points on the board as well as anyone.

The
Doctor Is In

Roy Halladay was predictably beastly for the
Phils tonight, giving up just one run in eight innings of four-hit, nine
K ball. (The three walks Doc gave up were a season high, but
considering that still puts him at just one per start, we'll let it
slide.) The nine punchouts put Big Roy over 200 for the fifth time in
his career (and fourth straight season), and with presumably at least
three more starts coming his way before season's end, he's got a fairly
good shot of breaking his career-best mark of 219, set with the Fightins
last year. Doc's start will hopefully be a challenging en garde
for Cliff Lee's start tomorrow, as the pair are undoubtedly two of the
three NL Cy Young front-runners at this point—though the third, Clayton
Kershaw of the Dodgers, also strengthened his case with an eight-inning,
one-run win of his own in San Francisco.

Choooooooooooch

Anyone notice how quietly awesome our starting catcher has been the last
few months? On July 6, Carlos sat with a batting average of .248,
looking like he was undergoing a major regression to the mean after last
year's unexpected .300+ hitting campaign. But in the 45 games since,
Chooch has goosed that average all the way back up to .283, getting his
OPS over .750—my highly unofficial cut-off line for when a player is
having an above-average hitting season. Ruiz has hit safely in 18 of his
last 20 games, hitting .388 over that stretch, and last night posted a
ho-hum 2-2 with two walks and an RBI. It's enough in my opinion to prove
that last year wasn't a fluke, and that Chooch has indeed turned
himself into a legitimate offensive threat in this league.

The Magic is Fading Fast

The Magic Number posted for the Phillies on Yahoo! Sports is currently a
paltry nine over the Braves, but by my highly unreliable calculations,
the number over the Cardinals to secure the wildcard is just
three—meaning that the Phils could theoretically clinch a spot in the
post-season as early as Sunday, If so, hopefully there will be ginger
ale and chips made available to the boys in the locker room for what
will undoubtedly be an incredibly unimpressed celebration.

108

All right, so I shouldn't even care about this and it probably doesn't
even make sense for us to push for it, but whatever—I really, really
want to see this team get to 108 wins. 108 wins would mean a 2/3 winning
percentage—in other words, the team would have won twice as many games
as it lost for an entire season, something that I don't believe has been
done in the NL since the '86 Mets. It's something only a truly great
team can do, though as the 116-win 2001 Seattle Mariners will attest, it
can ring a little hollow without a post-season to back it up. I'm
rooting for it, in any event, and the team only has to 15-6 to do it—no
easy task, certainly, but not impossible by any means. And at the very
least, I would like to see the team get to 102, thus making it the best
regular-season squad in the Phillies' 128-year history. That and another
ring, I'd certainly live without the 108.

Up Next

Cliff Lee—remember him?—will be facing our old friend Randy Wolf at 7:05
tomorrow night in the penultimate game of the series, and the last game
of the season before the Phils officially have to share face time with
the Eagles' 2011 campaign. Enjoy it while you can, kids—for as hyped as
the team is this year, we'd still have to be damn, damn lucky for
the Eagles' season to end up being anywhere near as pleasurable and
drama-free as it has been so far for the Fightins.

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

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