Braves blank Phils; Lee's complete game wasted

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Braves blank Phils; Lee's complete game wasted

BOX SCORE

Cliff Lee was brilliant. Julio Teheran was one pitch better.
 
Lee threw a career-high 128 pitches, struck out 13 and allowed one run in nine gutsy innings, but he was out-dueled Wednesday night by the 23-year-old righty, who scattered three hits in shutting out the Phillies 1-0 at chilly Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
The only run of the game came in the top of the fourth, when Braves catcher Evan Gattis smacked an 0-2 fastball just over the left-field wall. It was the second of Gattis’ four hits.
 
“I had to battle,” Lee said. “I had to work a lot with guys on base. I had a good changeup going today that I threw a lot and got a lot of good results out of it. But the pitch to Gattis, I made a mistake.
 
“It was 0-2, he had just fouled off the previous fastball that was in the same spot. He fouled it straight back, he was right on it and I tried to elevate a fastball. It wasn't a bad spot, but it wasn't the spot I was trying to go to -- down and in.

“He's a big strong guy, and he's not swinging easy and when he connects it's usually hit pretty hard. I think a lot of guys hit that same ball with the same trajectory, and it's not going to be a homer. But he's strong enough to get enough behind it to get it out of here. I've just got to make a better pitch. That's the only thing I can do about it."
 
Teheran retired 23 of the first 24 batters he faced, allowing only a fifth-inning infield single to Ryan Howard through 7⅔ innings.
 
He needed only 79 pitches to get through seven innings, then struggled through the final two innings. Jimmy Rollins singled with two outs in the ninth and stole second, but Chase Utley’s sharp grounder to second ended it on Teheran’s 115th pitch.
 
“The cold didn’t bother me,” he said. “When it’s cold, I try to focus even more and not pay attention to the weather.”
 
Teheran is only the sixth pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout against the Phillies in the last eight years. It was his first career complete game.

Teheran (2-1, 1.93) has now allowed only six earned runs and 23 hits in 28 innings this year.

He became only the fifth pitcher to throw a shutout allowing three or fewer hits against the Phillies in the last eight years.
 
The last time the Phils were blanked on three hits or less at home was May 14, 2003, when Curt Schilling, then with the Diamondbacks, two-hit them at the Vet.

“Both pitchers were unbelievable,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Lee was excellent. The homer just got over the fence. Teheran was terrific. He was dominating. He threw a great pitch to Utley to end it.
 
“It was the kind of game you live on every pitch. He deserved to go out in the ninth. It wasn’t a tough decision.”
 
Lee came back out for the ninth despite throwing 114 pitches through eight. He gave up a couple singles, fanned Jason Heyward with one out and second and third, then got B.J. Upton to pop out on his 128th pitch.
 
That’s the most pitches by any Phillies starter since Roy Halladay threw 130 against the Padres in 2011.
 
“I felt like I did what I needed to do, you’ve got to give credit to the opposing pitcher,” Lee said. “We didn’t score, he shut us out, so he was obviously doing something right.”

Lee became the first pitcher in major-league history to lose two games in which he struck out 13 or more batters and allowed one run. Those two games are his last two starts against the Braves -- last Sept. 27 in Atlanta and Wednesday night. In those two games, Lee pitched 17 innings, struck out 26, walked one and lost both.

“All I can worry about is making pitches and throwing strikes, and I can’t worry about the guys behind me making plays,” Lee said. “I assume they’re going to, and I assume we’re going to hit and score runs. Occasionally, you run into a pitcher that’s on top of what he’s doing, like tonight, and he shut us out, and that’s part of the game.
 
“Looking back on it, I made a mistake on the one pitch that cost me a run, and that’s my fault. I’ve got to do a better job than that on an 0-2 count.
 
“I’d rather give up three or four runs and us get the win, but it didn’t happen that way.”
 
Lee has allowed only three earned runs over 22 innings in his last three starts but has only one win to show for it.
 
“He pitched one heck of a game,” Ben Revere said. “I mean, it was phenomenal. Everyone in here is frustrated, just because he pitches so well and gets the loss.
 
“But with that, we know we need to come out and pick him up the next time. It’s just frustrating.”

Lee said it was important for him to come out and pitch the ninth, even though he had already thrown 114 pitches.
 
“I felt strong on the last pitch and I felt strong on the first pitch,” he said. “That’s what you want to do, you want to be a guy that they’re going to let go back out there after you’ve thrown 100-plus pitches and pitch the ninth inning.
 
“That’s what I expect to do, and I’m glad they allow me to do that. That’s what I work in the offseason for and prepare my body to do, so it’s not anything that’s that crazy to me.”

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.