New Religion: Phillies' Voodoo Pins Yankees in the Bronx

New Religion: Phillies' Voodoo Pins Yankees in the Bronx

A night after the staff's best pitcher was knocked around to start the series in New York, things weren't looking too great on paper for the Phillies in game 2. Wednesday night's starter, Jamie Moyer, was dismantled for NINE earned runs in securing just three outs this past Friday in Boston, and we haven't seen much from the bats in over a month. 

But there was something a little unusual about the second game of this series. First, it was the 24th anniversary of Jamie Moyer's first career win, which oddly enough saw him top the Phillies in Steve Carlton's last game with the club. Second, Chase Utley channeled some voodoo before the game (story w/ video here), possibly joking around but more likely just doing anything he could to get the Phils' stagnant offense going. 

And anyone who's seen Major League knows that Jobu is NOT a Yankees fan. 

Moyer would pitch masterfully, going eight strong and allowing just two earned runs on three Yankee hits, two of which were homers. At age 47, he pitched better tonight than he had 24 years ago as a rookie, earning his 265th career win on the same date he'd earned his first. Also putting up a historic number tonight was Charlie Manuel, who notched his 700th career win as a manager. 

The Phillies made the most of their six hits and five walks drawn, scoring six times to beat the Yankees by a 6-3 count. Everyone's favorite Yankees starter, AJ Burnett, was chased from the mound in the fourth inning, or it might have been much worse. Burnett was tagged for all of the Phillies' runs and hits, and all but one of their walks. The Yanks' relievers put in a great effort in triage, silencing the Phils for the rest of the game.

Some recently maligned Phillies hitters seemed particularly charged up early tonight though. Raul Ibanez drew a walk in the second inning, then stole second base. The lineup has been missing Jimmy Rollins' speed for most of the season, so it was great to see a guy not known for his speed haul ass to scoring position hoping to ignite a rally. Greg Dobbs then lined a single to right, scoring Raul, after which an unnerved Burnett walked Brian Schneider and then had a Wilson Valdez dribbler bounce off his foot. With the 7-8-9 hitters all on base, leadoff man Shane Victorino nailed a triple to the right center gap to put the Phils up 4-0. Burnett would get out of the inning without further damage, but his night wouldn't last much longer.

When the Phils came back to the plate in the third, Ryan Howard led off by crushing a Burnett mistake over the wal in center, after which the increasingly bearded Jayson Werth answered with a homer of his own. 

After small-balling their way to four runs in the second, what better time for the heavy hitters to go back-to-back (marking the first time the Phils have done so all season)? Howard and Werth are now at 11 HR apiece and have each reached the 40-RBI mark on the season.

One win may be a little early to read much into it, but I'm pretty sure science would prove that Utley's voodoo charms were at play here. All that was missing was Burnett getting nailed with a thrown bat. 

The question now is how the Phillies will respond tomorrow night with a chance to win a series in the Bronx.  

Moyer's last three starts alone speak to how unpredictable this team is right now. Mostly, this trait hasn't been a positive lately. But tonight's win could prove to be just what they need to turn things around. The often stoic Utley lightening the mood in the locker room before the game appears to have helped the team come out loose and ready to capitalize on a poor-control night for Burnett. Brad Lidge made things a little too interesting in the ninth, allowing a run on two hits and a walk, filling the Phillies fans in attendance with his trademark brand of nervous anticipation.
But they'd be able to head home happy as Lidge struck out three batters in the frame to preserve the win for Moyer. 

Kind of amazing what one decisive win over the Yankees in their park can do for your feelings about this team. 

Phillies Prospect Notebook: Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras anchoring Clearwater's strong rotation

Phillies Prospect Notebook: Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras anchoring Clearwater's strong rotation

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Prospect Franklyn Kilome is the second-highest rated pitcher in the Phillies' organization, and the right-hander lived up to the billing Sunday, as the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies' Class A Advanced affiliate, closed a three-game series at St. Lucie.

The right-hander twirled seven sparkling innings, shutting down the Mets’ hot bats, as the Threshers blanked St. Lucie 1-0 behind an unearned run at First Data Field to salvage the final game of the series.

Kilome, 21, allowed five hits, struck out six and didn’t issue a walk in winning for the first time since April 27. Only one St. Lucie player managed to reach second base against the 6-foot-6, 175-pound pitcher.

The Dominican pitcher is ranked No. 7 overall by Baseball America among Phillies' prospects. Only 18-year-old Lakewood hurler Sixto Sanchez (fifth overall) is rated above him in the organization.

“He’s got a chance to be a workhorse. Good body, very good arm, but still learning how to pitch a little bit,” pitching coach Aaron Fultz said of Kilome, who improved to 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA.

“He’s up to 97 (mph) with a good curveball and slider. He’s learning a changeup. He’s learning the game, but he’s got a huge upside.”

Jose Taveras (4-2, 2.26) has been another reliable arm on Clearwater’s staff. He led the South Atlantic League in strikeouts last season and has 54 in 55 2/3 innings this year.

Taveras also handled St. Lucie on Saturday, but he was left with a no-decision after the bullpen gave up three runs in a 4-3 loss in 10 innings. The 23-year-old worked six strong innings and yielded just a run on four hits.  

“Taveras is just a very good competitor," Fultz said. "His fastball is average, pretty decent breaking ball and his changeup is good, but the thing that makes him good is he’s just a competitor. He studies the game and the hitters and is very advanced with that.”

Added Threshers manager Shawn Williams: “There are times when he may not have his usual command, and he’ll change an arm angle, which shows he’s got a good feel for what he’s doing. He’ll crossfire, has deception … he’s got something where they don’t pick up his fastball and are always late.”

A third Dominican right-hander, Seranthony Dominguez (3-0, 2.02), has been a big part of the rotation as well and has won three times in six starts but is currently sidelined with shoulder soreness. An MRI returned a clean report.

“The first three or four weeks we were ridiculously good," Fultz said. "We’ve had a few bumps in the road since then, but we’re getting the job done.”

Zach, not Francis Ford
Zach Coppola has a famous Hollywood last name, but the Clearwater corner outfielder has spent 2017 making a name for himself with his defense, at the plate and on the bases.

Coppola, 23, was 5 for 12 with two runs scored in the St. Lucie series, including Sunday’s lone run. He made a pair of outstanding run-saving catches in the outfield over the weekend and raised his average to .346, second to Chris Paul (.351) of Fort Myers.

“Zach has been doing a great job as a leadoff hitter,” Williams said of the Iowa native. “He gets big hits, bunts, but the thing for me is he does something every night to help you win, whether it’s a bunt hit or a great diving play in left-center. He’ll throw a guy out or get a great dirtball read and score the winning run.

“He’s a very good baseball player who does all the little things.”

Good contributors
The Threshers (28-23) have sat atop the FSL’s North Division for most of the first half, but a series loss at St. Lucie over the weekend left them trailing Dunedin by one game after both clubs won Sunday.

Williams said his first season skippering the club has been highlighted by a full-team effort.

“It’s been a little bit of everything,” Williams said. “Early on our pitching was very, very good. Cole (Irvin) was really dealing (see more on Irvin). Dominguez, everybody was. We were getting the big hits, and our defense has been very consistent. Overall, we’ve just played good baseball.”

One standout playing good ball has been 5-foot-5 middle infielder Grenny Cumana, who went 7 for 10 in the series and made a spectacular catch-and-throw on the grass behind the bag while playing second base to rob St. Lucie’s Vinny Siena of an infield hit Sunday.

Tenacious P
Fultz said one immeasurable he likes in his pitchers is a bulldog-like tenacity that has them wanting the ball in key moments, regardless of previous outcomes.

“I don’t have to have the guy who’s always going to succeed in the big situation, but I always want the guy that wants to be out there in that situation. To me, that’s the selling point,” he said. “It’s not always being successful; it’s always wanting to be in that situation, which is a big plus.”

Fultz said his favorite battler was Jamie Brewington, a teammate of his in the San Francisco farm system, who appeared in 40 games over two MLB seasons.

“He went right after hitters, and it was fun to watch,” Fultz said.

Andrew Knapp's long homer a bright spot for skidding Phillies as rookie pushes Cameron Rupp

Andrew Knapp's long homer a bright spot for skidding Phillies as rookie pushes Cameron Rupp

Hidden in the Phillies' sub-par Sunday was one bright spot: Andrew Knapp.

The young backup catcher blasted a long home run into the Phillies' bullpen that gave them an early lead they would soon relinquish in an 8-4 loss to the Reds. The long ball comes on the heels of Knapp's first back-to-back starts earlier in the week.

"The more playing time you get, the better you feel," he said. "That's just the way it goes. I'm just trying to take my opportunities and take advantage of them. Unfortunately, we didn't win today, but the more at-bats I get, the better I feel."

The 25-year-old rookie was handed a prime opportunity in the second inning with two men on and one out. Starter Scott Feldman put him behind 0-2 with consecutive fastballs and tried to put him away upstairs. Knapp stayed poised and laid off both pitches, waiting for a mistake.

And the mistake came with a belt-high curveball that Knapp barreled 434 feet for a three-run homer.

"I wasn't really looking for it," he said. "I knew he liked to throw it with two strikes. It was kind of in the back of my head. But I was just looking for something out over the dish. He was pounding me in, but I was going to make him beat me away. I thankfully got that one out in front a bit."

Knapp is now 53 at-bats into his MLB career and has an impressive .264/.371/.509 batting line with three home runs and seven RBIs. He's played well enough to push starting catcher Cameron Rupp for more playing time and earn himself some extra starts beyond day games after night games.

"I feel good," Knapp said. "I'm learning a lot. Each at-bat in itself is its own thing and you can't really have much rollover. At the same time, the more I get in there, the better I feel and the more experience I get. So I feel good so far."

Rupp has been solid at the plate, although he dealt with some issues defensively last week. As Knapp got consecutive starts, Rupp sat out both Tuesday and Wednesday against the Rockies. He rebounded with a three-walk game Thursday afternoon.

With Knapp swinging the bat well, manager Pete Mackanin hopes it will only push Rupp to level his game up.

"Competition is great for pitchers and for position players and I think it's good," Mackanin said. "Knapp hit that home run today. He's been swinging the bat pretty well, catching pretty well and that's only, in my opinion, going to make Rupp better."

On Friday, Mackanin said he would give Knapp more playing time, looking to possibly split starts between Rupp and Knapp at four and three starts, respectively, per week. That's how it worked out during this past homestand.

The manager was unsure what the upward limit on Knapp's starts could be, but he was pleased about his catching situation despite the team's overall issues.

"Cam hasn't been swinging the bat that well lately, but they're both going to get playing time," Mackanin said. "Cam will get the brunt of the playing time. For me, it's a great situation. Now we have two guys that we think a lot of."