Blue Jays 6, Phillies 4: Phils warn Alec Asher against getting 'cutter-happy'

Blue Jays 6, Phillies 4: Phils warn Alec Asher against getting 'cutter-happy'

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The offense remains a work in progress, and manager Pete Mackanin believes it's time to get the regulars more work as the Phillies near the end of their second week of spring games.

"Our guys haven't gotten into the swing of it right now," Mackanin said. "They need more at-bats. I've been giving a lot of the at-bats to the younger guys to get a look at them and some of the guys trying to make the team."

One of the regulars Mackanin thinks can get his bat working quickly is Howie Kendrick, who had a bases-loaded two-run single Thursday off Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza.

"Kendrick has been hitting the ball up the middle a lot and not a lot to show for it," Mackanin said. "Today, you could see what he is capable of doing."

The Phillies didn't get a hit until Freddy Galvis' single off Joe Smith with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Logan Moore followed with a single and Smith walked Aaron Altherr and Cesar Hernandez to bring in a run.

The Phillies were able to get only five base hits in the game and Tommy Joseph hit a ninth-inning home run in the Blue Jays' 6-4 win. 

"It was good to see Joseph hit that home run," Mackanin said. "And Kendrick had the big single. Other than that we needed more hits."

Mackanin also credited Blue Jays starter Francisco Liriano, who didn't allow a hit and struck out five in three innings.

"Liriano set the tone. He was really tough," Mackanin said. "He looked like he was on his game with his changeup, tailing slider and the fastball."

Asher goes back to sinker
Alec Asher gave up back-to-back doubles to Kevin Pillar and Kendrys Morales before pitching his way out of trouble in his three-inning stint. 

Mackanin said it was a case of Asher's becoming too enamored with his cutter, and he needed an early visit from pitching coach Bob McClure.

"Asher got cutter-happy in the first inning," Mackanin said. "McClure reminded him that his sinker is his best pitch, he went to that and went unscathed the rest of the way. The first year that he pitched for us, he developed this sinker. That really made a difference for him, and when he came back last year it was obvious his sinker was a real money pitch. A lot of these guys when they learn how to throw a cutter, they get cutter-happy."

Asher gave up one run and six hits with a strikeout and a walk.

Up next
Clay Buchholz will start against Yankees righty Luis Cessa in Clearwater on Friday.

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Mariners 2

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Mariners 2

BOX SCORE

SEATTLE -- Aaron Nola pitched well and Maikel Franco came up huge with his bat and his glove in leading the Phillies to an 8-2 win over the Seattle Mariners in an interleague game on Tuesday night.

Nola won his second straight start to improve to 5-5.

Franco gave Nola a 3-2 lead with a tiebreaking, leadoff homer in the top of the seventh then preserved the lead with a sensational diving play to end the bottom of the inning.

Freddy Galvis had three singles and drove in two important runs late in the game.

The win was just the Phillies' 11th in 42 games on the road this season. They are 25-51 overall.

Starting pitching report
Nola reached a career-high of 113 pitches over seven gutsy innings. He gave up five hits and two runs and got a bunch of big outs with men on base. He walked four and struck out nine.

Nola got out of jams with two men on base three times, including in the bottom of the seventh when he preserved a one-run lead by striking out Mike Zunino and getting Jean Segura on a ground ball to third. Franco made a tremendous diving play on the ball to end the inning and prevent the tying run from scoring.

Nola has won two straight starts. He has pitched 14 1/3 innings over that span, allowed just three runs and racked up 17 strikeouts.

Lefty James Paxton did not give up a hit until the fifth inning. He allowed three runs in seven innings of work. He gave up Franco's go-ahead homer.

Bullpen report
Joaquin Benoit pitched a scoreless eighth inning to preserve a two-run lead.

The Seattle bullpen allowed five runs in two innings.

At the plate
Franco ignited a game-tying, two-run rally in the top of the fifth. He led off that inning with a double, the Phillies' first hit. Cameron Perkins followed with an infield hit and Cameron Rupp drew a walk. The Phillies then scored a pair of runs on consecutive sacrifice fly balls by Ty Kelly and Daniel Nava. Galvis followed with a single and third-base coach Juan Samuel got a little too aggressive in sending Rupp from second base. Rupp was cut down at the plate.

Franco's go-ahead homer in the seventh was his 10th of the season. Galvis pushed home an insurance run in the eighth. He followed Nava's leadoff double with an RBI single. Galvis drove home another run with a hit in the top of the ninth and Aaron Altherr put it out of reach with a two-run homer, his 13th of the season.

Segura smacked a two-run homer in the third to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

In the field
Franco made a diving stab on Segura's smash down the third-base line to end the seventh inning and keep the Phils up by a run.

A night off
Odubel Herrera, he of several recent miscues and lapses in concentration, did not start Tuesday night. Manager Pete Mackanin said it was night off, not a benching. Herrera said he has to start playing smarter baseball (see story).

Health check
Jerad Eickhoff, on the disabled list with an upper-back strain, will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. That will help determine if he's ready to return in the coming days.

Up next
The two-game series concludes on Wednesday afternoon. Rookie right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. (1-0, 3.60) pitches against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (3-2, 4.68). Leiter pitched six scoreless innings in his first big-league start Friday in Arizona.

Scott Kingery pops 2 homers in second game with Triple A Lehigh Valley

Scott Kingery pops 2 homers in second game with Triple A Lehigh Valley

Scott Kingery's power didn't take long to transition to Triple A.

In his second game since being promoted from Double A to the IronPigs, the Phillies' second base prospect belted two homers in Lehigh Valley's 14-5 loss to Pawtucket on Tuesday night.

Arguably the most exciting player on the Phillies' farm this season, Kingery caught everyone's attention by blasting 18 home runs in 69 games at Reading. That, along with a .313/.379/.608 batting line and 19 stolen bases, earned him a highly anticipated jump to Triple A and Coca-Cola Park, home of the IronPigs.

"It looks like you can get one out to left," Kingery said ahead of his Triple A debut on Monday. "But it looks real deep to center."

Kingery was right — both of his shots Tuesday went to left field. He finished 2 for 5 with three RBIs in the leadoff spot for Lehigh Valley, hitting in front of a loaded lineup of J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams and Andrew Pullin.

The IronPigs are an International League-best 49-29 and that should only improve with Kingery now in the fold.

"I know what I'm capable of and I know what I need to improve on," Kingery said Monday. "Wherever I'm at, I'm going to come out here and try to work on whatever I think I need to improve on and to give myself the best shot to get moved up."

In his debut, Kingery made a dazzling, over-the-head diving catch that was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter (see story).

On Tuesday, he was back to the long ball.