Late Show: Pence Lights Up Giants, Lee Shuts Them Down

Late Show: Pence Lights Up Giants, Lee Shuts Them Down

There weren't a ton of offensive fireworks in San Francisco in the series opener on Thursday night, but what little there were started the game off right for the Phillies, and Cliff Lee took care of the rest. Hunter Pence homered for the first time in a Phillies uniform (and soon after showed off a new dugout handshake), and John Mayberry Jr did the same in the next at bat. Pence would later single in an unnecessary insurance run in the ninth, rewarding his growing fanbase for staying up late back on the east coast by giving the Phils a 3-0 lead they'd leave the field with.

Lee outdueled Madison Bumgarner on a night when both pitchers had some great stuff. He got into a jam in the eighth, but pitched his way out of it without letting up a run, then came out in the ninth to cap his fifth complete game shutout of the season. T-Mac pointed out that it was the first time a Phillie racked up five shutouts in a season since Steve Carlton in 1982.

As Enrico pointed out in the Handshake post, Pence has given us something to talk about in every one of his Phillies appearances so far. Personality points aside, he has also hit safely in every game, including three hits on Thursday night. Shane Victorino, batting third with Chase Utley getting a rare night off, had two singles of his own.

The game was thankfully fast-paced and didn't keep us up all night, and
more importantly, didn't send us to bed thinking about another loss to
the Giants. Is there a team you enjoy seeing the Phillies beat more than
those guys right now? Hopefully they can keep their win streak (now at
seven games) alive tomorrow night with the Vanimal facing Jonathan
Sanchez.

Notes:

  • Props all around to the defense. Some very solid baseball plays kept runners off the bags at key times for Lee.
  • Pence's homer was his 12th of the season, Mayberry's his 8th.
  • With his 0-3 night, Cliff's average has fallen to .216. When's he going to get his act together at the plate?!
  • I guess we'll let him slide since he pitched a shutout and K'd eight Giants.
  • Not a great night for Ryan Howard at the dish, with the Piece striking out twice and going 0-fer. At least he brought the leather to 1B though, coming up with some notable picks and a sliding grab.
  • Could be worse though, Cody Ross struck out four times and even chucked his bat on a third strike swinging. Seeing Lee stand him straight up on a called third strike to end the game may even have topped the bat toss...
  • With Ryan Madson on paternity leave (congrats on the birth of a baby boy, Tyler), Brad Lidge was up in the Phillies bullpen in the ninth, though he wasn't needed despite the Giants getting a man on board.
  • The Phils moved to 72-39, 8.5 games up on the idle Braves in the East. The third place Mets are 16.5 back. On August 5. The Arizona Diamondbacks were idle on Thursday, so they still sit at a half-game behind the Giants out west.

Photos by US Presswire.

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

ATLANTA — Nearly four months late, Aaron Altherr is finally getting his shot to show the Phillies he deserves to be part of their future outfield plans.

Altherr, 25, was activated from the disabled list before Thursday night’s game against the Braves and was in the lineup, batting fifth (see story). Altherr will see a lot of playing time over the final two-plus months of the season. He’s essentially auditioning.

“We want to see him play as much as possible,” manager Pete Mackanin said before the game. “So if he stays healthy, I’m going to keep running him out there. That’s what this year is all about. We’re finding out about the guys that are here. He is a potentially important part so we want to see what he does. I’m anxious to see what he does.”

Altherr, a ninth-round draft pick in 2009, played in 39 games for the Phillies last season. He hit just .241, but 20 of his 33 hits were for extra bases and he had a .827 OPS. He was slated to be the team’s everyday rightfielder before suffering a wrist injury that required surgery early in spring training.

Altherr is healthy now and eager for his chance.

“I’m good to go mentally and physically,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I’m definitely excited to be back up.”

Altherr took Peter Bourjos' spot on the roster. Bourjos was placed on the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder two days after running into the outfield wall in Miami.

With Mackanin committed to giving Altherr playing time, it will be interesting to see how the skipper divides up playing time with the remaining outfielders, especially when Bourjos recovers. Bourjos was a trade candidate before his injury. He could still be moved in a waiver deal once he’s healthy in August. Tyler Goeddel, Cody Asche and Jimmy Paredes also play corner outfield spots and much heralded prospect Nick Williams is expected to be here at some point (see Future Phillies Report).

Asche is walking a tightrope. He entered Thursday night’s game mired in a 4-for-51 skid and Mackanin seems to be losing patience.

“As I said earlier in the season, this is a very big year for Cody to prove that he can be part of the future and he needs to step it up,” Mackanin said.

Jason Peters impressed by Doug Pederson, questions Chip Kelly

Jason Peters impressed by Doug Pederson, questions Chip Kelly

Heading into his 13th season, Jason Peters has experienced a lot during his exceptional NFL career. So when the eight-time Pro Bowler says head coach Doug Pederson is more respectful of veteran players than the previous regime under Chip Kelly, you take notice.

"I think so," Peters stated frankly on Thursday at training camp (see Day 4 notes). "The last couple years, there wasn't a lot of vets, and any vet that stood up and had something to say, we got rid of him.

"Doug was a player here, he understands veteran players and he understands the game, so I think it's better."

Addressing the media for the first time since last season, Peters faced a series of questions about how Pederson differs from his unique predecessor. Schemes and philosophies were topics of discussion, as well, but perhaps the sharpest criticism levied by Peters was Kelly's lack of appreciation for what an NFL player goes through to be ready on Sunday.

"Any time you've got a coach who's been there, done that, he knows about the trenches and he knows about the two-a-days, it definitely helps with a veteran team as a whole," Peters said.

Peters admitted Kelly's practices took their toll on players. If that sounds like a familiar complaint, it's probably because former Eagles cornerback Cary Williams voiced a similar opinion in 2014. On Thursday, Peters echoed and expanded upon Williams' sentiments.

"The same practices that we did in training camp were the same spring practices, exactly the same, so it's pretty much we had training camp the whole offseason," Peters said. "Even OTAs were the same exact practice. It kind of wore us down."

Peters also maintained the unusual practice schedule during the regular season was no help, either.

Most teams practice Monday and take Tuesday off. Kelly did the opposite, so there was no real break leading up to gameday.

"We practiced on Tuesdays when Chip was here, and you felt it on Sundays," Peters said. "I did anyway."

Pederson has mentioned on several occasions the Eagles intend to do everything they can to keep Peters fresh and prepared for Sundays this season, which the 34-year-old says is "just being smart." One way that could manifest itself is an occasional day off during the week.

Although Peters' criticisms of Kelly weren't limited to the workload on veterans, the left tackle indicated the constant uptempo attack may not have done the offense many favors, either.

"If you run 100 times in a row, back to back to back, don't you think your 50th time you're going to be a little slower?" Peters asked. "But if you get a little bit of a rest, you're going to be a little bit faster.

"It's give and take. When you go back to the huddle and you get that wind, you're just a little stronger when you go back to the line, so I think it will help."

Peters added that the simplicity and predictability of Kelly's system became a problem, as well.

"I mean, this is the National Football League, and if the running back is to the left and you're running the zone read, where do you think the ball is going?" Peters asked rhetorically. "To the right.

"They caught up to us. We had some good years there back to back, then last year we had that down year. We just needed to change a little bit up, especially with [quarterback Sam Bradford] back there. They know he's not gonna run it, so it kind of put our hands behind our back."

While Peters believes the return to a more sophisticated, traditional NFL offense under Pederson — one that uses snap counts and chip blocks to help its offensive linemen — will be an enormous improvement for the Eagles.

Peters knows it's on the players to do a better job in 2016, too. At the same time, he feels as though the deck might've been just a little stacked against them.

"We can't really blame it on that, we're professionals," Peters said.

"[The coaches] call the play, and we execute it. But when the [opponents] know, and they're professionals too, and they know what the play is, it's tough."