Instant Replay: Cardinals 4, Phillies 3

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Instant Replay: Cardinals 4, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

Carlos Beltran’s eighth-inning home run off Mike Adams gave the Cards a 4-3 win over the Phillies Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park, extending the Phillies’ losing streak to four.
 
The Phillies have now scored three or fewer runs in seven straight games, only the fifth time that’s happened since 1976.

The Phillies had runners on first and third with no outs in the bottom of the ninth, but reliever Edward Mujica got out of it. Kevin Frandsen grounded out to short, Jimmy Rollins struck out and Freddy Galvis bounced out to second to end it.
 
The Cards took a 2-0 lead on a disputed double down along the right-field line in the fourth by Yadier Molina. Phils manager Charlie Manuel came out to argue that the ball was foul, and replays appeared to show the ball landing just foul.
 
The Phillies tied the game in the sixth on doubles by Rollins, back in the leadoff spot, and Galvis and an RBI single by Chase Utley.
 
The Cards took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh on a double by David Freese and Pete Kozma’s sac fly before the Phils tied it in the bottom of the seventh on an infield hit by John Mayberry, Ben Revere’s sac bunt and a base hit to left by Erik Kratz that knocked Cards starter Adam Wainwright out of the game.

The Phils got the tying run to second in the bottom of the eighth on base hits by Ryan Howard and Michael Young before reliever Mujica struck out pinch-hitter Laynce Nix on three pitches.
 
The Phils fell to 6-10 and dropped 7½ games behind the Braves. It’s their worst record after 16 games since they were 5-11 in 2007.
 
Walk much?
The Phillies extended their streak of games without a walk to four and consecutive batters without drawing a walk to 135.
 
This is the first time since 1920 the Phillies have gone four straight games without drawing a walk. The Phils went seven games over 1919 (last two) and 1920 (first five) without drawing a walk, the only longer streak in baseball history than the Phils’ current four-game streak.
 
The last Phillie to draw a walk is Domonic Brown, when he was walked intentionally in the eighth inning of the final game of the Miami series on Sunday.
 
Starting pitching report
Cole Hamels went seven innings, allowing five hits and three earned runs. He walked two and struck out eight in picking up the no-decision.
 
Bullpen update
Adams allowed the Beltran homer in the eighth before getting out of a first-and-second jam. With the Phils down 4-3, Jonathan Papelbon worked a 1-2-3 ninth.
 
In the field
With nobody out in the top of the fourth and Matt Holliday on first, Allen Craig hit a routine drive to right-center that Mayberry appeared to be closing in on before he fell down. The ball dropped, giving the Cards second and third with no outs. Molina then hit a two-run double down the right-field line that first-base umpire Alan Porter ruled was fair.

Not just a glove
Galvis, starting in left in place of the banged-up Brown -- his first career start in the outfield -- went 2 for 4 with an RBI double in the sixth. He’s got a five-game hitting streak and has his average up to .368.

Howard hot
He’s still got only one home run, but Howard had three hits to raise his average from .241 to .274. He’s 13 for 35 in his last eight games, a .371 clip.
 
Stat-o-holic
Since Hamels entered the league in 2006, only four pitchers have had more starts of seven or more innings allowing three or fewer earned runs. The leaders since 2006: CC Sabathia (136), Roy Halladay (132), Felix Hernandez (121), Justin Verlander (110), Hamels (106).
 
Slow starts
For the seventh straight game, the Phillies didn’t score a run in the first five innings. They haven’t scored a run in innings 1 through 5 since April 10 against the Mets, the last game of their last homestand.
 
What’s next?
The Phillies have three more games with the Cards, at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8:05 p.m. on ESPN on Sunday. Halladay faces Jaime Garcia Friday, it’ll be Cliff Lee vs. Lance Lynn Saturday, and Kyle Kendrick pitches the national TV game Sunday night vs. Jake Westbrook.

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."