Instant Replay: Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX – The Phillies mustered just six hits in absorbing a 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night.

Cole Hamels took the loss to fall to 1-5.

Phillies pitching walked eight batters, one intentionally.

The Phillies are just 1-7 in Hamels’ eight starts. They are 16-20 on the season.

Starting pitching report
Command issues plagued Hamels as he walked five, one intentionally, in six innings. He also allowed six hits, including three doubles. Despite all those baserunners, Hamels held Arizona to two runs.

Hamels has walked 22 batters in 51 2/3 innings.

Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin (5-0) continued his excellent start by holding the Phils to a run in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed just four hits, walked two and struck out four. Corbin has gone at least six innings in all seven of his starts and held the opposition to two or fewer runs each time.

Bullpen report
Phillippe Aumont and Jeremy Horst combined on an adventurous seventh inning. Aumont allowed a hit and a walk and Horst allowed a four-pitch walk and would have walked in a run hadn’t Martin Prado swung at a 3-1 pitch over his head. Prado ended up popping out as the D’backs left the bases loaded in a one-run game.

Arizona right-hander David Hernandez pitched a perfect eighth with an assist from second baseman Cliff Pennington, who took away a hit from Ryan Howard while playing the shift toward the foul line in shallow right field.

Heath Bell had the save for Arizona.

At the plate
Domonic Brown doubled with one out in the top of the ninth and died on second as the Phils went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

Trailing 2-0 in the seventh, the Phillies had bases loaded and one out for pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen. He appeared to drop a soft liner into right field for an RBI single, but John Mayberry Jr., holding close to first in case the ball was caught by the second baseman, got a late jump to second and was forced out by rightfielder Gerardo Parra. One run scored on what was ruled a fielder’s choice. In the end, it was a missed chance for the Phillies who would have had the bases loaded and one out with a run in if Mayberry hadn’t been nailed at second.

Jimmy Rollins was 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position. He is 5 for 33 in those situations this season.

Ryan Howard was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against the lefty Corbin. He is 6 for 34 (.176) with 16 Ks against lefties this season.

The Diamondbacks were 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position. They scored both of their runs on groundouts, one of which was a nifty drag bunt by Gerardo Parra.

In the field
Hamels bobbled a potential double-play ball and had to settle for an out at first with two men on in the fifth. The left-hander was visibly frustrated after the play, which set up a second-and-third situation with Corbin, the opposing pitcher, up and one out. The Phillies started off the at-bat with the infield in then backed it up. It was a pivotal decision because Corbin then hit a run-scoring ground ball to Rollins. Had Rollins been up, the run would not have scored. Hamels was visibly frustrated after that play, too.

Health check
Roy Halladay will have surgery Wednesday (see story).

Milestone
The game was Charlie Manuel’s 1,332nd as Phillies skipper, moving him past Gene Mauch for the most in franchise history.

Up next
Tyler Cloyd makes his season debut against Arizona right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-3, 5.19) on Friday night.

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the 2016 season was winding down, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin surveyed his low-scoring club and made public an offseason wish list that included “two professional hitters.”

So far this winter, he’s gotten one — Howie Kendrick.

Is that going to be enough to satisfy the skipper?

“You know what, I'm happy that we acquired Kendrick because we needed a solid, professional hitter,” Mackanin said at the winter meetings Tuesday. “Howie Kendrick is one of those guys. He knows how to give you good at-bats, grind out at-bats.

“We have guys like (Maikel) Franco and Freddy (Galvis), to name a few, who really need a better plan at the plate. I think Howie is going to help them out just by watching him take at-bats and go about his business. I think that's going to help a lot of our guys improve.

“I would like to get another guy. You can always use more hitting, more pitching, better players. But I'm pretty happy with Howie.”

There’s no doubt that Mackanin would like to add another hitter to an offense that ranked last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second to last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385).

“Yeah, it would be nice,” Mackanin conceded. “We have to improve offensively.”

General manager Matt Klentak has spoken often this winter about the quandary he’s facing. He would like to add another bat in a corner outfield spot, but not necessarily at the cost of taking away an opportunity from a young player such as Roman Quinn or blocking the ultimate ascension of Dylan Cozens or Nick Williams. This is the tightrope that the GM of a rebuilding club must walk.

There are several corner outfield bats (J.D. Martinez, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier) available in potential trades and others (such as Michael Saunders) on the free-agent market.

“It’s about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time,” Klentak said.

Mackanin understands all this. But he’d still love to have another bat.

Does he think he’ll eventually get one?

“That's hard to say,” he said. “Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody. We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important, obviously, to improve our offense. … I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games. Everything is still up in the air. It's early. Deals may be made in January or in spring training when things happen. So one move might create an opening in another. If we trade a pitcher, we get a position player. A lot of things can change, so it is a little too soon to think too much about that.”

Contract talk
Mackanin is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2017. He has a club option for 2018.

Will the Phillies pick up Mackanin’s option before spring training to prevent a lame-duck situation?

Klentak was noncommittal on the subject Tuesday.

“We have time to do that,” he said. “Obviously last year we talked about his status in spring training and I’m sure the time will come when we’ll sit down and talk about it again.”

In March, the Phillies gave Mackanin a two-year contract with a club option for 2018.

“I hope they pick it up but that's not up to me,” Mackanin said. “That's up to them. I feel that when it's time for them to let me know, they let me know.

“But in the meantime, I'm not consumed by it. Hopefully it will happen, but it doesn't help me thinking about it.”

Phillies set stage for a spring-training closer competition

Phillies set stage for a spring-training closer competition

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies on Tuesday announced the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit and with that set the stage for some spring-training drama.

Who will be this team’s closer in 2017?

Benoit figures to be one of three candidates, joining Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez. Heck, you could even throw Edubray Ramos into the mix because he has the stuff to close, though his time might come further down the road when he's gained more experience.

“As we sit here today, I think we’ll probably enter spring training with a competition,” general manager Matt Klentak said of the closer role.

Phillies relievers had a 5.01 ERA last season, which ranked 28th in the majors. Klentak is trying to build a complete bullpen, not just find a closer. However, the closer role is the headline grabber in the bullpen and it’s difficult to settle upon other roles until a closer is anointed. So this will be one of the more interesting storylines in spring training.

Gomez fell into the job after others failed early last season and had a very nice five-month run. He recorded 37 saves before struggling badly down the stretch and giving way to Neris, whose fastball-splitter repertoire allowed him to strike out over 11 batters per nine innings last season. 

Neris could be the favorite coming into camp with Gomez sliding back into a seventh-inning or even multi-innings role. Ramos and lefty specialist Pat Neshek, picked up in a trade with Houston earlier this offseason, will be in the mix to pitch in the late innings and it would not be surprising to see Benoit emerge as the eighth-inning guy. Of course, this is all subject to change. There’s a lot of offseason left and it would not be a shocker to see Klentak trade one of his relievers in the right deal. But for now, Klentak believes he has an improved bullpen.

“We feel better today than we did a few days ago,” he said. “We have several players in our bullpen that can compete for the ninth-[inning job], the eighth, the seventh, the sixth. We’ve made our bullpen better.”

The Phillies are Benoit’s seventh big-league team. The 39-year-old right-hander has been one of the game’s workhorse relievers for more than a decade, recording a 3.79 ERA in 712 games in his career. He saved 25 games for Detroit in 2013 and had a 2.81 ERA in 51 games as a setup man for Seattle and Toronto last season. He struggled with the Mariners but was brilliant after a trade to Toronto in July. With the Mariners, he had a 5.18 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in 26 games. He walked 5.5 batters per nine innings and struck out 10.4 per nine. With Toronto, his control improved — he walked 3.4 per nine — and so did his ERA. He had an 0.38 ERA in 25 games with the Jays, allowing just one run in 23 2/3 innings.

“He really was two different guys,” Klentak acknowledged. “But as we drilled down into the data — strikeout rates, walk rates, batted-ball tendencies — there are some underlying things that he’s always done in his career that we think make him a pretty good candidate to have another good year. This guy has been really consistent for the better part of a decade.”

Over the last seven seasons, Benoit has posted a 0.98 WHIP. That ranks third among major-league relievers during that span behind only Kenley Jansen (0.89) and Craig Kimbrel (0.98).

Benoit will make $7.5 million in 2016. The Phillies are still a rebuilding club and they are not expected to contend in 2017. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see them turn Benoit into a prospect through a trade in July. This is contingent on Benoit pitching well, of course.