Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Plenty of fans were on their feet for the final out of the Phillies-Cubs game tonight at Wrigley. The only problem for Chicagoans was that the people wearing red were the hot, sweaty fans doing all the cheering late in this one. It didn't come easy for the Phillies tonight, however.

Cubs starter Matt Garza was fantastic for seven innings on Tuesday night, keeping the Fightins hitless until the fifth inning, but Cubs Manager Mike Quade opted to bring him out for the eighth after having thrown 113 pitches. Garza proceeded to give up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins and the Cubs right-hander's effort proved to be for naught, as reliever Sean Marshall promptly gave up a single to Michael Martinez to put two men on for Chase Utley.

Utley came to the plate with ducks on the pond and no outs, having failed to notch a hit in his last fifteen at-bats. It was time for the Phillies leader to finally make some noise.

Utley delivered a double to the gap in left which scored both Rollins and MiniMart to tie things up at two.

The turning point in this one could have been moments later after Utley stole third and Howard went down swinging.

Shane Victorino hit a weak chopper to short, and with the infield in, Starlin Castro went for the play at the plate. Utley didn't appear to get a great jump, and may have even slipped on the grass a bit when Vic first made contact. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto blocked the plate well and Chase was called out on a bang-bang play. You almost expect Utley, with his baserunning prowess, to score there every time.

But the Phils had some exiting two-out heroics left in them in the top of the ninth, rewarding the throngs of loyal Philadelphia fans in attendance.

After John Mayberry grounded out and Carlos Ruiz went down swinging to start the ninth, Ben Francisco came through with a big two-out pinch-hit to center. Jimmy Rollins ripped a ball right at third baseman Aramis Ramirez which ricochetted off him to short. The play was ruled a single.

That brought up Michael Martinez who proved to be the man of the hour, saving the Phillies from dropping two straight to the second-to-last-place Cubs.

Martinez hit a bloop double down the line in right that scored both Francisco and Rollins to put the Phillies up 4-2. MiniMart was so excited with what would prove to be the game winner that he got thrown out caught between second and third. Awful base running, but we'll let it slide tonight.

Mike Stutes must be commended for his two innings of shutout work after replacing Lee, who was pulled after six in hopes of getting some offense out of pinch-hitter Ross Gload. Stutes wasn't perfect, and allowed a couple of Cubbies on board in the seventh, but despite getting squeezed by the homeplate ump, he kept them from crossing the plate and put the Phils in position for the come-from-behind victory.

Antonio Bastardo was filthy in the ninth, striking out the side and earning the save.

The final two innings don't erase the offensive ineptitude for the rest of the night, but damn a come-back victory -- keeping a another potential series win alive -- certainly sends the Phillies and their fans home happy tonight.

*

Cliff Was Solid For Six

Starlin Castro hit a home run in the first inning off of Cliff Lee to put the Cubs ahead 2-0 early. Manuel pulled Lee a bit early in this one because he desperately needed some offense. Cliff's final line: 6.0 IP, 8 hits, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 0 BBs.

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

ATLANTA — Even with the Miami Marlins having filled their need for starting pitching, there remains significant interest in Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, according to major league sources.

The Phillies have received offers for the 29-year-old right-hander, but none that they have deemed worthy of pulling the trigger on.

Hellickson is scheduled to make his 22nd start for the club on Saturday night. Will he make that start? Time will tell. Talks between the Phillies and interested clubs are ongoing.

Hellickson is coming off two strong starts in which he allowed just six hits and one run in 14 innings against the Marlins. Another strong start Saturday could add more luster to Hellickson’s stretch-run value and bring the Phillies the package they are seeking. The trade deadline is Monday at 4 p.m.

Miami had interest in Hellickson before making a deal to acquire starters Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego in a seven-player trade Friday (see story).

Hellickson is viewed by industry insiders as being a fallback option for a number of teams. Demand for him could grow as trades are made and the starting pitching market thins as Monday’s deadline approaches.

Baltimore, Toronto, Texas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Houston are among teams looking to add starting pitching.

Though there’s no guarantee that Hellickson will be moved, he is the most likely Phillie to go. Reliever David Hernandez is next on the list. A number of teams are looking for relief help. The feeling around baseball is that the Phils could move Hernandez before Monday’s deadline, but the return would only be marginal.

The Phillies have received some interest in closer Jeanmar Gomez, but not to the degree one might expect for someone with 27 saves. Because Gomez lacks power stuff, rival teams do not view him as a closer on a contending team.

FOX Sports reports that the Rangers have interest in right-hander Vince Velasquez, but the Phils would have to be blown away to move the 24-year-old right-hander. Velasquez started for the Phillies on Friday night.

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.83 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there." (See story)

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Rupp back behind the plate for Phillies

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Rupp back behind the plate for Phillies

After scoring five first-inning runs on their way to a 7-5 win against the Braves on Thursday, Pete Mackanin decided not to tinker with the Phillies' lineup too much.

In fact, the only change will be at catcher. The struggling Cameron Rupp will get the start on Friday and bat sixth after Carlos Ruiz was behind the plate on Thursday. Rupp, who was one of the few bright spots for the offense in the first half, is just 5 for 31 since the All-Star break. On the season, Rupp is still batting .271 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs.

Aaron Altherr came off the DL with a bang, tallying three hits, including a two-run homer on Thursday. Mackanin has said Altherr will get a long look in right field and Thursday night was a glimpse of why. 

With Altherr's regular presence in the lineup, Cody Asche has been put on notice. After going on a tear from early June to early July, Asche is batting .094 (5 for 53) in his last 17 games. With Altherr and Odubel Herrera entrenched in right and center, Asche will have to get hot to stave off prospect Nick Williams, who seems to be finding his groove at Lehigh Valley.

Here is tonight's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P