Instant Replay: Reds 7, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Reds 7, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

CINCINNATI -- One Phillies debut went pretty well Thursday afternoon.

Another did not.

Daniel Nava clubbed a pair of homers to help build an early three-run lead, but Clay Buchholz could not protect that lead and the Phillies ended up with a 7-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in the season-opening series finale Thursday afternoon.

Nava and Buchholz, former teammates with the Boston Red Sox, were both in their first game for the Phillies.

Buchholz left the game after five innings with the score tied, 4-4.

The Reds pulled away with a pair of home runs against reliever Adam Morgan.

After winning on opening day, the Phillies lost two in a row to the Reds. Jerad Eickhoff delivered a quality start in one of them but got no run support. The Phils could not hold a three-run lead in the other.

Starting pitching report
Buchholz pitched five innings and allowed nine base runners -- seven hits and two walks. He gave up four runs. Three of those runs came in the fourth inning when the Reds' first four batters reached base on three singles and a walk.

Cincinnati right-hander Rookie Davis gave up five hits, including both of Nava's homers, and four runs over three innings in his major-league debut, but his mates got him off the hook.

Bullpen report
Morgan took the loss. He gave up a tie-breaking, solo homer to Michael Lorenzen with two outs in the sixth and a two-run homer to Adam Duvall in the seventh.

Cincinnati's bullpen worked six scoreless innings.

At the plate
Nava hit the second pitch he saw in the first inning for a solo homer. He then clubbed a two-run shot in the third to put the Phillies up 3-1. They build the lead to 4-1 in that inning after Odubel Herrera doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

The Phils did not score a run after the third inning. They got the first two men on base in the fifth and sixth innings, all via walks, and did nothing with the threats. Both ultimately ended on double-play balls. One was short-circuited by a base-running mistake by Andrew Knapp, who made his first big-league start.

Phillies hitters struck out 12 times. They struck out 13 times on Wednesday.

Lorenzen had a huge hand in the Reds' two wins in the series. The relief pitcher got three big outs with men on base in the eighth inning of the Reds' 2-0 win on Wednesday night. In this game, he was used as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. He smoked a 3-1 pitch over the center-field wall against Morgan to give the Reds the lead. Lorenzen has a history as a hitter. He was an outfielder/pitcher at Cal State Fullerton.

Zack Cozart drove in the Reds' first two runs.

Lineup stuff
Knapp (catcher) and Brock Stassi (first base) made their first big-league starts.

Up next
The Phillies play their home opener Friday afternoon against the Washington Nationals. Vince Velasquez will oppose Max Scherzer in a battle of hard-throwing right-handers.

Scherzer won the NL Cy Young award last season. He is 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 career starts against the Phillies and 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts at Citizens Bank Park.

Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Odubel Herrera’s return to the dugout was so slow that home plate umpire Nic Lentz had to clap to speed him along. Herrera obliged, accelerating to an effortless jog until he left Lentz’s sight. Then he went back to a hung head and a crawling pace as he reached the steps. Boos met his ears through it all. 

Herrera was picked off at third base by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for the second out of the fourth inning on Thursday. It didn’t matter much as the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), guided by Aaron Nola’s the best outing in a long time. 

However, Herrera made a base-running blunder at the same spot Wednesday night, when he blew through a Juan Samuel stop sign and was out by a mile at home plate to make the final out in the 9th inning of a tie game. And later on Thursday, while on second during a running count and Maikel Franco behind him at first, Herrera didn’t run on the pitch.

These are mistakes any big-leaguer should avoid. And when he’s the only player a team has signed to a long-term deal, which is supposed to last into a new era that involves winning games, the mistakes sting a bit more. 

“I’m not pleased about it,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. 

Had Wednesday night’s gaffe been avoided, maybe the Phillies could have gone on to win. Thursday’s was more embarrassing than damaging. While displeased, Mackanin, who said he thought about giving Herrera Thursday off, understood what happened this time around.

“He was running contact. And when you’re running contact, you’re susceptible to getting picked off by a catcher, especially with a left-handed hitter up,” Mackanin said. “You have to be aware of that. They’re taught to be aware of that. He just didn’t take that first hard step back. And that deters the catcher from throwing to third base. It happened.” 

The Phillies have been picked off eight times this season. Entering Thursday, only four teams had been picked off more. 

The Phillies own a run scoring percentage (percentage of base runners that eventually score) of 28.0, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. While much of that can be attributed to bad bats, mistakes like Herrera’s are not helping the cause. 

At 25, Herrera is still figuring this whole thing out. But he was the Phillies’ only All-Star last year and is supposed to be a consistent presence in the lineup. 

Andres Blanco, on the opposite end of the spectrum, first saw major-league action in 2004, and should be providing a consistent presence in the Phillies’ clubhouse. Yet on Thursday, starting at second base instead of Howie Kendrick, Blanco’s contribution on the base paths felt like the remedy to Herrera’s mental lapses.

In the bottom of the fifth, with two outs and Blanco on second base, Freddy Galvis grounded a ball up the middle. Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz sent and errant flip to second to get the final out, and Blanco was smart enough to round third after the ball got loose in the infield.Mackanin called it a heads-up play. 

“That’s the kind of players you’re looking for, the guys that are going to look for those kinds of things to happen,” Mackanin said, “and they don't assume a play is going to be made and assume they might be able to take an extra base.

“He’s a veteran. I’m glad he paid attention.”

Aaron Nola's best start of the season has Phillies confident he's locking in

Aaron Nola's best start of the season has Phillies confident he's locking in

BOX SCORE

When Aaron Nola pitches like he did Thursday, there aren't too many teams capable of beating him.

Nola was locked in against the Cardinals in the Phillies' 5-1 win, allowing just one run on four hits over 7 1/3 innings with a season-high eight strikeouts (see Instant Replay). His first seven innings were scoreless and his pitch count was at just 89, so he had the chance for his first-ever complete game and the Phillies' first of the season.

But Paul DeJong greeted Nola in the eighth with a solo homer, and after a one-out walk to Matt Carpenter, Nola's day was done. He left to a loud ovation from Phillies fans who have been waiting a long time to see this guy again.

"Well that's the Nola we all have come to know and love," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was outstanding today. ... He was painting on both sides of the plate. Real good curveball. Threw a lot of good changeups. I think he got tired in that eighth inning, but it was great to see him rebound from the struggles he's been going through."

Nola had elite command of his two-seam fastball and curveball on this day. Five of his eight strikeouts were looking as he continuously froze Cardinals hitters with two-seamers that started outside and darted back over the outside corner. Everything was low in the zone. The curveball was sharp and biting with late life, and St. Louis' hitters kept swinging over top of it.

This was the Nola worth drafting in the first round. This was the Nola who can legitimately be a top-of-the-rotation arm.

"I know what I'm capable of and I know what I can do and today was me," Nola said. "I felt confident in all my pitches today and commanding all my pitches when I wanted to. It was all good in those areas.

"I always try to visualize [success]. I know what I'm capable of doing and what pitches I can command. It's just those days where you feel really good about it and you're really confident about executing to both sides of the plate."

Last year during spring training, Mackanin compared Nola's skill set to that of a pitcher he managed in 1985 in the Class A Midwest League. That pitcher was Greg Maddux. 

"I'll just say this and I probably shouldn't, but I'm just gonna say it: Aaron Nola reminds me a bit of [Maddux]," Mackanin said last February.

"He shows no fear, he's very confident in his abilities and he has the uncanny ability to locate his fastball down in the zone on both sides of the plate. And he really believes in himself."

On Thursday, Nola fit every piece of that description. And just like Nick Pivetta built confidence with his nine-strikeout performance last week against the Red Sox that carried over into a 10-K night against the Cardinals (see story), this has a chance to be a real building block for Nola.

Throwing first-pitch strikes to 18 of 24 hitters will get you a long way.

"He got ahead of almost every hitter I guarantee you, he was strike one," catcher Cameron Rupp said.  

"And when you do that, that opens up so many doors with your pitch sequence, being able to pitch and get in on guys, maybe throw a purpose pitch for a ball, maybe they swing and you're 0-2 and that opens up the outer half even bigger. He threw strikes, he pounded the zone, and when you do that, you're going to have so much success. 

"That's what he did his first year-and-a-half up here. He got away from locating his pitches and the injuries, I'm sure, didn't help, but he attacked the zone and did a great job for us. ... When you do that, the sky is the limit, and he showed that today."