Lannan's gem leads Phillies past Nationals

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Lannan's gem leads Phillies past Nationals

BOX SCORE

It took a while for John Lannan to give in Monday night, but he did eventually. Not to the Washington Nationals’ hitters. Lannan was tough on them all night. It took the lefty a while to give in to himself and admit that, yes, this was a pretty special win.

Lannan pitched eight shutout innings in leading the Phillies’ 3-2 victory over the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

Afterward, the former Nationals’ pitcher played the just-another-game, just-another-team, just-another-win routine for a little while.

Finally, he relented.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll feel good about it when I look back on it, maybe later on tonight,” he said with a sheepish grin.

Lannan was raised in the Nationals’ system. He came to the majors with the team in 2007. He started two opening days for the club. Ultimately, he was exiled to the minors by Washington in 2012 and unceremoniously dumped -- not offered a contract -- by the club after the season. He joined the Phillies as a free agent last winter.

It has been a tough season for Lannan. He spent time on the disabled list and has struggled to find consistency with the Phillies. But it all came together in this game. He kept the ball down in the strike zone and induced 12 ground-ball outs while allowing just four hits.

The Phillies, who have been shut out five times at home this season, were on their way to their first home shutout of the season before Jonathan Papelbon was hit hard in the ninth inning. Papelbon gave up two runs and got a messy save, but the bottom line was the Phillies won for the third time in four games on this crucial homestand that will determine whether management trades players or hangs on for a possible second-half run.

“Keep playing,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “Stay with it. We won tonight. Now start thinking about tomorrow.”

The Phillies have won five of their last seven games, four of them against first-place clubs Pittsburgh and Atlanta. They are 44-46. They have six games remaining on the homestand that will take them to the All-Star break. They probably need to win four of them to dissuade management from waving the white flag.

Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee pitch the next two nights. The team needs Hamels to follow up his strong outing in Pittsburgh with another good one and Lee to be, well, Lee.

Lannan (2-3) set a good tone for the series Monday night.

He was able to focus on the catcher’s mitt -- not the significance of the opponent.

“It helped that I’d already faced them once,” he said of the Nationals.

Lannan retired the Nats in order in half of his eight innings. He used his sinker and changeup effectively. He struck out just four but succeeded at getting a lot of weak contact. He walked just two.

“I tried to stay down in the zone, tried to keep them off-balance with my two-seamer and changeup,” he said. “That’s what I have to do because I’m not a big strikeout guy. At this point, I’m just looking for some consistency. It doesn’t matter who I’m facing, I’m just trying to throw up some zeroes.”

The Phillies’ offense was not all that efficient. They were just 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. On a lot of nights, that will burn a team. It might have burned the Phils if Jayson Werth’s drive to center against Papelbon with two men on in the ninth had traveled a few more feet, but Papelbon held on and ended his night with handshakes.

Domonic Brown, manning the cleanup hole with Ryan Howard on the disabled list, drove in his team-high 63rd run with a single off Dan Haren in the first inning. Ben Revere had a two-out single in the sixth and scored on Jimmy Rollins’ hit. Revere had three hits and his average is up to .300 on the season.

The only bit of dispiriting news on the night -- other than the word that Howard needs surgery (see story) -- was that Brown was snubbed from the All-Star Home Run Derby (see story). His 23 homers are second-most in the NL, but they weren’t enough to impress Mets third baseman/derby captain David Wright, who picked childhood pal Michael Cuddyer (15 homers) over Brown.

Brown took the snub in stride. He said he was not disappointed.

“I’m still going to the All-Star Game,” he said. “That’s the big thing. I’m not really worried about the derby. I’ll be out there supporting and taking a lot of pictures.”

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.