A.J. Burnett, Phillies open 2nd half with loss

ap-aj-burnett-phillies-braves.jpg

A.J. Burnett, Phillies open 2nd half with loss

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA -- In the long run, a bad start against the Atlanta Braves on a rainy Friday night probably won’t affect A.J. Burnett’s trade value all that much.

After all, the guy is in his 16th big-league season and the book on him is as thick as a 48-ounce Porterhouse. Rival teams know who he is and what he can do.

But two weeks before the trade deadline, it’s always preferable when a very available pitcher turns in a quality outing. Burnett failed to do that as the Phillies came back from the All-Star break and suffered a 6-4 loss to the Braves at Turner Field (see Instant Replay).

“Everything was up, man,” Burnett said after giving up 10 hits and six runs in five innings. “Everything was up and I was off. The changeups were up. The curveball was up. A few innings in the middle I got it where I wanted to, but I was inconsistent, and you can't pitch against this club and be inconsistent."

Burnett entered the game on a nice roll, recording seven straight quality starts.

He was presented with a tidy 2-0 lead in the second inning, but that didn’t last long. Burnett allowed a leadoff home run to Jason Heyward in the bottom of the second then gave up four two-out hits, including one to the opposing pitcher, and three more runs as his 2-0 lead became a 4-2 deficit.

“You want to come out when you get an early lead and put up a shutdown inning and I just didn’t do it,” he said. “No excuses. I just didn’t get it done.”

Nine of the 10 hits that Burnett allowed came with two outs. Five of the six runs he allowed came with two outs.

“A pitch here, and a pitch there ... you have to make pitches,” he said. “I was in counts where you have to make pitches, and I just didn't."

Burnett appeared to be angry, possibly with catcher Cameron Rupp, after he left the game. Burnett said he was angry with himself.

“Six runs in five innings,” he said. “That was pretty much the reason. No excuses. I just didn’t get it done.”

Manager Ryne Sandberg also said Burnett was simply frustrated with himself.

"Ten hits and six runs," Sandberg said. "He labored."

With their top two catchers on the disabled list, the Phillies have been using Rupp and Koyie Hill at the position. Both could be headed back to Triple A in the coming week as Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves are expected to soon come off the disabled list.

With the loss, the Phillies fell to 12 games under .500 and 11 games back in the division.

The only drama now is who will be here in two weeks when the trade deadline arrives. The Phillies have three starting pitchers who could go -- Burnett, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick. They have a pair of relievers -- Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon -- who could be had. They have a power bat on the block in Marlon Byrd.

Byrd went hitless with a strikeout and a walk Friday night. The Phillies had just six hits.

Ryan Howard, who entered the game hitting .141 in his previous 21 games, had a walk and a two-run single against winning pitcher Ervin Santana in the sixth inning. The single was a broken-bat hit, but Howard still swung the bat better than in recent games. He lined out to right in the eighth. Heyward made a terrific diving catch to rob Howard of a hit.

Cole Hamels pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night.

“The guys bounce back each day, that’s been the demeanor of the team,” Sandberg said. “Come back tomorrow. We have Cole on the mound, so we’ll look forward to that.”

Tonight's lineup: Cesar Hernandez in, Maikel Franco out vs. Yu Darvish

social_phillies_tonights_lineup_v2.jpg

Tonight's lineup: Cesar Hernandez in, Maikel Franco out vs. Yu Darvish

Pete Mackanin continues to play musical chairs with his logjam of infielders.

Tonight, Cesar Hernandez returns to the Phillies' lineup playing second and leading off. He sat against lefty Clayton Kershaw and will face righty Yu Darvish tonight. Hernandez has fared better against right-handers (.293) than southpaws (.279). He leads the team with a .359 OBP this season.

Maikel Franco will take a seat tonight. Franco has been much better over his last 10 games. In that span, Franco is 15 for 35 (.371) with two homers and seven RBIs. His average for the season is still just at .232.

J.P. Crawford will take over at the hot corner and bat seventh. Crawford has been sort of up and down since his call up, but his patented control of the strike zone has certainly translated at the big league level. The rookie is hitting a modest .256 so far but has an OBP of .340.

Here is the rest of tonight's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Nick Williams, RF
6. Aaron Altherr, LF
7. J.P. Crawford, 3B
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Aaron Nola, P

And here's how the Dodgers will line up against Nola:
1. Chris Taylor, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Justin Turner, 3B
4. Cody Bellinger, 1B
5. Curtis Granderson, RF
6. Chase Utley, 2B
7. Yasmani Grandal, C
8. Andre Ethier, LF
9. Yu Darvish, P

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Phils can make a statement tonight vs. Yu Darvish

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Phils can make a statement tonight vs. Yu Darvish

Phillies (59-91) vs. Dodgers (96-64)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Nick Pivetta the giant-killer helped the Phillies to a series-opening victory last night in a game the Phillies had no business winning. Despite having the highest ERA in the majors (6.57) among pitchers with at least 100 innings, Pivetta has somehow led the Phillies to wins in games against Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale, the sport's two best lefties.

The Phils get another tough test tonight in right-hander Yu Darvish, who can be just as unhittable as Kershaw when he's not missing over the middle.

• Aaron Altherr's grand slam last night was the first ever allowed by Kershaw, who has made 302 career starts including the postseason. The Phillies are now the only team against which Kershaw is two games under .500 in his career.

• Altherr this season has eight home runs in 109 plate appearances against lefties. From 2014-16, he had just one homer against lefties in 106 plate appearances.

• Altherr has also homered 12 times in 48 games at Citizens Bank Park this year. One outta four ain't bad.

• Interesting that the Phillies shifted J.P. Crawford to third base last night and brought Cesar Hernandez in to play second once they had the lead. It kind of shows that this coaching staff views Crawford as a better defender than Maikel Franco, which is meaningful moving forward. Crawford made a fantastic running barehand pickup last night to get the Phils a tough out.

• One of the things that makes Darvish so good is that his velocity ranges from about 68 mph with his slow curve to 96 mph with his fastball. He has 9.96 strikeouts per nine innings this season, 11th-most in baseball.

• Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60) starts tonight for the Phillies, coming off a career-high 11 strikeouts vs. the Marlins. The Dodgers are a very good offensive team but this is still a decent matchup for Nola because of the swing-and-miss in the games of Cody Bellinger, Curtis Gradnerson, Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig. Look for Nola to attack Bellinger with two-seam fastballs that start inside and come back over the inside corner after Pivetta had success doing so last night.

• Since Aug. 27, the only team in the majors with a lower bullpen ERA than the Phillies is the Cleveland Indians. Luis Garcia fired another scoreless inning last night. He's allowed one run in his last 17 appearances.