Joaquin Benoit dissatisfied with 'the people that run' Phillies' bullpen

Joaquin Benoit dissatisfied with 'the people that run' Phillies' bullpen

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Pete Mackanin again expressed confidence in the Phillies' beleaguered bullpen after it allowed eight more runs in three innings Wednesday.

However, the losing pitcher, Joaquin Benoit is unhappy with how the Phils have handled their relievers.

Benoit, who allowed five runs and six baserunners while recording just one out Wednesday, said after the game that the lack of defined roles in the Phillies' bullpen is partially to blame for the unit's struggles.

"I think it's not just about us. I believe that if we have a set role, everybody will fall in place. Right now I think everybody is a different piece," Benoit said after the Phillies lost for the 10th time in 12 games, 11-6 (see Instant Replay).

"Right now I believe that it would be better if everybody knows what the role is and when you're going to contribute.

"One day I'm in the seventh, then I was the sixth, then the ninth, then the eighth. Right now I'm all over the place. It's a little bit consistency. Not just the pitching staff but the people that run it, too."

Benoit entered in the seventh inning Wednesday with the middle of the Mariners' order due up. The Phillies were without left-hander Joely Rodriguez, who was unavailable after throwing 39 pitches in 1 2/3 innings Tuesday night.

The Phillies have used the veteran setup man in a variety of roles already this season. Benoit began as a setup man, then moved into the closer's role, then moved back into a setup role, pitching the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings along the way.

"The people running" the pitching staff that Benoit alluded to are Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure. Managing the bullpen has been Mackanin's biggest challenge this season and it's obviously accentuated by the bullpen's constant struggles. The Phillies' bullpen ERA soared Wednesday from 4.12 to 4.66, from 14th in the majors to 24th.

Benoit wasn't passing the buck, just noting that the lack of a comfortable routine is affecting the Phillies' relievers. This isn't some new theory — you hear it often when a bullpen struggles and uses the closer-by-committee approach.

Benoit entered this season with a 2.40 ERA the previous seven years so he's had a ton of experience and success. When Jeanmar Gomez faltered in the ninth inning in early April and Mackanin removed him from the role, the next man up was Benoit. But after just one bad outing in which Benoit allowed a walk-off home run to Bryce Harper, Mackanin yanked Benoit out of the ninth inning in favor of Hector Neris.

Then when Neris had his disastrous outing at Dodger Stadium, the Phils were set to go with Pat Neshek for a few days.

"If I'm going to be set in one place, I don't mind [which inning I pitch]," Benoit said. "If that's definitely the place I'm going to be, I don't mind doing that every day. It's consistency in one spot."

The constant struggles of the Phillies' bullpen so far this season have been a bit surprising. When you looked at this unit to start the season, there was a lot to like. Neris coming off a dominant season. An experienced arm in Benoit who had a 2.40 ERA since 2010. A funky right-hander in Neshek whose deceptiveness nullifies powerful right-handed hitters. An emerging Edubray Ramos.

But this happens sometimes with bullpens. The Tampa Bay Rays, for example, put together almost an entire new bullpen every year. Some years they're great. Some years they're not.

"I still think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said Wednesday. "The fact that I have been using relief pitchers in situations where I didn't want to and then they become unavailable because they pitched two days in a row, that all adds into the equation. If you get your [starting] pitchers throwing six and seven innings, then it becomes a lot easier. Once we get the starters in gear, it's all going to fall into place.

"Unfortunately all these things are piling up to where I can't use them the way I'd like to use them right now. They've been asked to fill in certain roles that they're not used to."

When asked if it makes it tougher on the manager and pitching coach to assign concrete roles when the bullpen isn't performing, Benoit smiled and repeated his stance.

"It works if you find a place for everybody," he said. "It works."

Anything would seem to work better than the method Mackanin and McClure have used through the season's first six weeks.

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Hoskins and Williams still impress as losses mount

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Phillies-Giants 5 things: Hoskins and Williams still impress as losses mount

Phillies (43-76) at Giants (49-74)
10:15 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

What had the makings of a successful week out west has not come to fruition for the Phillies, who were swept by lowly San Diego and dropped Game 1 of their four-game series to the San Francisco Giants last night.

Aaron Nola's run of dominance came to an end — he's human, after all — and the Phillies fell just short against Jeff Samardzija and the Giants' pen.

But still, there was a lot to like last night.

1. Hoskins getting comfortable
After homering three times in San Diego, Rhys Hoskins found other ways to produce Thursday in San Fran. 

Playing in the toughest outfield in baseball, Hoskins made an impressive running catch in front of the left-center field warning track on a ball in the gap. He looked like a natural leftfielder on that play. Later in the game, he threw out Buster Posey trying to go first to third on a single.

Hoskins also singled twice and finished the night 2 for 3 with a walk. The lone out he made shouldn't have even been an out. Hoskins opened the eighth inning with a line shot down the third-base line that appeared to bounce over the bag in fair territory but was called foul. That type of play is not reviewable, so instead of an inning-opening double, Hoskins eventually popped out to shallow center.

Hoskins looks like the real deal, not just because of the power but because of the patience he continues to show at the plate. The Phillies don't have enough players who work counts and don't let pitchers get away with mistakes.

2. Williams keeps hitting
Last night was Nick Williams' 40th game and he continues to show no signs of slowing down. He crushed a solo home run to right-center field off Samardzija last night for his sixth homer and 25th RBI.

Williams is hitting .291/.348/.507 — better numbers than he had in the minors.

The 431-foot home run really stood out because of how difficult it is to go deep at AT&T Park. Entering last night, there had been 23 fewer homers hit there than any other park in the majors and 70 fewer homers than the league average.

Williams runs well, defends all three outfield positions well, has hit for average and power and held his own against lefties. What's not to like? Williams is 10 for 33 (.303) off lefties with a triple and two homers.

There are a whole lot of question marks about the Phillies' future but their outfield appears to be set with Odubel Herrera in center and Williams and Aaron Altherr in the corners (once everyone is healthy).

3. Which Eflin will we see?
Zach Eflin makes his 11th start of the season tonight, matching his total from 2016. He's 1-4 with a 5.76 ERA this season and 4-9 with a 5.65 ERA in his career.

Eflin is coming off an uneven start against the Mets in which he mostly pitched well but was hurt by two home runs. He just didn't command the ball low in the zone, as evidenced by the career-low three groundballs he generated.

The last time Eflin pitched in spacious AT&T Park, he allowed just an unearned run over six innings. 

Current Giants have gone 7 for 21 (.333) off Eflin with two doubles (both by Nick Hundley) and a homer (Brandon Crawford).

The Phillies have some decisions to make this winter with the starting pitching staff. Nola is obviously a lock, as is Jerad Eickhoff in the back of the rotation. Nick Pivetta has enough stuff to warrant a long look again in 2018. But beyond that? The Phillies don't know if they can rely on Vince Velasquez, who has struggled with injuries and inefficiency. They don't know about Eflin's long-term outlook; some nights he's brilliant, some nights he doesn't look like a viable starting pitcher. Jake Thompson has taken steps back. Ben Lively has flashed some things but does he have a sustainable repertoire?

It would seem to behoove the Phillies to add a few veteran starting pitchers this offseason via trade or free agency. I don't mean a Clay Buchholz-type, either. We talk a lot about that flashy 2018-19 free-agent class, but the top guys aren't going to want to come here if the Phillies are still a 70-win team. Improving the starting pitching staff as these young position players continue to grow would be a way to move the needle forward.

4. Moore disappointment?
The Phillies face struggling Giants left-hander Matt Moore, who enters 3-12 with a 5.71 ERA. 

Moore was once one of the most intriguing young pitchers in baseball, but he hasn't been good since 2013. Walks are always an issue, and he's on track this season to allow more home runs than ever before. Moore has walked 50 and allowed 22 homers in 135⅔ innings this season.

The Phillies hit him around back on June 4, scoring five runs and chasing him after four innings. They also faced him last season in his very first start with the Giants. On that day, Moore walked six men in six innings but allowed just two runs.

Moore lacks an out-pitch against lefties, who have hit an insane .386/.448/.641 off of him this season. So don't expect Pete Mackanin to try to load up the lineup with righties, who have hit .259/.318/.455.

The only Phillie to ever take Moore deep is Freddy Galvis. Cesar Hernandez is 3 for 7 with two doubles, a triple and two walks. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies are 6-21 against the NL West. Again, that's the worst record for any major-league team against any division in 2017.

• The Phils are 19-45 on the road. That .297 winning percentage is their third-worst on the road since 1940.

• The Phillies are 2½ games worse than the next-worst team, the White Sox at 45-73.

• In 36 career games against the Phillies, Buster Posey has hit .394 with a .943 OPS. It's Posey's highest batting average against any team, but at least 45 of his 56 hits have been singles.

Best of MLB: Gary Sanchez's 5 RBIs help Yankees beat Mets

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Best of MLB: Gary Sanchez's 5 RBIs help Yankees beat Mets

NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez homered and matched a career high with five RBIs, Luis Severino got right back on track and the New York Yankees made it a four-game sweep in the Subway Series with a 7-5 victory Thursday night over the Mets.

Sanchez hit a three-run homer off struggling starter Steven Matz in the first inning and a two-run single in the fourth. Brett Gardner broke his 3-for-29 slump with a two-run double, and the Yankees won twice at Citi Field just as they did back home in the Bronx earlier this week.

Four games behind first-place Boston in the AL East, the Yankees begin a three-game series Friday night at Fenway Park. The Red Sox took two of three last weekend when the longtime rivals played at Yankee Stadium.

Curtis Granderson hit his seventh career grand slam off Bryan Mitchell in the ninth, pulling the Mets to 7-5. Dellin Betances was immediately summoned and got three quick outs for his eighth save (see full recap).

Zimmerman's homer lifts Nationals to win vs. Padres
SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Zimmerman homered with two outs in the eighth inning to lift the NL East-leading Washington Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night.

Zimmerman homered to right field on 1-1 pitch from Kirby Yates (2-4), who struck out the first two batters of the inning. It was Zimmerman's 29th. Yates then struck out Adam Lind to end the inning.

The homer was one of just four hits for Washington and made a winner of Edwin Jackson (4-2), who pitched for the Padres for part of last season. He allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings, struck out four and walked one. Jackson had been 0-6 lifetime against the Padres.

Sean Doolittle pitched the ninth for his 10th save.

The Padres were coming off a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, the NL East cellar dwellers who have the worst record in the majors (see full recap).

Corbin goes 8 1/3 innings, Diamondbacks beat Astros
HOUSTON -- Patrick Corbin came within an out short of his first career shutout and first complete game since 2013 in the Arizona Diamondbacks' 4-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday.

After allowing a two-out double to Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the ninth, Corbin was pulled by Arizona manager Torey Lovullo. Archie Bradley took over on the mound and struck out Marwin Gonzalez.

Corbin (10-11) allowed four hits and one walk, struck out seven and threw just 105 pitches. After blanking the Chicago Cubs in 6 2/3 innings in his previous start, Corbin has 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

After scoring a combined 18 runs in consecutive wins over Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Astros' bats went cold in the final game of the four-game series, which was split between Arizona and Houston.

Arizona second baseman Daniel Descalso hit an inside-the-park home run off Astros starter Mike Fiers in the fourth inning on a deep drive that sailed over the head of center fielder Jake Marisnick and bounced off the wall away from him (see full recap).