Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Braves 2

usa-ryan-howard-phillies-061714.jpg

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Braves 2

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- Kyle Kendrick solved his first-inning problems and Ryan Howard homered again as the Phillies made it two straight wins over the Atlanta Braves with a 5-2 victory Tuesday night at Turner Field.

The win ensured the Phillies of being no more than five games out of first place in the NL East at day’s end. They are 31-38 on the season.

Starting pitching report
Kendrick (3-6) allowed two runs over seven innings and none of them came in the first inning. He had been tagged for 13 earned runs in the first inning over his first 13 starts and opposing batters were hitting .393 in the frame.

Kendrick opened this start with two three-pitch strikeouts. He allowed a two-out double in the first but pitched out of trouble.

Kendrick struck out six and walked just one. He is 8-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 22 career games (16 starts) against Atlanta.

Ervin Santana (5-4) gave up eight hits and four runs (three earned) over six innings. Half of the hits he allowed were for extra bases.

Santana beat the Phillies in April in Philadelphia. He pitched six innings of one-run ball in that game and struck out 11.

Bullpen report
The Phillies’ bullpen continued to shine with Jake Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon combining on two scoreless innings. Papelbon picked up his 16th save one night after blowing the save in the Phillies’ 13-inning win. The bullpen allowed just one run in six innings in that game.

Papelbon needed just seven pitches for the save. He threw 28 in getting three outs the night before.

The Phils’ bullpen has a 2.53 ERA in the last 33 games. The bullpen’s ERA was 4.95 over the first 36 games of the season.

At the plate
Howard homered for the second straight night. This time, he gave the Phils a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the first inning. His 13th homer scored Jimmy Rollins, who had doubled to increase his hitting streak to 12 games.

Cesar Hernandez singled home Reid Brignac in the fourth. Brignac had two hits and he continues to give the Phillies’ offense a lift at third base.

Howard has 46 homers and 126 RBIs in 143 career games against the Braves.

Lineup notes
Chase Utley, whose batting average has dropped from .347 to .301 in a month, got a rest. He was not in the starting lineup but walked as a pinch-hitter. “It’s just a day to catch up,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “His bat looks a little sluggish.”

Hernandez started at second base and played well.

Ben Revere banged his knee on the wall making a catch Monday night. That provided Sandberg with the opportunity to use John Mayberry Jr. in center field.

Minor matters
The Phillies signed lefty Matt Imhof, their second-round pick.

First-rounder Aaron Nola threw two innings (28 pitches) and allowed a hit while striking out two in an intrasquad game at the minor-league complex in Clearwater on Tuesday. He is expected to make his pro debut in the next two to three weeks for one of the Phillies’ clubs in Florida.

Up next
The series concludes with a 12:10 p.m. start Wednesday afternoon. Roberto Hernandez (2-5, 4.26) opposes Braves right-hander Aaron Harang (5-5, 3.20).

Alec Asher's two-seamer shines in another effective outing

Alec Asher's two-seamer shines in another effective outing

NEW YORK -- Alec Asher’s two-seamer was nearly perfect against the Mets on Saturday night — even if the pitching line was attached to his name was decidedly less so.

The rookie exited after five innings with four unearned runs attached to his name — two Phillies’ throwing errors on playable ground balls will do that — but lowered his ERA to 1.66 in a 10-8 victory that was far, far closer than it needed to be.

Lost in the shuffle of the Phillies bullpen’s attempt at self-immolation was just how effective Asher’s newly-developed two-seam fastball was in the early innings against the Mets’ full lineup. The relatively slow pitch — it was sitting around 90 MPH Saturday — generated six popouts during his perfect first trip through the batting order.

“Being able to throw a pitch that’s not straight works wonders,” Asher said. “Last year, I didn’t really have success throwing the four-seam, so just adding that little bit of movement misses barrels, [generates] mishits and gave me a lot of ground balls and weak contact, which is all I can ask for.”

Opponents are batting just .182 off Asher’s two-seamer in his four starts this year, according to data from Fangraphs.com, a complete 180 from his disastrous September call-up in 2015.

In his first major league starts, Asher struggled to establish a mound presence with a four-seamer that nearly touched 95 MPH. Opponents batted .250 and got seven extra-base hits off the four seamer as Asher finished 2015 with an ugly 9.31 ERA.

The Phillies challenged Asher to generative more movement on the pitch and he returned in Spring Training with an entirely new repertoire.

So far, the effort has paid off.

“It’s outstanding. It’s been a real good pitch for him and his changeup,” manager Pete Mackanin said of Asher’s two-seamer. “He didn’t have either pitch last year, and for him to come up with it over the course of the winter and throw those pitches so effectively is huge.”

Asher relied on the changeup to escape the fifth inning — the only high-stress situation he faced all evening.

With four runs already in, a fifth runner poised on third base and a Citi Field crowd beside itself in hopes of a miracle comeback, Asher got pinch-hitter James Loney to top a low changeup out of the zone down the first base line that Tommy Joseph stopped with a dive.

“[I wanted] just to slow the game down and take it pitch by pitch,” Asher said.

Even if Saturday wound up being perhaps a bit more frantic than he would have liked to be, Asher has developed a formula for future success as he prepares for his final start of the season next Friday — also against the Mets — and 2017.

“Just establishing the fastball, commanding both sides of the plate and changing speeds,” he said.

His two-run single in the first inning on Saturday night — his first two career RBIs and, ultimately, the winning margin — was a bonus.

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule.