Lee blanks Marlins as Phillies pull to within game of .500

052213-lee-slideshow-ap.jpg

Lee blanks Marlins as Phillies pull to within game of .500

BOX SCORE

MIAMI -- For all the frustration (completely justified, by the way) caused by the offense and all the worry spawned by a recent spate of injuries, the Phillies have won seven of their last 10 ballgames to pull within a game of .500.

They got to that mark for the first time since April 15 with a Cliff Lee-led, 3-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay).

“If you’re going to win the division you’re going to have to get past .500,” Lee said after firing the 12th shutout of his career. “Obviously we aren’t there yet, but we have to get past that to get where we want to go.

“Right now, we’re playing good, well-rounded baseball.”

Over the last couple of weeks, the aging Phillies have lost Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz and Mike Adams to the disabled list. Chase Utley, who has missed two straight games with a rib cage injury, could be next (see story).

And yet, the Phillies are winning. It hasn’t been all that pretty given the sporadic offense, but they’re keeping their noses above water.

“That just says we’ve got guys that can fill these holes,” Lee said. “The Halladay thing, I feel like he was hurt for a while and just tried to grind through it and we finally decided to do something about it. That was tough, but you can’t go out there and pitch when you’re not all the way there. The Chase thing was kind of a surprise. Hopefully that’s not a major deal and he’s back to help us out. Chooch same thing.

“Fortunately, we have [Erik] Kratz and [Humberto] Quintero and Freddy [Galvis] and [Jonathan] Pettibone and [Tyler] Cloyd and guys like that who can come in and fill those holes and give us a chance.”

The Phillies received excellent starting pitching in the three-game series against the Marlins.

Cole Hamels, Cloyd and Lee combined to pitch 22 innings and allow just four runs while walking four and striking out 20 against the weakest offensive team in the NL. Lee’s shutout was the ninth sustained by the Marlins this season.

Of course, the Phils only won two of the games in Miami because the offense flopped again behind Hamels. It came alive Tuesday and Wednesday with a combined 27 hits.

“As good as our starting pitching has been, we only need a few runs,” Delmon Young said. “If our pitching wasn’t what it has been, we’d really have a bad record.”

Young was a big contributor in Miami. He hit long home runs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and played well in in right field. (His arm provided a big double play behind Lee.) Young also legged out an infield hit in the sixth inning Wednesday night that started a two-out, two-run rally that featured a long triple by Domonic Brown, who is up to 24 RBIs, one shy of the team lead shared by Ryan Howard and Utley.

Sixty at-bats into his time with the Phillies, Young is hitting .233. Two games ago, he was hitting .192.

He’s moving in the right direction.

“I’ve always thought Delmon would hit,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I’ve been saying that. When we got him, our people thought he’d help us. We always thought he was an RBI guy.”

Lee, who is 9-2 with a 1.09 ERA in his last 12 starts against the NL East, is on a terrific roll. He has allowed just four runs in 31 innings over his last four starts.

Lee allowed just three hits (all singles) Wednesday night. He walked two and hit a batter. He did his best pitching in the second inning when he loaded the bases and got out of it with a 5-2-3 double play and a pop out.

“I was just trying to get a ground ball and a double play,” Lee said. “I was willing to sacrifice a run for two outs. Fortunately the ball was hit to third where we could get the out at home. That was huge.”

The Marlins didn’t do much against Lee the rest of the way.

“The last three innings I felt as good as I’ve felt in a long time,” Lee said. “I felt like I could put the ball right where I wanted.”

The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Nationals in Washington on Friday night.  

Odubel Herrera's bat returns, but so do Aaron Nola's struggles in loss to Pirates

Odubel Herrera's bat returns, but so do Aaron Nola's struggles in loss to Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- The good news for the Phillies on Saturday was that it finally seems All-Star Odubel Herrera's bat is returning to its typical, productive form.

The centerfielder had his second straight three-hit game Saturday as he continued to pull out of his slump, though it wasn’t enough to keep the Phillies from losing 7-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the middle game of a three-game series at PNC Park (see Instant Replay).

Yet Herrera’s suddenly hot bat gave the Phillies some reason to feel good on a day when another player who the organization believes can be a foundation player backslid. Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-9) took the loss as he allowed six runs and six hits in four-plus innings.

The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.

“When he’s at his best, he has control of all his pitches,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s lost his control and he needs to a find a way to get it back.”

However, Herrera improved to 6 for 9 in the series by going 3 for 4 with a triple, two runs scored and two stolen bases. He had been 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games before coming to Pittsburgh, a skid that dropped his batting average to .281 from .300.

“It was getting pretty ugly for about a week there, so it feels good to get some hits,” Herrera said. “That’s my job, to get hits, be successful and help the team win. I really don’t go into too many slumps, so it’s hard to try to fight your way through it and stay positive. When I get a hit, I am happy.”

Herrera is now hitting .290 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 98 games.

There had been a school of thought that making his first All-Star Game appearance July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego might have had an effect on the 24-year-old. The schedule for the players during the festivities is basically non-stop for two days and then Herrera had to fly across the country to rejoin the Phillies in Philadelphia for the second half of the season.

“I was concerned it might have an effect on him,” Mackanin said. “It was the first time he had participated in an even of that magnitude and it can be hard to refocus after that.”

Herrera, though, said he is not sure how much being an All-Star played into his cold spell.

“Maybe it did,” Herrera said. “It was a busy couple of days there. I don’t know what to compare it to because I hadn’t been before. Obviously, I didn’t have the same chance to rest as a lot of other players, so it could have had an effect. However, playing in the All-Star Game was a great experience and I am glad I had a chance to be there.”

If Herrera plays like he has the last two games, Herrera figures to appear in more Midsummer Classics before his career is through.

“He has the ability to win a batting title,” Mackanin said. “He’s that good of a hitter. He’s a smart hitter. When pitchers start adjusting to him, he adjusts back. I only see him getting better.

“Then you throw in that he played a heckuva center field and it’s just an impressive total package."

MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

usa-chris-sale-white-sox.jpg
USA Today Images

MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale has been scratched from his start against the Detroit Tigers after he was involved in what the team says was a "non-physical clubhouse incident."

The White Sox declined to describe the incident, but said it's "currently under further investigation by the club" and that Sale was sent home from the park.

The move was announced less than a half hour before Saturday's game. Sale was going to attempt to become the first 15-game winner in the majors.

The White Sox planned to use multiple relievers in his place. The start of the game was delayed by rain.

With the White Sox fading from playoff contention, Sale's name has been mentioned as a possible trade target for contending teams.

The left-hander is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA.

TWINS: Suzuki leaves game after taking foul ball off mask
BOSTON -- Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki left Saturday night's game against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning after getting hit in the mask with a foul ball.

Suzuki appeared to have a cut on his chin as he walked to the dugout with a team trainer.

Boston's Dustin Pedroia was at the plate and fouled one off the catcher.

Suzuki was replaced by Juan Centeno.

PADRES: Cuban prospect signs deal with $7 million signing bonus
WASHINGTON -- Top Cuban prospect Jorge Ona and the San Diego Padres have agreed to a minor league contract with a $7 million signing bonus.

The 19-year-old outfielder receives $4.9 million within 30 days of the deal's approval by the commissioner's office and $2.1 million on Jan. 15. The deal is pending a physical.

Ona was ranked as the No. 8 international prospect of the 2016 class by MLB.com and the fourth-best available Cuban player earlier this year by Baseball America.

General manager A.J. Preller said during a conference call Friday that the contract is for 2017. He hopes Ona will play in the fall instructional league and then report for spring training and start his pro career next season.

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco and David Freese hit two-run singles during a five-run fifth inning to rally the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-4 victory over the Phillies on Saturday at PNC Park.

Polanco’s hit put the Pirates ahead 4-3 and chased starter Aaron Nola. Freese’s hit off Severino Gonzalez pushed the lead to three runs and Francisco Cervelli capped the inning with a sacrifice fly as Pittsburgh won for the fourth time in six games.

Nola (5-9) allowed six runs in four-plus innings to take the loss. Center fielder Odubel Herrera went 3 for 4 with a triple as the Phillies outhit the Pirates, 12-7.

Catcher Cameron Rupp left the game in the third inning after being struck in the left ear flap of his helmet by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow (see story). Rupp was found to have no concussion symptoms.

Starting pitching report
The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.

On Saturday, Nola gave up six hits, walked two and struck out five. He needed 80 pitches to get 12 outs.

Nola’s clunker came after Phillies starters allowed no more than one run or five hits in four of the previous five games. On Friday night in the opener of the three-game series in Pittsburgh, rookie right-hander Zach Elfin pitched a three-hitter for his first career shutout in the Phillies’ 4-0 victory over the Pirates.

At the plate
Herrera is 6 for 9 in the first two games of the series after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games. He tripled in the sixth inning and scored the game’s last run on a single by Andres Blanco.

Cesar Hernandez hit a pair of RBI singles and was one of four Phillies with two hits along with Blanco, Tommy Joseph and Carlos Ruiz, the last of whom took over behind the plate for Rupp. Joseph also hit an RBI single.

The Phillies held a 12-8 edge in hits.

Up next
The Phillies finish their three-game series with the Pirates at 1:35 p.m. Sunday then open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

The projected starters for the next four days:

Sunday afternoon --- RHP Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.15) vs. RHP Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.44)

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 4.99)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)