Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Giants 3

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Instant Replay: Phillies 7, Giants 3

BOX SCORE

A return to their home ballpark was just what the Phillies needed as they mercifully ended the season-worst eight-game losing streak with a 7-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Two-run homers from Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young along with a solid pitching outing from John Lannan helped the Phillies snap the skid and win their first game since July 19.

With the victory, the Phillies improved to 50-56 and remain 11½ games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

Starting pitching report
Lannan ended on an up note after struggling in his last outing in St. Louis last week. In seven innings, the lefty allowed three runs on seven hits and a pair of walks. Lannan struck out two hitters and produced 11 ground-ball outs.

The win sets Lannan’s record at 3-4 with a 4.02 ERA.

Giants lefty Barry Zito struggled with his command throughout his 3 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits and a pair of walks. Zito also allowed a homer and hit Kevin Frandsen on an 0-2 pitch.

Zito’s ERA on the road this season is 9.97.

Bullpen report
Lefty Antonio Bastardo faced four hitters in a scoreless eighth inning before turning the game over to Justin De Fratus in the ninth.

De Fratus faced four hitters in the ninth to close it out in a non-save situation.

At the plate
Ruiz hit his first home run of the season. His last homer came on Sept. 25 of last season when he hit a three-run shot in a win over the Nationals. Michael Young belted his eighth homer of the season.

Ruiz’s homer was the first for a Phillie since July 20.

Michael Young went 2 for 3 with a walk to boost his batting average to .280. Delmon Young also had a pair of hits to go with an RBI, and John Mayberry Jr. also picked up a pair of RBIs with a single in the first inning and a double in the seventh.

The Giants scored a run in the first, added one to tie the game in the third and scored again in the seventh. First baseman Brett Pill picked up a pair of hits and Pablo Sandoval had two of the Giants’ RBIs.

Put him in the book
Prospect Cody Asche made his major-league debut with a pinch-hitting appearance with two outs in the seventh inning. Asche, who was called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday (see story), popped out to second base on a 2-0 pitch.

Stuck at home
For the first time this season, Darin Ruf failed to reach base safely. He had reached base in all 17 games he played this year and the final nine games of the 2012 season. In 30 career big-league games, Ruf has failed to reach base safely in just four games.

Up next
The Phillies and Giants return to action on Wednesday night when Kyle Kendrick (9-7, 3.96) takes on right-hander Chad Gaudin (4-2, 2.77). Kendrick is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA in six career appearances against the Giants. He last faced them on May 7 when he scattered six hits and had six strikeouts without a walk in a 6-2 victory.

Gaudin has never started a game against the Phillies, but he has nine appearances in relief in his 11 years in the big leagues. In 13 1/3 innings, Gaudin has allowed three runs and 10 hits with 11 strikeouts against the Phillies.

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.

Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens honored with Joe Bauman Award

Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens honored with Joe Bauman Award

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens stopped by the winter meetings on Monday and left with a little something extra in his wallet.

Cozens was honored with the Joe Bauman Award, given annually to minor league baseball’s home run king. The award came with an $8,000 check — $200 for each homer he hit in 2016.

“That will make shopping this holiday season a lot easier,” Cozens joked.

Cozens, a left-handed-hitting rightfielder, hit .276 with 40 home runs and 125 RBIs for the Double A Reading Fightin Phils. He was named Eastern League MVP. During his acceptance speech at Monday’s awards luncheon, Cozens thanked his Reading teammate, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, for pushing him to his power heights. Hoskins also had a huge season with the bat. He hit 38 homers and had 116 RBIs on his way to becoming the Eastern League’s Rookie of the Year. Night after night in Reading, Cozens and Hoskins staged a friendly power competition. At the end of the season, they shared the Paul Owens Award, given annually to the Phillies’ minor-league player of the year.

Cozens, 22, recently finished a 25-game hitch in the Dominican winter league. Despite hitting just .165 for the Aguilas club, he had four home runs — all against lefty pitching, which has been a nemesis.

Cozens, a 6-6, 250-pound behemoth, made some off-the-field news in the DR when he was involved in a pregame fight with teammate Boog Powell, a Seattle Mariners prospect. Cozens downplayed the incident.

“Just a little boys-being-boys type thing,” he said. “I feel like it was blown out of proportion like almost everything is these days. But, after it happened we became good friends. It was more the level of respect there and I’d say we’re still friends, so it’s good.”

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said the incident was in the past and would have no long-range ramifications for Cozens.

“There is no concern,” Klentak said. “Dylan is an intense kid and he plays the game really hard. That is a good thing. If you’ve watched that, you can see that in his at-bats and when he runs the bases and is running around in the outfield. That’s just his style of play. That aggressive nature at times can boil over. You hope that it doesn’t boil over into altercations with teammates. But we have no long-term concerns with that at all.”

Cozens was recently added to the 40-man roster and will be in big-league spring training camp. Though he projects to open the 2017 season at Triple A, he’s conceding nothing.

“I’m just going to go out there and try to get better, turn some heads and make people notice and hopefully get called up as soon as possible,” he said. 

Plate discipline and strike-zone management are the areas in which Cozens needs the most improvement. He struck out 186 times and walked 61 times in 134 games in 2016. Phillies officials would like to see the strikeouts come down.
 
“I’m learning how to take my walks more often, having better strike-zone judgment, maybe not chase after as many pitches,” Cozens said. “I want to be aggressive, but if they don’t want to pitch to me, just take a walk. I feel like I did not do a good job of that and it’s something I can improve on next year.”