Instant Replay: Rockies 5, Phillies 2

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Instant Replay: Rockies 5, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

Aaron Harang turned in another solid start against the Colorado Rockies Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, but it wasn’t enough to halt the Phillies’ losing streak in the 5-2 defeat.

The Phils’ pitcher gave up a pair of solo homers in the second inning and the offense sputtered against right-hander Eddie Butler as they dropped their sixth game in a row. 

The loss dropped Harang to 4-5 and the Phillies to 19-32.

Starting pitching report
Harang turned in his league-leading 10th quality start of the season, holding the Rockies to two runs — both solo homers — on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in six innings. Still, two runs were enough to raise his ERA to 2.02.

Harang threw 15 first-pitch strikes to 23 hitters and had three 1-2-3 innings. However, the two solo shots equaled the total number of homers Harang has allowed this season. 

The Rockies’ Butler allowed a run in the first, but allowed just three base runners — two singles and a walk — through his final five innings.   

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus each recorded an out in the seventh inning. Garcia, however, was charged with a pair of runs, one of which came on Ben Paulsen’s second homer against the pitcher in as many days. 

Ken Giles allowed a run on two hits in the eighth. Jeanmar Gomez faced four batters in a scoreless ninth.

At the plate
The Phillies rallied in the ninth by bringing up the tying run with no outs after back-to-back singles from Cody Asche and Jeff Francoeur. But Rockies’ closer John Axford retired the final three hitters as the Phillies went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position over the final two innings.

The Phillies’ lone run came in the first inning when Chase Utley beat out an infield single before Ryan Howard lined a two-out double to the corner in right.

Utley also drew a walk in the third inning for the team’s first since Tuesday.

Cesar Hernandez belted a pinch homer to lead off the eighth for the Phils’ second run. Not only was it Hernandez’s first pinch-hit homer of his career, but also his first of the season. 

Hernandez’s homer also ended the Phillies’ weeklong, 57-inning homerless skid. The last homer came Saturday in Washington when Howard hit one in the fifth inning. 

Later in the eighth, the Phillies brought the tying run to the plate twice, but could get no closer. 

The Rockies got solo homers from Paulsen in the seventh and a pair in the second from Nolan Arenado and Michael McKenry. In the eighth inning Arenado picked up another RBI when he drove in Troy Tulowitzki, who led off the inning with a long double.

In the field
Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis continue to impress on the left side of the infield with soft hands and great instincts. Franco made a long run in foul territory to make a slick, over-the-shoulder grab in the second inning. 

In the seventh, Galvis nearly turned an improbable inning-ending double play when he dived to snag a hot shot from Charlie Blackmon and flipped the ball to second baseman Chase Utley while rolling onto his back.

Up next
The series concludes Sunday afternoon when Jerome Williams (3-4, 5.33) takes on right-hander Jordan Lyles (2-5, 5.10). Williams faced the Rockies on May 21 where he gave up five runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings in a 7-3 loss.

Williams has been charged with at least three runs in nine of his last 10 starts and tossed more than six innings just once during that span.

Lyles took the loss against the Phillies on May 18 when he allowed four runs on seven hits and a pair of walks in six innings.

Following Sunday’s game and a day off on Monday, the Phillies open a three-game series against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park.

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."