Instant Replay: Pirates 6, Phillies 4

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Instant Replay: Pirates 6, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

For the second time in less than 24 hours, the Phillies coughed up a lead in the late innings.

This time instead of the bullpen being the lone culprit, starting pitcher Cliff Lee had a hand in matters when he couldn’t get the third out in the seventh inning in the Phils’ 6-4 loss to the Pirates on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

For the Phillies (9-14), it was their third straight loss to the Pirates and fourth loss in the last six games. It's the Phillies' first-ever series loss to the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park.

Starting pitching report
Lee needed 122 pitches to get through seven innings. Though he had seven strikeouts with just one walk, Lee ran into trouble in the seventh inning where he coughed up a two-run lead. With two outs and one on, Lee allowed three straight singles as the Pirates tied the game.

Lee allowed three runs on 10 hits. He did not have a single 1-2-3 inning.

Pirates’ starter James McDonald faced three hitters in the sixth inning, allowing two hits and a walk. Up until that point he had allowed just three hits and a run in five innings.

McDonald received a no-decision, allowing three runs on five hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out four.

Bullpen report
It didn’t go well for the Phils’ relievers. Phillippe Aumont started the eighth inning and retired just one hitter. The big right-hander allowed three runs on three hits before turning it over to veteran Chad Durbin.

Durbin got the last two outs of the inning, but not before he walked a pair and gave up a sacrifice fly.

The Pirates got a pair of relief innings from Justin Wilson and Tony Watson. The lefty Watson picked up his first career save.

At the plate
Ryan Howard had a pair of hits, including a double, and drove in two of the Phillies’ runs. Dom Brown also had a pair of doubles and RBIs.

Otherwise, the Phillies failed to cash in on plenty of chances, going 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

For the Pirates, Gaby Sanchez in the sixth hit his second homer of the series. He also singled in a pair of runs. Meanwhile, pinch-hitter Garrett Jones hit a bases-loaded double in the eighth to put the Pirates ahead for good. Pitcher James McDonald added a pair of singles.

Outta here
Manager Charlie Manuel was ejected from the game by third-base ump Dan Iassogna in the ninth inning.  It was Manuel’s first ejection of the season.

Up next
The Phillies head to New York for a three-game series against the Mets on Friday night. Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 3.28) is slated to take on righty Dillon Gee (1-3, 5.95) in the opener.

In Saturday’s matinee, Jonathan Pettibone (0-0, 3.38) will make his second big-league start against Shawn Marcum (season debut). The series concludes on Sunday afternoon when Cole Hamels (0-3, 5.40) faces lefty Jonathan Niese (2-1, 3.81).

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and 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.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.