Howard takes 'full responsiblity' for Phils' loss

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Howard takes 'full responsiblity' for Phils' loss

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES – Ryan Howard lingered in the clubhouse after most of his teammates had already showered and headed for the team bus. He wore a look of despair on his face as he sat in front of his locker and recounted his role in the Phillies’ 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night (see Instant Replay).

“I take full responsibility,” he said. “I’ve got to be better than that.”

Howard was involved in two ugly plays -- one at the plate, one in the field -- that pointed the Phillies toward the loss.

First, he killed a rally in the fifth inning when he swung at a 3-0 sinker off the plate from Zack Greinke and bounced into a 1-6-3 double play with two men on base.

Later, Howard failed to make a play on a routine bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Dodgers’ turned that miscue into the go-ahead run as they scored twice in the inning against rookie Justin De Fratus to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.

“Those are two plays, two key moments that changed the flow of the game,” Howard said. “It sucks. I’m upset I didn’t make that play. I slipped and I cost my team the game.

“And on the 3-0 pitch -- I have to make a better swing. Those are two things I had control over in the game and I didn’t get it done. (Jonathan) Pettibone threw well and Chase (Utley) swung the bat well. I have to do a better job.”

The look on Howard’s face after the game showed just how much the loss hurt.

The Phillies are struggling to remain on the periphery of the race in the NL East. They battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to take the lead on a home run by Utley in the seventh. The comeback came against one of the best pitchers in the game in Greinke. This is a game the Phils have to win.

Instead, they are 38-42, 7½ games back in the NL East and 2-2 on this road trip. They have blown late leads in both losses.

Pitching 40 miles from his hometown of Yorba Linda, with several dozen family and friends in the stands, the 22-year-old Pettibone fought some nerves early. He allowed three hits and three runs in the first inning, but just one hit and no runs over the next five innings to keep his team in the game until Utley’s go-ahead homer in the seventh.

The Phils had tied the game on RBI singles by Utley and Jimmy Rollins in the fifth and had a chance to do more damage when Howard showed zero plate discipline in swinging at a 3-0 sinker off the plate and bouncing into a rally-killing double play.

Howard is in an 0-for-16 skid. He was 0 for 14 when he came to the plate with runners on first and second and one out in that inning.

Manager Charlie Manuel loves to give his hitters the green light on 3-0.

“He’s kind of automatic,” Manuel said of Howard. “He’s been hitting 3-0 since he was in Double A. At the same time, he knows we want him to get a good ball to hit.

“He’s earned the right over the years to hit 3-0. He’s got to do a better job at it, though.”

Utley’s homer in the seventh put Pettibone in line for a win. Manuel went to Justin De Fratus to protect the lead in the bottom of the inning. He allowed a killer leadoff walk to A.J. Ellis. The Dodgers then put a second man on base when Howard muffed Uribe’s bunt. The runners moved up on a bunt and De Fratus walked Hanley Ramirez intentionally. De Fratus then struck out Skip Schumaker for the second out.

That brought up the most dangerous hitter on the planet -- Dodgers’ rookie masher Yasiel Puig.

De Fratus got ahead of Puig with two sliders, then went back to the pitch at 0-2. The pitch was off the plate, but not far enough. Puig hooked it to left for a two-run single. On 0-2, De Fratus can’t give Puig a pitch to hit. He did and it cost the Phillies.

“I didn’t think it was a bad pitch,” De Fratus said. “But I wanted to bounce it and get it in the dirt and I didn’t.”

Manuel thought the pitch was too good.

“I thought he could have expanded the zone even more,” he said.

These are the growing pains that a young bullpen must endure. They are the growing pains that may ultimately derail the Phils’ chances of getting into contention.

A player like Howard, however, should be long past growing pains. He said this was his loss and there was no arguing that.

Phillies want 2 bats for Velasquez, deal unlikely at this point; Tigers check on Hellickson

Phillies want 2 bats for Velasquez, deal unlikely at this point; Tigers check on Hellickson

ATLANTA – Two days before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies have several pitchers who could be on the move.

The market for Jeremy Hellickson, Saturday night’s starter against the Braves, remains alive. The Phillies have received several offers, but nothing yet to their liking. A strong start against Atlanta on Saturday would certainly help the right-hander's value.

The Phillies had talks with Miami about Hellickson, but the Marlins filled their need for starting pitching by acquiring Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego earlier in the week.

Pittsburgh, Texas, Toronto, Baltimore, the Dodgers and others remain in the market for starting pitching. The Detroit Tigers could be a team to watch on Hellickson. They had a scout come in to watch Hellickson pitch in Atlanta on Saturday night.

The headline-grabbing name on the Phillies’ trade front remains Vince Velasquez. Major league sources continue to tell CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies have had meaningful trade discussions with the Texas Rangers involving the power-armed right-hander.

Sources say a deal is unlikely at this time because the Phillies are seeking a high price and the Rangers could use their prospect resources in their quest to add a more established pitcher like Chris Sale or Chris Archer or a catcher like Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy. But it remains noteworthy that the Phillies have made Velasquez available for the right price.

What is that price?

Sources say the Phillies would like to get two hitters from Texas’ bounty. One of those hitters must be ready to play in the majors now and the other must be close. The Rangers have a number of hitters who fit this description. Outfielder Nomar Mazara is almost certainly untouchable. (He was last year in the Cole Hamels talks). Power-hitting outfielder Joey Gallo, infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielder Lewis Brinson would probably fit the Phils’ wish list.

A source described the Phillies as being “pretty deep” in talks with Texas. The Rangers even dispatched a top scout to watch Velasquez pitch in Atlanta on Friday night. The scout was not in attendance for Saturday night’s game.

Relievers David Hernandez and Jeanmar Gomez are also in play in the last couple of days before the deadline. The Giants, who need bullpen help, have had scouts tailing the Phillies for a couple of weeks.

MLB Notes: Nationals acquire All-Star closer Mark Melancon from Pirates

MLB Notes: Nationals acquire All-Star closer Mark Melancon from Pirates

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Washington Nationals have acquired All-Star closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Washington sent reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pirates for Melancon, who supplants Jonathan Papelbon as Washington's closer.

Melancon, a 31-year-old right-hander, has 30 saves and a 1.51 ERA this season. He is making $9.65 million and is eligible for free agency after the World Series.

Papelbon is 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA and has allowed eight runs and seven hits in his past three outing. Manager Dusty Baker wouldn't say earlier Saturday whether Papelbon still was his closer. Baker pulled Papelbon from a game Thursday in the ninth inning.

Rivero, a 25-year-old lefty, is 0-3 with a 4.53 ERA this season. Hearn is a 21-year-old lefty who was the Nationals' fifth-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft (see full story).

GIANTS: Pence back after 48-game absence
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants right fielder Hunter Pence was activated Saturday and in the starting lineup against the Nationals after missing 48 games with a strained right hamstring that required surgery.

San Francisco hopes Pence will bring some much-needed life to a club that had lost 11 of 13 since the All-Star break.

Newly acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez made his first start since joining the team in a trade from Minnesota on Thursday and having his first at-bat Friday. Nunez was playing shortstop Saturday because Brandon Crawford, who lined into a bases-loaded triple play during Friday's 4-1 loss, had a sore left hand from a swing early in the game.

Center fielder Denard Span also was out of the lineup because of a tender quadriceps from a collision at home plate Friday.

The Giants designated for assignment infielder Ramiro Pena to clear roster room for Pence's return.  

MARINERS: Karns to DL, Martin recalled
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Mariners have placed right-hander Nathan Karns on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain a day after he was roughed up in a relief appearance.

Right-hander Cody Martin was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma before Saturday's game against the Cubs.

Chicago scored five runs in two innings off Karns in Friday's 12-1 romp. He gave up three hits, walked three and allowed a home run to David Ross.

Karns began the season as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen in June. He has a 5.15 ERA.

Martin has appeared in two games and thrown four innings for Seattle this season, allowing one run and five hits.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard back in the lineup, batting cleanup

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard back in the lineup, batting cleanup

After scoring just once on Friday night, the Phillies are sticking with nearly the same lineup on Saturday (7:10/NBC10).

Ryan Howard moves into the cleanup spot, replacing Tommy Joseph at first base. Other than Howard, the lineup stays the same with Cesar Hernandez leading off.

Howard pinch hit in the ninth inning on Friday and hit a double, giving him a little momentum into Saturday. He last started on Tuesday vs. the Marlins. He's looked more like his normal self in July, batting .257 with a .543 slugging percentage in 35 at-bats for the month. The veteran has raised his average from a paltry .151 to start the month to a slightly less worse .167. 

He has three home runs in July and two career home runs off Julio Teheran, the Braves' starter steeped in trade rumors (see Game Notes)

Aaron Altherr makes his third start in as many days since coming off the disabled list. He went 0 for 4 on Friday after a three-hit season debut on Thursday. Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco take their same spots in the lineup, batting second and third, respectively. 

Here is tonight's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P