Instant Replay: Rockies 5, Phillies 2

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Instant Replay: Rockies 5, Phillies 2

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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-Astros 5 things: Bats need to stay hot vs. Charlie Morton, MLB's best offense

Phillies-Astros 5 things: Bats need to stay hot vs. Charlie Morton, MLB's best offense

Phillies (34-63) vs. Astros (66-33)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After a 13-4 shellacking by the AL-best Astros last night, the Phillies look to rebound in Game 2 tonight.

Here are five things to watch:

1. Well that was ugly...
Monday night’s loss was ugly. Words don’t do it justice. So take a look at this tweet instead.

That local hero may need to grow a third hand for tonight’s game, because it doesn’t get any easier for the Phillies tonight. 

It’s Nick Pivetta’s turn to try and cool the Astros’ unstoppable offense. The Phillies may catch a break with All-Star outfielder George Springer — hitting .311 with 27 homers on the year — left Monday’s game in the third inning with a sore quad muscle and may sit out tonight. Superstar shortstop Carlos Correa remains on the DL. But Jose Altuve is hitting .507 — yes that’s a five — in July, so Pivetta has his work cut out for him.

Pivetta flashed his big-league potential with two dominant starts at the beginning of July, but he has come back down to earth in his last two outings, highlighted by a five-inning start in Milwaukee where he gave up nine runs. The rookie’s success came with his high number of fly ball outs. Pivetta was able to get hitters to pop up on weak fly balls and keep them off balance. In his first two July starts, Pivetta had a 25 to 8 fly ball to ground ball ratio, while giving up just four runs in that span. Over his last two starts, he has given up 12 runs while inducing just 17 fly balls and 17 groundouts. Fortunately for Pivetta, the Astros have the sixth-most fly outs in MLB this year.

2. But, there is hope 
There is hope for the Phillies, though. Before last night’s debacle, the team was on a bit of a hot streak. The Phillies are 4-2 in their last six games, while averaging 5.7 runs since the All-Star break. That’s tied for the seventh-most runs scored in all of MLB during that span. That’s quite an improvement from 29th before the All-Star break. Last night’s loss ended a seven-game streak of at least five runs scored for the Phillies. Something they haven’t done in a single season since 2005.

The Phillies will need to keep up the hot bats to keep up with the Astros tonight.

3. Morton returns
And to do that, the Phillies will have to hit against former Phillies’ great Charlie Morton. Don’t remember the salt man? That’s probably because he only pitched in four games for the Phils in 2016 before tearing his left hamstring in April and missed the remainder of the season. 

Now he’s with the Astros, and has excelled in the back end of the rotation. In 13 starts, the 33-year-old is 7-4 with a 4.18 ERA. However, he is averaging three walks allowed per start, something the Phillies’ should look to capitalize on if Morton struggled with his command early.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: 
Odubel Herrera has really turned his season around as of late. Herrera is back to his All-Star 2016 form, hitting .524 over the last week with four doubles and seven runs scored. Perhaps most noticeable is Herrera's newfound plate discipline. No longer flailing wildly at pitches in the dirt, Herrera has worked five walks in his last 21 at-bats. 

Astros: It's impossible not to mention Altuve here. His insane month of July (.507/.554/1.314) has made him the AL MVP favorite. Standing at just 5-foot-6, Altuve can do it all, including hit for power (15 home runs in 2017). 

5. This and that
• Charlie Morton's 4.18 ERA would be second-best among Phils' starters. Aaron Nola leads the rotation with a 3.38 ERA.

• Maikel Franco's recent hot streak has helped revive the Phillies' offense. Franco is hitting .300 since the All-Star break with as many walks (5) as strikeouts.

• The Astros have a 17-game cushion in the AL West. The Phillies are 25 games back of the Nationals in the NL East.

Phillies prove no match for AL-best Astros in series opener

Phillies prove no match for AL-best Astros in series opener

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A lot has changed since the Houston Astros last came to Philadelphia in 2014. Back then the Astros were a rebuilding team on their way to a 92-loss season after reaching triple-digit losses the previous three seasons.

Now, the Astros' rebuild is complete and they have the best record (66-33) in the American League and the second best in the majors after the Los Angeles Dodgers (68-31).

The Astros have a powerhouse offense that ranks first in the majors in runs (594), hits (1,105), doubles (222), homers (165), batting average (.293) and OPS (.863).

Those numbers burned the eyes of Phillies manager Pete Mackanin when he got a look at them before Monday's game.

"When I look at their stat sheet and look at all their numbers, I really don't want to look at it," he said. "But once again, good pitching will stop good hitting, so if we can get good outings from some of our pitchers, we have a chance."

The Phillies did not get a good outing from their starting pitcher, nor did they get good work from the bullpen, as they lost Monday's series opener, 13-4 (see Instant Replay).

The Astros pounded out 18 hits and eight of them were for extra bases.

And they did all that damage without star shortstop Carlos Correa (.320/20/67). He is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his thumb. Also, All-Star George Springer (.311/27/66) left the game in the third inning with a sore quad muscle.

So it could have been worse if the Astros had played with a full deck.

"We’ve been playing pretty well recently and these kinds of games happen," said Mackanin, whose club is 5-5 after the All-Star break. "Unfortunately, this was one of those games.

"Houston is as good a team as we've seen. They have nine guys with double-digit home runs. They are a real aggressive team, one of the best, if not the best, that we’ve seen. They have aggressive hitters. You can't make mistakes against them. Early in the count, they hack at those mistakes. They don’t strike out a lot.

"It was noticeable that they go up there ready to hit every pitch. They're not taking to get a look at the pitcher. If you make a mistake over the plate, they look to hurt you, to do damage."

The Phillies trailed 12-1 in the seventh inning before rookie Nick Williams tripled home three runs. Williams has three triples and 18 RBIs in 72 at-bats with the big club.

Cesar Hernandez had three hits and Odubel Herrera added a pair to raise his July batting average to .364 (24 for 66).

"Other than that, there weren't a lot of bright spots," Mackanin said.

Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, pitching against his former team, worked into the fourth inning, but had his outing cut short by a one-hour, 52-minute rain delay. Velasquez might not have pitched deep into the game even in good weather conditions. He struggled with location and did not use his secondary pitches effectively. He gave up a pair of home runs (to Brian McCann and Alex Bregman) in the second inning, both on fastballs.

Mackanin was rather blunt when asked how he thought Velasquez pitched.

"He gave up six hits, two home runs, in three innings," Mackanin said. "His velocity was OK, but if you don't locate against a team like this, you're going to get hurt."

Velasquez walked three. One of those walks turned into a run.

"They were hunting fastballs," Velasquez said. "Maybe if I utilized my secondary pitches more I would have slowed their bats down and protected my fastball better. They hammer mistakes.

"I probably could have done a better job if I executed. Correa was out of the lineup. If he was in there he probably would have done some damage, too. This team is hot. They're in first place for a reason. They're very selective. They are in the zone. They're locked in."

Ricardo Pinto picked up Velasquez when the game resumed in the top of the fourth inning. He was tagged for seven hits and six runs in 1 1/3 inning. Three of the runs were unearned.