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.”

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."