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

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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.”

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

They have a .613 OPS over that span, second-worst in the majors to only the Mariners. Their .268 on-base percentage is worst in the league.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A. Over his last 15 games, he's hit .333 with a .424 on-base percentage. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up right now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for about a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.