It's July and Phillies will listen to anything

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It's July and Phillies will listen to anything

Hello, July.

Hello, trading season.

The Phillies spent the last day of June recovering from an embarrassing 2-6 homestand that knocked them out of the NL East race for good. There was a smidgeon of hope for this team after it put together a 5-2 road trip earlier last month, but splitting a four-game series with the Marlins and being swept by the Braves at home has put an end to all the little far-fetched fantasies surrounding this losing team.

The Phils needed a good homestand to keep their hopes alive. They came up small. Time to move on.

The Phillies are back on the road Tuesday night to begin a 10-game trip that will take them to Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee before coming home for three games before the All-Star break against Washington.

The sweep at the hands of Atlanta left the Phillies eight games back in the NL East and on pace for 91 losses. Even a good road trip won’t turn this thing around. We won’t be fooled again. This team is just not good enough.

So what’s left for this club?

The coming months will be spent evaluating and giving experience to youngsters such as third baseman Cody Asche and relievers Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands, Ken Giles and Justin De Fratus.

As for the rest of the crew. Well, make an offer. Just about anyone can be had in a trade -- for the right price -- as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches and a much-needed franchise re-tooling comes to the fore. The Phillies need this and they are headed in that direction. No, it won’t be a Sixers-like strip-down -- Phillies management is loath to use the word “rebuilding” -- but changes are coming.

Cole Hamels is the closest thing the Phillies have to an untouchable. They would prefer to build around the 30-year-old lefty. But blow them away, and yes, they will consider it.

You can believe all the word salad coming from Phillies management about not wanting to deal the club icons that helped them win the 2008 World Series, but why would anyone admit that changes are coming a month before the deadline? What good would it do to publicly shudder the season a month before you have to? It would hurt ticket sales. Better to focus on winning as many games as possible now and make moves right before the deadline.

If Chase Utley comes to management and says he’d like to move on, maybe be a San Francisco Giant, Phillies elders will try to make to it happen (for the right return). If Utley remains hush, he will stay with the Phillies. He drove the bus last summer when he told club officials not to entertain trade requests and focus on a contract extension. He still drives it.

If the Phillies get an offer they like on Jimmy Rollins, they will go to him and ask what he wants to do. Stay or go? Ultimately it will be Rollins’ call.

Both Rollins and Utley have full veto power over trades.

Ryan Howard? Untradeable because of his contract.

Cliff Lee? If he proves healthy in the three starts he’s expected to make before July 31, the Phils would move him for the right return. Otherwise, they will hang on to him and make him available in the offseason.

Mike Adams? There would have been interest had he not come down with a sore shoulder. It’s tough to see him getting moved before the deadline, but he could be an August waiver deal.

A.J. Burnett pitches Tuesday night in Miami. He has put together four good ones in a row. He is a candidate to move before the deadline.

So is Kyle Kendrick. Yeah, he’s just a No. 5 starter, but sometimes a marginal pickup can make a difference on a contending team. Kendrick could be appealing to a contender.

Jonathan Papelbon could be a fit in a number of towns, especially if the Phillies would pick up part of his $13 million salary for next season. The Phils were willing to do that over the winter. Papelbon, however, might not be the most attractive reliever that the Phillies put on the market. Antonio Bastardo, left-handed and having a solid season, could be the first reliever to go. In fact, he might be the first Phillie to go.

Looking for an outfielder? The Phils would move four of them -- Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and John Mayberry Jr.

July is here. It’s baseball’s trading season. The Phillies might not be ready to admit it -- why wave the white flag publicly when there is a month to go before the deadline? -- but they are open for business. It won’t be easy making trades, not with the money some of these guys are owed beyond this season, but deals are coming. This season is beyond hope (and the Phillies have no one to blame but themselves for that after that awful homestand.)

It’s time to retool.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts despite awful numbers vs. Max Scherzer

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts despite awful numbers vs. Max Scherzer

Despite having awful career numbers against Max Scherzer, Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup against him Tuesday night.

Howard, 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against the Nationals' ace, bats fourth. 

Howard seems to be coming back to Earth. He hit .357 with seven home runs, four doubles and 16 RBIs in his first 20 games out of the All-Star break, but has gone 2 for 16 with two singles and eight strikeouts since.

Jimmy Paredes gets another start in left field. Peter Bourjos is out of the lineup for a fourth straight game.

The rest of the lineup is standard. Odubel Herrera, who bats second, is 6 for 19 with five walks in his career against Scherzer (see game notes).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Aaron Altherr, RF
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Following a shutout, Phillies get to face Max Scherzer

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Following a shutout, Phillies get to face Max Scherzer

Phillies (60-71) vs. Nationals (76-55)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies couldn't hit in Monday's series opener, but they did receive the positive of Jake Thompson finally looking like he can get outs at the big-league level. Thompson allowed two runs over seven innings, but the Phils were blanked by Tanner Roark for the third time this season.

The task Tuesday night is no easier.

1. Due vs. Scherzer?
When the Phillies face Max Scherzer, you can essentially chalk it up as an automatic loss. The Phils are one of the weaker offenses, Scherzer is one of the game's best pitchers, and his track record against them is nearly flawless.

Scherzer (14-7, 2.92) has faced the Phillies eight times since 2013. He's 6-0 with 1.74 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP, with 62 strikeouts and 10 walks in 57 innings. 

Scherzer had some early missteps this season, caused mostly by home runs, but he's been incredible since the middle of May, when he tied a MLB record with 20 strikeouts in a game. Since that game, he's 11-5 with a 2.40 ERA and .172 opponents' batting average in 20 starts. He's struck out 181 and walked 29 in those 139 innings. Ridiculous. Otherworldly.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, they'll be seeing a lot of Scherzer moving forward. He's in the second of a seven-year, $210 million free-agent contract with the Nationals that, to this point, he's lived up to.

Scherzer has a blazing fastball and a disappearing breaking ball. He throws strike after strike after strike, which is ironically what gets him into trouble at times. Like Cliff Lee, Scherzer is around the plate so often that hitters tend to attack his early fastballs. The result is a lot of solo home runs. But Scherzer has even corrected that issue of late, allowing just five homers over his last 11 starts.

2. Learn from Herrera
Odubel Herrera has had by far the most success of any active Phillie vs. Scherzer. He's 6 for 19 with a double, a triple and five walks. There are only six players in baseball with at least 20 plate appearances against Scherzer and an on-base percentage higher than Herrera's .458.

Herrera had a multi-hit game Monday, his fourth in his last eight contests. He's hitting .283/.361/.413 in 540 plate appearances this season, providing pretty much the same offense he did a year ago. But still, the Phillies would like to see more consistency from Herrera over the season's final month. His OBP had declined every month this year until August.

Phils manager Pete Mackanin said on Monday that Herrera will remain in center field the rest of the season. Mackanin had indicated several weeks ago that Herrera would see some time in the corner outfield to allow the organization to get a look at Aaron Altherr and perhaps even Roman Quinn in center field in September, but that's no longer the plan. Quinn is on the concussion DL at Double A, and the Phillies don't want to move Herrera around or do anything to affect his confidence at this point.

It still seems likely that Herrera will end up at a different position in the future because the Phillies have better defensive centerfielders.

3. Their steadiest starter
Jerad Eickhoff tonight makes his 27th start of 2016 and 35th career start for the Phillies. He's 9-12 with a 3.87 ERA this season and 12-15 with a 3.57 ERA in his career.

Eickhoff is coming off yet another quality start, his 14th. He's pitched at least six innings in 17 of his 25 starts. 

Strange as it is, Eickhoff has faced the division-rival Nationals only once in his career so far. He allowed two runs to them over seven innings with 10 strikeouts in his penultimate start last season.

Eickhoff has been much better this season at home (3.27 ERA) than on the road (4.56).

4. A night for small ball
One of the Phillies' goals this season was to manufacture runs because they don't have a ton of power. That will be especially necessary tonight against Scherzer, who's shut down every Phils hitter with pop.

Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp are a combined 5 for 31 (.161) off Scherzer. Ryan Howard, who's unlikely to play, is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Herrera has gotten on base with regularity against him, and Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 18 with a double. Herrera and Hernandez will need to reach base and run tonight. Scherzer, however, does a better job than most aces of controlling the running game. He's allowed just 11 steals on 14 attempts in 60 starts with the Nationals.

5. This and that
• A loss tonight would put the Phillies 12 games under .500. Their record hasn't been that bad since June 27, which was 53 games ago.

• The Phils are 6-12 against the NL East since the All-Star break.

• It would have been difficult for Jayson Werth to play up to the seven-year, $126 million contract he got with the Nationals after 2010, but when you look back at his tenure in Washington he's had only two bad years out of six. In more than 3,000 plate appearances with the Nats, Werth has hit .269/.361/.442 for an .803 OPS that is 18 percent better than the league average over that span.

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes homered with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins in the first game of a pivotal series between National League playoff contenders Monday night.

Jose Reyes dashed home to score the tying run in the eighth on a dangerous collision at the plate, and the Mets pulled even with Miami for second place in the NL East. With its seventh victory in nine games, New York remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card.

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets, who appeared to be at a major disadvantage on the mound in the opener of a four-game set. New York was shut out for six innings by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but Mets starter Rafael Montero also put up zeros in his first major league start since April 2015 (see full recap).

Martinez's 13 K's, throwing error give Cards win
MILWAUKEE -- Stephen Piscotty scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning after Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high 13, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 on Monday night.

With two on and nobody out in the ninth, Yadier Molina dropped down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg (5-5) threw to third base for a force out, but Jonathan Villar's throw to first was wild, allowing Piscotty to score.

After Martinez held Milwaukee to one run over six innings, the Brewers scored four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. St. Louis tied it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk off Corey Knebel.

Seung Hwan Oh pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save. Miguel Socolovich (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first win.

Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong each hit solo home runs for the Cardinals (see full recap).

Royals keep rolling, take down Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dillon Gee kept the Royals' momentum going with six sharp innings, Alcides Escobar hit a three-run homer and Kansas City beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Monday night to open their three-game set.

Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals' staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Michael Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then retired 15 straight before getting into a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Escobar's homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera (see full recap).