How Long Must We Sing This Song? Doc Disappoints as Phils' Losing Ways Continue

How Long Must We Sing This Song? Doc Disappoints as Phils' Losing Ways Continue

Tough pill to swallow. If you had asked me for my prediction for how we'd do before the game started, I would've said something like "well, at least I know this game won't be over by the third inning like it was in those games against the Sox." We were sending Roy Halladay out there, after all, and even if he ended up losing the game to fellow ace CC Sabathia, I knew at least it'd be within our grasp for the first seven innings or so as Doc took care of business. Well, it turns out not even the Good Doctor is impervious to right-field homers at Yankee Stadium, as the Yanks got on the board early and often, and withstood a mid-game rally from the Fightins to take game one of the series handily, by a final of 8-3.

Though the first runs the Yankees put on the board were on a two-run triple by Brett Gardener, the story of the evening for the men in pinstripes was the longball. Doc had let up a mere three homers in his first 13 starts for Philadelphia, and that's exactly as many as he gave up tonight, to Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira, respectively. The first two put the game nearly out of reach at 5-0, and the third ballooned the lead to 6-3, stealing the momentum from the Phils' brief offensive surge.

To be fair, it's not all on Doc--we heard so much last year about the supposed jet stream to right that caused balls to fly out of Yankee Stadium, and tonight was a good Exhibit A of that phenomenon. None of the homers cracked look sure things off the bat, and the Teixeira one especially just looked like a long pop-up until it landed a few rows behind the "314 FT" marking by the right-field foul pole. Not to say that Doc was entirely blameless either--the movement wasn't really there on his pitches, and after the game he bemoaned how often he had missed his spots over the course of the outing--and hey, our guys might could have hit a couple out there themselves, were they so inclined. But as many have pointed out, people who complain about the short porch in CBP should take a whiff of the all-too-generous air at Yankee Stadium tonight, and know how much more ridiculous it really could be.

The Phils' offensive woes continued of course, although at least we showed genuine life for one inning. After Chase literally singled off of CC at the beginning of the fourth, the Phils put together a nice little rally that got them within one big hit of tying that game. That hit never came, unfortunately, and a long-overdue bout of wildness from Antonio Bastardo allowed the Yanks to put to more on the board in the eighth, officially nailing the game shut. That fourth-inning push really got my hopes up for a feel-good comeback win, but as in so many other games this month, it just wasn't to be.

This low-end in production from the Phils has gone on so long at this point that it's hard not to wonder if something's eventually got to give. In the post-game conference, many of the reporters seemed to be trying to coax Charlie into lashing out at the team for over-confidence, but he never bit on it, maintaining the company line that everyone was trying their hardest and that they're good enough to snap out of it eventually. This echoed the statements of Ruben Amaro, Jr. earlier in the day, as he said that no big moves were necessary for the team. "The guys have track records and they're good players and they're
championship-caliber players, and they will be again," said Amaro. "This is our team out here, and they'll be fine."

I tend to agree with Ruben that at the very least, no panic moves are necessary (and frankly, I'm not even sure what our options would be on that front anyway) and that the team will eventually come around to some extent. The question, though, is how much longer can they afford to sit around and wait for the law of averages to take effect while the team continues to sink lower and lower in the rankings. This loss puts our boys a mere two games over .500, four games behind the Braves and three behind the Mets. Through 62 games last year, we were ten games over, and though we eventually sagged back down to just two up, we had the benefit of a lousy division that allowed us to maintain at least a share of the lead throughout. With the Braves, Mets, and even the Nats all vastly improved this season, you can bet we won't have that luxury this time around.

In the meantime, the Phils have two games left to steal at least one here at Yankee Stadium. The ramifications of this team getting swept, while possibly falling just short of cataclysmic, would at the very least be deeply, deeply discouraging. Tomorrow the Ageless Wonder Jamie Moyer squares off against the Yanks' mercurial A.J. Burnett, and while Burnett has shut our guys down in the past (ex. Game 2, '09 Series) we've shown that we can certainly get to him on occasion as well (ex. Game 5, '09 Series). It really sucks not to get this one with our golden boy out there, and you know no one feels it more than the Good Doctor himself, but get one of the next two, and the boys can at least come back without their confidence in complete tatters. Looking forward to tomorrow night already.

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

It may be time for Sixers fans to start setting money aside for some Big Baller Brand gear.

Sources tell ESPN's Chris Haynes that Lonzo Ball is considering working out for the Sixers, who hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

"A final decision will be made once Ball's agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN," Haynes writes.

Haynes also states that the main concern between Ball and the Sixers would be how the former UCLA point guard would fit in on a team that plans to feature 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons as the primary ball handler.

This news comes after Ball declined to work out for the Boston Celtics, who own the top pick in June's draft.

"We don't deal with [Ball's camp] all that much," Celtics president Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub radio during The Toucher and Rich Show Thursday. "They didn't show up at the combine, which is very common — many of the top 10 or 15 players don't show up for the combine. ... We just tried to get him in for a workout and they politely said no."

Ball's father, LaVar, has previously stated several times that his son would only work out for the Lakers, who will select at No. 2. Plus, Lonzo Ball has said he would rather be drafted by the home state Lakers instead of going at the top of the draft.

"I'm a family dude," Ball said during an interview on ESPN last month. "All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me."

Even with all the pre-draft posturing and the outspoken nature of his father, Ball has proven to be a top-tier talent. The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA as he was named a consensus first-team All-American.

We previously looked at how Ball would blend with the Sixers, which one analyst called a "perfect" fit.

The Sixers may be having similar thoughts.

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph is making the Phillies' situation at first base quite tricky.

Joseph on Thursday continued building on his red-hot month of May by going 2 for 5 with a game-tying homer in the seventh and a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning of the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's hit .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

That'll hold off the eye-popping production of Rhys Hoskins for now (see Future Phillies Report).

Extending it further, Joseph has played 148 career games with 499 plate appearances in the majors. That's just a bit less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. He's provided above-average offensive production from first base.

Most Phillies fans know Joseph's story — big-time catching prospect acquired from the Giants in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, series of concussions, position switch, hot start to 2016 at Triple A, promotion, production.

It was a long, winding road for Joseph, and when he was asked Thursday if he expected to be this solid 500 plate appearances into his major-league career, he brought up health.

"My goals were to be healthy, to be able to play in 162 games and that's all I really want to be able to do," Joseph said. "That's something I haven't been able to do in my career and it's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the challenge to go through the mental challenge and the physical challenge and I'd say that's my No. 1 goal, that's my only goal. Because if I'm able to stay healthy and stay on the field then I'm able to enjoy this great game and getting to share it with my teammates."

As for the May adjustments, Joseph said the standard things about communicating with hitting coach Matt Stairs, working in the cage and staying consistent with his approach. His timing wasn't there in April but it's certainly been there in May.

"There's no telling what clicks in a guy, it's just a matter of making a minor adjustment sometimes, possibly getting better pitches to hit," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's no telling what it is, but he just looks a lot more comfortable at the plate."

Bullpen bouncing back
It's been completely overshadowed by the Phillies' recent skid but the bullpen has pitched very well of late. The unit that was overworked and criticized in April has combined to allow just two earned runs in its last 22 2/3 innings. On Thursday, six Phillies relievers — Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez — pitched six scoreless innings.

Neshek made the play of the day, diving and landing on his head to snag a pop-up bunt attempt before turning and firing to first base for the double play.

"I said early on that I think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said of the bullpen. "And after today you can see why I have a lot of confidence in them."

Neshek, who has pitched in the postseason for four different teams, said Thursday that he thinks this is one of the best bullpens he's ever been around. It's not lip service, either. The unit was terrible in April, there's no getting around that. But some of that really did have to do with the overuse. Setup men were entering in the sixth inning. Opportunities for holds and saves were few and far between. Roles were not defined.

Stuff-wise, repertoire-wise, there is a lot to like about the Phillies' bullpen. Neris, Benoit and Neshek all offer vastly different looks and have track records of success.

While Neshek didn't totally endorse Benoit's comments from a few weeks ago that everything would settle down once the relievers knew specifically which inning they'd pitch, he did say that he too feels most comfortable coming in during a hold opportunity.

"I think my numbers show that I'm best in those situations, coming into a hold opportunity when we're ahead," Neshek said. "We haven't had much of those lately."

The horrendous start to the season for the Phillies' relievers will skew their stats all season long, but it's nice to see that at least one aspect of this team is starting to get into a groove.