No win for Sandberg, but his prize is coming

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No win for Sandberg, but his prize is coming

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Ryne Sandberg did not get a win for his 54th birthday Wednesday night, but his prize will be coming soon.

It seems to be a fait accompli that Sandberg will lose the interim tag and be named full-time Phillies manager sometime in the next week or so. An announcement could come before the Phillies close out the season Sept. 29 in Atlanta or shortly thereafter.

Whatever the case, you can bet the kids’ tuition money that Sandberg is the guy.

He even seems to know it.

He didn’t sound like a man uncertain of where he’ll be next year as he talked about Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).

Chase Utley had two RBIs, giving him 10 in his last three games.

After the game, Sandberg spoke positively about the way Utley has been swinging the bat.

“He’s had a solid year,” Sandberg said. “He’s swinging a real good bat. He’s shown his power, shown his leadership. He’s played a lot this year and all that’s good. He’s a mainstay out there and a steady force. He’s a big piece for next year. He’s showing the type of player that he is and expect no less next year.”

That was two references to next year in two sentences.

Sounds like a man who knows where he’s going to be, a man who will soon get his prize, right?

We know. This is hardly earth-shattering stuff. Sandberg was the heir to Charlie Manuel’s throne from the time he was elevated to third base coach after last season. Before that even. In his month as Manuel’s replacement, Sandberg has overseen 18 wins, 14 losses, lots of life and a bunch of late-game rallies. He’s solidified his status.

There was no late-game rally for the Phils on Wednesday night, however.

Miami’s Ed Lucas smacked a solo homer off lefty Cesar Jimenez in the top of the 10th inning to break a 3-3 tie and propel the Marlins to the win.

The Phils tried to rally in the bottom of the inning. Carlos Ruiz began the frame by reaching base on an error and Domonic Brown followed with a double. Second and third, no outs. Then bases loaded, one out. The Phils came up empty as Steve Cishek pitched into trouble and out of trouble to preserve the win.

“It was frustrating at the end,” Sandberg said. “We couldn’t execute and get anyone in.”

Manuel said that a time or two the last few seasons.

Sandberg was asked if he had any fresh solutions to getting runners home from third with less than two outs.

“Just for the hitters to remember the pressure is on the pitcher,” he said. “Stay within the strike zone, be patient, relax, all of the things we talk about. Some of them are young hitters. It’s a learning experience for them. We’ll continue to work at it. In some cases in the last month, we’ve had key hits in those situations also.”

Just not in this game.

The Phils also left a runner at third in the eighth and ninth innings.

In the eighth, Marlins’ shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria made a sensational diving play to take away what looked like a tie-breaking hit from Roger Bernadina.

“Their shortstop made an unbelievable play,” Sandberg said. “We thought the ball was in left field. It was a game-saver.”

Lucas’ longball wasn’t the only one that hurt the Phillies. With Kyle Kendrick scratched (see story), the Phillies used seven relievers to get through the game. Rookie Ethan Martin gave up a two-run lead in the sixth when he surrendered a mammoth two-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton. The blast made it a 3-3 game.

Stanton’s homer was last seen stopping in for an Italian special -- sweet, no hot -- at Planet Hoagie out on Ashburn Alley. The estimated distance of the blast was 460 feet.

Stanton hit a slider.

“I didn’t make a great pitch,” Martin said. “That kind of guy is going to do that.”

The stench of recent losses prompts a Phillies team meeting

The stench of recent losses prompts a Phillies team meeting

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ATLANTA – After every Phillies road game, it’s customary for reporters to enter the clubhouse and stop into the manager’s office to collect a few observations from the ol' skipper.
 
On Wednesday night, Pete Mackanin, still in his uniform pants and red undershirt, took the unusual step of leaving the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field and approaching a group of reporters as they waited in the hallway outside the room.
 
What gives?
 
Did the toilets overflow or something?
 
Well, in a sense, yes.
 
The stink of a 12-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves led some of the team’s elder statesmen to call a players-only team meeting (see Instant Replay). That meant Mackanin had to do his postmortems outside in the hallway.
 
“I don't know who called it, but it’s nice to see,” Mackanin said. “Somebody cares.”
 
Catcher Cameron Rupp revealed that the meeting was called by veterans Ryan Howard and A.J. Ellis. The Phillies have lost five of their last six games and given up a ridiculous 63 runs over that span. They lost, 17-0, Sunday in New York and blew a 6-0 lead in losing, 7-6, Tuesday night in Atlanta. Losing by a 10-spot on Wednesday night added to the embarrassment and dropped the Phillies to 70-88 with four games remaining in the season.
 
“We have some older guys, Howie and A.J. that have been around and they don’t want to see guys stumble to the finish line,” Rupp said. “Finish hard, finish strong. We’ve had a good year in a lot of guys’ eyes. We’ve improved on last year. There has been a lot of good things we can build off and that’s what the message was – continue to work and get better.
 
“There are four games left – don’t quit,” Rupp said. “Come to the ballpark expecting to win and see where it takes you. We got pushed around the last couple of nights and in New York. Stuff happens. It’s part of the game. But with four games left, there’s a lot that each player can prove.
 
“A lot can happen in four days. We can ruin somebody else’s season.”
 
The Phillies play their final game at Turner Field on Thursday night – the Braves will open a new stadium next year – then return home Friday night to play the Mets, who are locked in a tight race for the National League wild card.
 
The weekend series against the Mets will mark Howard’s last three days in a Phillies uniform.
 
He has swung the bat lately like a man who still has pride. His part in the team meeting reflected that pride.
 
“A.J. and I felt like having a quick meeting and that we did,” Howard said. “We need to refocus on these last four games. We got beat up tonight. We have to put a halt to that momentum and refocus on the last four games.
 
“It’s important to finish strong. It would be easy to cash it in, but we want to go out on a high note and we have four games to try to do that.”

Mackanin admitted the series in New York – three losses in four games to the Mets – “took the life out of everybody” and the malaise followed the Phillies to Atlanta.
 
“It's all about pitching,” Mackanin said. “Pitching keeps you in games. That's why we won 70 games. Now we're not getting the pitching.”
 
The Phillies have struggled to score runs all season. In fact, they are the only team in the majors not to reach 600 runs. (They have 599.) But recently, the pitching has gone downhill, especially in the bullpen.
 
Mackanin tried to give the bullpen a break on Wednesday night. That’s why he had Adam Morgan suck up five innings on a night when he didn’t have it. The lefty allowed 10 hits and nine runs in his final start of the season.
 
“It’s pretty bad,” Morgan said. “It’s not the way that I wanted to go out.”
 
Morgan made strides recently as he picked up a two-seam fastball and used his changeup more. But he is 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA.
 
“Below average,” said Mackanin, assessing Morgan’s season. “It wasn't a successful season for him. He has ability, but the numbers matter. If you want to go by the numbers, they're not good. It doesn't mean I don't like him. It doesn't mean he doesn't have a future. At some point, you have to put up numbers.”
 
Speaking of numbers, the Phillies have put up some awful numbers against the NL East. They are 16-35 against the NL East in their last 51 divisional games.
 
“I look at the team statistics,” Mackanin said. “When you're 13th, 14th and 15th in 10 of those categories, that tells you all you need to know.
 
“We're down at the bottom in hitting. We're sinking fast in pitching.
 
“As far as a yardstick to measure, I look at those stats. Numbers matter. They tell you the story.”
 
In four days, the story of the 2016 Phillies will be over. Maybe Wednesday night’s players-only meeting will inspire a couple of final wins.

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Best of MLB: Hyun Soo Kim's pinch HR gives Orioles win

Best of MLB: Hyun Soo Kim's pinch HR gives Orioles win

TORONTO -- Hyun Soo Kim hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Roberto Osuna, and the Baltimore Orioles beat Toronto 3-2 on Wednesday night to move within one game of the AL wild card-leading Blue Jays.

With Toronto ahead 2-1, Jonathan Schoop singled with one out, pinch-runner Michael Bourn stole second and Kim homered on a 3-2 pitch into the visiting bullpen in right, causing the Orioles relievers to jump in celebration.

Osuna (3-3) has five blown save chances, including two in his last three appearances.

Mark Trumbo hit his major league-leading 46th home run, a solo drive off Jason Grilli in the eighth.

Brian Duensing (1-0) got one out, and Zach Britton finished for his 47th save in as many tries (see full recap).

Mets win to keep grip on wild-card spot
MIAMI -- The Marlins walked half a block alongside a hearse carrying their ace away from Marlins Park at the start of a funeral motorcade Wednesday, and then peeled away with watery eyes to go back inside and play a game.

Drained by four days of grieving, they didn't have much left for the New York Mets.

Jay Bruce hit his 32nd home run, James Loney also homered and the Mets helped their NL wild-card chances by beating Miami 5-2.

New York began the night leading the Giants by half a game and the Cardinals by 1 1/2 games in the race for the two wild-card spots. The Mets conclude the regular season with three games at Philadelphia starting Friday.

The Marlins' loss in their home finale eliminated them from playoff contention. Despite high hopes this year, they still haven't been to the postseason since 2003.

Set Lugo (5-2) went 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs.

Jose Urena (4-9) allowed five runs in five innings (see full recap).

Cano's HR boosts Mariners' playoff hopes
HOUSTON -- Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Houston Astros 12-4 Wednesday to keep pressure on the other AL wild-card contenders.

Kyle Seager added another three-run drive in the eighth, his 30th home run this season, as Seattle pulled within 1 games of Baltimore for the second AL wild card. Houston dropped three games back as its magic number for elimination was cut to two. The Orioles were at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Cano's career-best 36th home run, a drive off Doug Fister (12-13), landed in the first row of the Crawford Boxes in left field. Cano has nine homers and 25 RBIs in 19 games against Houston this season (see full recap).

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