Blue Jays 7, Phillies 5: Ambidextrous pitcher offers a highlight

Blue Jays 7, Phillies 5: Ambidextrous pitcher offers a highlight

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- St. Patrick's Day is always a festive affair at Camp Clearwater. The Phillies wear green jerseys and caps and fans pack the place and have a few cold ones under the hot sun.

The third-largest crowd in the 14-year history of Spectrum Field -- 11,173 -- came out for Friday's quasi-holiday matchup between the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. Phillies fans did not see a win -- the Jays prevailed, 7-5 -- but there was some entertainment.

Howie Kendrick and Aaron Altherr both went deep and Pat Venditte, the ambidextrous reliever (see story), made his Phillies debut and struck out the side in the ninth inning. He struck out two batters from the right side and one from the left.

"He's really fun to watch," manager Pete Mackanin said. "I like the way he threw. He mixed it up from both sides. I guess he's going to go in and ice both his arms now.

"If he continues to be effective, he'll be in the mix."

Venditte has pitched in the majors with Oakland, Seattle and Toronto. He was pleased with his Phillies debut.

"When you get to a new team, you definitely want to start on the right foot and fill up the strike zone," he said. "It was nice to do that."

Nola builds up
Aaron Nola continued to show good arm strength in his fourth start of the spring. He worked 4 2/3 innings and threw four-seam fastballs early, hitting 94 mph on the stadium radar gun.

Nola threw more two-seamers (sinkers) in later innings, and his changeup looked good.

"He threw a lot of good changeups," Mackanin said. "And the velocity was important to me. The command will come next. Once he gets to the point where he's commanding his pitches, he's going to be back to where he's supposed to be."

Nola struck out four, but his command was off and he allowed four walks.

"The walks hurt me, obviously," he said. "Four walks and I think they all scored. Walks are never a good thing, but other than that my body felt good.

"I feel like I'm almost where I need to be going into the season. A few more outings and I think I'll be good to go for the season."

"Keep on staying healthy, that's my main focus right now," added the right-hander, who missed the final two months of last season with an elbow injury.

Transactions
Ben Lively, an 18-game winner in the minors last season, had a rough outing. He allowed four hits, including a grand slam, and a walk over 2 1/3 innings. Lively was optioned to Triple-A after the game. The Phillies are high on him and he will be part of the Lehigh Valley rotation to open the season.

Earlier in the day, the Phils sent three top prospects, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams, to Triple-A (see story).

They left with instructions.

"I like all of them," Mackanin said. "They need to go [to minor-league camp] and get consistent at-bats and get off to a quick start.

"We told all of them, 'Make us call you up. Do well enough to force our hand.'"

Up next
The Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday afternoon. Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Phillies against Tyler Glasnow.

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

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The loudest noise made by the Phillies' offense on Monday night was the thud — clearly audible above the small crowd — that Odubel Herrera created when he smashed his batting helmet on the dirt infield after grounding out to third base to end the seventh inning.

Herrera's frustration spoke for an entire team. The Phillies were hammered, 8-1, by the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay). They were out-hit, 13-3. The loss was the Phils' 18th in the last 22 games and they have been outscored 126-89 over that span.

The loss left the Phils at 15-27 for the season, matching their worst 42-game start since 2000 when they finished 65-97 in front of tiny crowds at Veterans Stadium in Terry Francona's last season as skipper.

Over the last two games, both losses, the Phils have just six hits.

"Three hits today, three hits yesterday," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You're not going to win a lot of games getting three hits."

Aaron Altherr had two of the Phillies' hits, both doubles against Colorado rookie Jeff Hoffman, who was very impressive with seven walk-free innings and seven strikeouts.

Herrera went hitless in three at-bats and is hitting just .200 in the month of May and .232 overall — not what the front office expected when it signed him to a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason.

"It's very frustrating because I feel like I am being selective and waiting for my pitch, but when I make contact things don't happen," Herrera said. "I feel like I'm swinging the bat well, but I'm just missing."

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff gave up nine hits, seven of which were singles, and four runs over six innings. Four of the hits that Eickhoff allowed came in the third inning when the Rockies scored three times. Two of the runs scored on a flare double and the other on a groundball through a drawn-in infield.

"I executed a lot of good pitches," Eickhoff said. "I got a lot of the contact I wanted. The ball just didn't land in the gloves."

Eickhoff did not walk a batter. He struck out four.

Despite being 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA in nine starts, the right-hander believes he has made strides his last two outings. He gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings in his previous outing at Texas. Prior to that start, he worked on fixing a mechanical flaw in his delivery.

"These past two have been night-and-day different," he said. "I felt great today and in Texas and I'm going to keep that positivity going."

Finding other things to be positive about with this team is becoming difficult.

This Phillies team was not expected to contend; it is still in a rebuild. But things weren't supposed to be this bad, either.

"I'll tell you what, I'm getting frustrated, too," general manager Matt Klentak said before the game. "This team is better … there is more talent on this team than we've shown in terms of our record.

"We'll pull out of it. We will. That's what talented players will do. I'm not going to tell the fans they shouldn't be frustrated. We've gone through a tough stretch.

"But I'm not ready to call it regression. I think there's been a lack of consistency on our team in general, with some players more than others. There's been a lack of consistency, but especially for young players, two months is a relatively small sample size to categorize it as regression."

At 29-17, the Rockies have the best record in the National League. They have 16 road wins, which is one more than the Phillies have overall. The Rockies are in town for three more days. This ugly start could get even uglier.

Best of MLB: Twins pound out 21 hits, storm back to beat Orioles

Best of MLB: Twins pound out 21 hits, storm back to beat Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Max Kepler homered and drove in four runs, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco each had a career-high four hits and the Minnesota Twins roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-7 Monday night.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning and 6-2 entering the fifth before cranking up the offense against Ubaldo Jimenez and an ineffective Baltimore bullpen.

A two-run double by Kepler helped the Twins knot the score in the fifth, Minnesota sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run sixth and Sano added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Joe Mauer had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice for the Twins, who reached season highs in runs and hits (21).

Adam Jones hit a three-run drive in the second inning off Kyle Gibson (1-4) for Baltimore (see full recap).

Peacock, Astros 1-hit Tigers
HOUSTON -- Brad Peacock and three relievers combined for a one-hitter and Jose Altuve provided the offense with an RBI double to lead the Houston Astros to 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.

Peacock was solid moving out of the bullpen to make a spot start for injured ace Dallas Keuchel. In his first start since September, Peacock allowed the lone hit and struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings. He was lifted after walking Tyler Collins with one out in the fifth inning.

Chris Devenski (3-2) took over and pitched 2 2/3 innings for the win before Will Harris pitched a scoreless eighth. Ken Giles struck out two in the ninth for his 12th save to allow the Astros to bounce back after being swept by the Indians over the weekend.

Detroit's only hit was a single by Mikie Mahtook with one out in the third on a night the Tigers tied a season high by striking out 14 times. The team's only baserunner after Collins was Victor Martinez, who was plunked with one out in the seventh. But Houston still faced the minimum in that inning when J.D. Martinez grounded into a double play to end the seventh.

The Astros struck early against Michael Fulmer (5-2) when George Springer drew a leadoff walk before scoring on the double by Altuve to make it 1-0 with one out in the first (see full recap).

Homers help Yankees top Royals
NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Chris Carter homered, and the New York Yankees once again downed Jason Vargas by beating the Kansas City Royals 4-2 Monday night.

A reversed umpire's call in the seventh inning kept the Yankees ahead and enabled Michael Pineda (5-2) to top Vargas for the second time in a week. The Royals, with the worst record in the AL, have lost five of seven.

Vargas (5-3) began the day with a 2.03 ERA, tied for second-best in the majors. But the lefty fell to 0-7 lifetime against the Yankees when he was tagged by Gardner and Gregorius, the only left-handed hitters in the New York lineup (see full recap).