Hamels, Phillies continue spiral with 11th shutout

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Hamels, Phillies continue spiral with 11th shutout

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MIAMI – The saddest words spoken in the Phillies’ little corner of the world Wednesday night were not these:

The Phillies have lost six games in a row.

Or these:

The Phillies have lost 10 of their last 12 games.

Or these:

The Phillies are a season-worst 12 games under .500.

Or these:

The Phillies are a season-worst 10½ games off the pace in the NL East.

No. The saddest words spoken in the Phillies’ little corner of the world came in the clubhouse after this dead team lost, 5-0, to the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).

“I’ve dealt with that for a while,” said Cole Hamels, referring rather dismissively to a first inning that saw the Phillies come up empty after putting runners on second and third base with no outs.

I’ve dealt with that for a while.

In other words, Hamels was saying he had become numb to the lack of run support that has plagued him for a couple of seasons now.

Hamels’ words were a sad commentary on the state of this team’s offense.

And so is this:

The Phillies have been shut out 11 times in 84 games. Only San Diego has been shut out more.

“It’s a lot,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It’s hard to believe.”

Sandberg met for several minutes after the game with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. The manager said he would speak to his flopping team before Thursday night’s game.

What will be the message?

“I’ll come up with something,” he said.

Hamels did not pitch well. After going at least seven innings in his previous 10 starts and racking up a brilliant ERA of 1.88 in that span, the lefty struggled with his command and lasted just five innings in slipping to 2-5 on the season. He allowed five hits, walked four and hit a batter.

Hamels allowed a single and two walks in the first inning. He ended up pitching out of the bases-loaded jam, but the 34-pitch inning took a toll on him. Control issues hurt him in the fourth and fifth innings as the Marlins scored three times.

Sandberg believed that the first inning had an effect on Hamels -- the top of the first.

“He was missing off the plate and threw a lot of pitches,” Sandberg said. “He wasn't the sharpest he's been.

“Man, going all the way back to the first inning as far as setting the tone on the offensive side of things, second and third with no outs. I mean, who knows? Maybe there is an effect there on Cole's first inning. You never know. Make two outs and get two runs. Maybe it's a different tone.

“I think he'd like a couple of runs there. And we would as a team, too. With Cole taking the mound, that works hand in hand. ‘Cole's pitching, let's get some runs early and let him pitch.’ A pretty good combination, runs and him on the mound. But we didn't have the runs.

“I can see how it could affect him. Just having to be perfect and not having the runs to work with.”

Ah, but Hamels said it didn’t affect him.

I’ve dealt with that for a while.

Again. Sad.

Hamels blamed only himself for his poor outing.

“Any time you have a 30-pitch inning, especially to start off the game, it’s putting you in a real big bind,” he said. “I wasn’t locating. I was getting behind. I wasn’t executing in the right way. That’s the struggle I put myself in with not even being able to compete and go deep in the ballgame.”

The first inning wasn’t the only one in which the Phillies’ bats came up small. They had the first two runners on base in the sixth and got nothing.

For the game, the Phils had just five hits, all singles, and were hitless in six at-bats with a runner in scoring position.

“That's the frustrating part of it,” Sandberg said. “Having the right guys up at the right time. Once again, (Ben) Revere and (Jimmy) Rollins with two hits apiece. Neither of them score.”

Hamels recently admitted to being frustrated by all the recent losing, but he said Wednesday night that he was happy to be a Phillie. He was composed as he spoke with reporters after this game, but the former World Series MVP made it clear that he expected more when he decided to stay with the Phillies and sign a contract extension two years ago.

“Losing isn't fun,” he said. “We're all accustomed to winning, so when you're not doing so you want it and press instead of just going back to basics and playing simplified baseball. I'm probably a big culprit of it, trying to be too fine and not calm down. It puts you in a stressful situation and that isn't a good situation for your teammates or for you and your body.

“It definitely wears on you. I think a lot of us, it definitely wears on. You just have to try to battle through. It just hasn’t shown in the last year and a half. And you don’t know when it will show. Everyone just has to take care of business the best they know how and try to be accountable.”

J.P. Crawford knocking on MLB's door after overcoming slow Triple A start

J.P. Crawford knocking on MLB's door after overcoming slow Triple A start

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — After a slow start at Triple A, J.P. Crawford is once again showing everybody why he's not only the top prospect in the Phillies organization, but one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Crawford's average was still hovering around or below .200 one full month into his promotion, and that was considered a sign of improvement. Then the 21-year-old shortstop got hot for real, batting .333 with seven multi-hit games during the month of July. His power has been coming around too, socking all three of his home runs for Lehigh Valley over that span.

It probably was only a matter of time until Crawford's bat came alive. In fact, never before had he experienced such a deep, prolonged slump.

"It was tough," Crawford admits. "It was the first time I ever went through something like that, but thankfully I have good teammates to pick me up and keep me thinking positive. I just tried to stay within myself and I got out of it."

Ironpigs manager Dave Brundage was one of the first to point out Crawford had never struggled to quite that extent, observing that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing that it happened either. Crawford agreed, adding that it's better to get the unpleasant yet inevitable experience out of the way now, before his highly anticipated arrival in the major leagues.

"I definitely would rather have it here than if I make it up there," said Crawford, notably not taking his eventual promotion to the Phillies for granted. "I'd rather learn from it now than suffer from it later."

Crawford entered Tuesday's Ironpigs doubleheader batting .267 with a .341 on-base percentage and .356 slugging since his May 20 call-up. That's beginning to approach the numbers from his stint at Double A Reading, where he hit .265 with a .367 OBP and .416 slugging across parts of 2015-16.

As for what's changed, Crawford made some tweaks to his approach that helped him break out. Most of all, he's simply getting back to what made him successful in the first place.

"Just trying to stay within myself, as far as not trying to get three hits in one at bat," Crawford said. "Recently been trying to put the ball hard back up the middle and it's been working.

"I'm just using less of my body and focused on using my hands more, like I'm used to, not thinking too much at the plate, staying confident in myself and just doing me."

Brundage suggests the reasons behind Crawford's initial struggles, aside from the challenge in making the jump to the next level, may have been a matter of circumstance for the left-handed batter.

"He had a little tough luck early on and was kind of getting his feet wet, just a lack of experience at this level," Brundage said. "I think he's getting himself more comfortable, he's feeling more comfortable with the bat, just trying to make some adjustments along the way and they seem to be working.

"He's had much better at bats. That, and we haven't faced — not that he can't hit lefthanders, because he's done a better job against lefties — but there for a run I think we faced nine out of 11 starters were lefthanded against us, so that makes it a little bit tougher when you're trying to gain some experience, when you're trying to make it here at Triple A."

There's little doubt Crawford will get his first taste of the majors with the Phillies come September when the roster expands, if not sooner. He's now demonstrated he can hit at every level of the minors. There's only one step left to take, and that's up to the big leagues.

But Crawford isn't getting ahead of himself. He knows he's knocking on the door. He also understands what the expectations are once he gets there, and that there's a lot more hard work ahead.

"I mean, it's cool, but I'm trying not to think about it," Crawford said of an impending promotion. "I try to just go about my business, day by day, try to find a way to get better before the game and try to win the game that night."

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup Tuesday night, batting fourth against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. 

It's the second start in three games for Howard, who has actually been productive lately when he's gotten a chance to start. He went 2 for 3 on Saturday and had a homer in three of his previous five starts. Over that span he's gone 6 for 21 with three home runs and five RBIs as the Phillies' starting first baseman.

One of those homers was against Koehler last week at Citizens Bank Park, a two-run shot.

Howard's struggles this season have been well-documented and he's still hitting just .165, but he and Tommy Joseph have produced from a power standpoint. The only team in the majors that has more home runs from its first basemen than the Phillies (24) is the Cubs (26).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

And for the Marlins:

1. Ichiro, CF (four hits away from 3,000)
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Chris Johnson, 1B
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Jeff Mathis, C
8. Miguel Rojas, 2B
9. Tom Koehler, P

Blanco's injury led to promotions for Phillies prospects Jesmuel Valentin, Scott Kingery

Blanco's injury led to promotions for Phillies prospects Jesmuel Valentin, Scott Kingery

The Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, was not considered for a promotion to the majors this week when Andres Blanco was placed on the 15-day DL with a fractured finger, but Blanco's injury did create a cascade effect that resulted in two of the organization's other middle infield prospects earning call-ups.

Second baseman Jesmuel Valentin was promoted this week from from Double A Reading to Triple A Lehigh Valley to replace Taylor Featherston, who the Phillies added in Blanco's spot. And 2B Scott Kingery was promoted from High A Clearwater to Reading to take Valentin's place.

It's a positive development for the Phillies, who have stockpiled so many intriguing prospects that singles hitters like Valentin and Kingery were mostly afterthoughts much of the season. 

Valentin, the son of former big-league shortstop Jose Valentin and the 51st overall draft pick in 2012, was acquired by the Phillies in August 2014 from the Dodgers in exchange for Roberto Hernandez. 

Valentin, 22, made the Double A All-Star Game this season and hit .276/.346/.399 in 388 plate appearances with Reading before the promotion. He looks like a future utility infielder who could maybe turn into something more.

The Phillies also received 21-year-old reliever Victor Arano in that Hernandez trade. Arano has been excellent this season at Clearwater, posting a 2.29 ERA in 32 appearances with 68 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 59 innings. 

The Phillies got two legit pieces for Hernandez, a journeyman fifth starter who is now out of baseball. It's crazy to think they received a better return for Hernandez than for Chase Utley. 

As for the right-handed hitting Kingery, he made his Double A debut on Monday, going 0 for 3 for Reading. He had a good run at Clearwater, hitting .293/.360/.411 in 420 plate appearances with 29 doubles and 26 steals. He was the Phils' second-round pick last year out of the University of Arizona. Kingery is a 5-foot-10, speedy second baseman who has a solid approach at the plate. He probably won't hit for power, but Kingery looks like the type who could eventually hit for average and take walks, perhaps one day turning into a more polished, instinctive and consistent version of Cesar Hernandez.

Quinn finally back
Roman Quinn, out since June 4 with an oblique injury, began a rehab assignment Monday in the Gulf Coast League. In two games, the speedy, 23-year-old, switch-hitting centerfielder has gone 2 for 6 with a walk, a steal and two runs scored. 

He'll spend a few days in the GCL, where Mickey Moniak and Jhailyn Ortiz are currently playing, before advancing back up the chain. Moniak, by the way, had another multi-hit game Tuesday and is batting .321 through 90 plate appearances.