Pettibone, Phillies can't climb out of early hole in loss

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Pettibone, Phillies can't climb out of early hole in loss

BOX SCORE

It was just a matter of time until Phillies’ rookie pitcher Jonathan Pettibone had one of those nights.

In Thursday night’s 9-2 loss to the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, it was just one of those innings that ruined his night (see Instant Replay).

In vying to become the first Phillies’ starting pitcher to begin his career with a 4-0 record since Randy Wolf did it in 1999, Pettibone was battered around for four runs in the first inning against the crafty Red Sox lineup.

Though he settled in and held the Red Sox scoreless after the first inning, it was a two-run, two-out double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia that sealed Pettibone’s fate. And strangely enough, Saltalamacchia hit the first pitch from Pettibone. If the Phillies were paying attention, they would have seen how the Red Sox made Pettibone and the club’s pitchers work during most at-bats.

That veteran approach knocked the rookie out of the game after throwing 98 pitches and drawing four walks in five innings.

“I didn’t finish the batters,” Pettibone said. “They were able to sneak some hits through and then (Saltalamacchia’s) double was up in the zone. He put a good swing on it and that was it.”

If there was something manager Charlie Manuel could steal from the Red Sox and inject into his team’s offense, it would be their patient approach at the plate. The Sox sent 46 hitters to the plate on Thursday night and 24 of them had at-bats that lasted four pitches or longer. In comparison, the Phillies had just 15 plate appearances that lasted four pitches or longer out of 34 hitters.

“They were very patient with Jonathan and they definitely made him pitch,” Manuel said. “They made him pitch and if you noticed, we swung at some bad balls, especially when we were ahead in the count. We didn’t use their wildness to our advantage tonight.”

It’s one thing to look at a lot of pitches or wear out pitchers, and it’s another to make things happen. In pounding out 14 hits and drawing five walks, the Red Sox had 10 different players get at least one hit. They had five hits with runners in scoring position, got five extra-base hits and had five stolen bases.

Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury had all five of those stolen bases, setting a Red Sox record while becoming the first player since records were kept in 1916 to swipe five bags against the Phillies.

Ellsbury also reached base five times in three different ways. He had three hits, walked and got hit by a pitch.

If the Phillies wanted to stop Ellsbury, they didn’t do a very good job of it.

But as Manuel said after the game, wins are a struggle. Even when Pettibone, Cliff Lee or Kyle Kendrick turns in a quality start, the game is never a laugher for the Phillies. Though Pettibone struggled against the Red Sox, the Phillies still had a chance.

The problem is the offense just isn’t able to get much going unless the Phillies hit a home run.

“It’s a battle for us. To win a game is a battle,” Manuel said. “When we have [a pitcher] throw a really good game, it’s still a battle for us to win sometimes. We don’t blow anybody out. We don’t knock the cover off the ball.”

The Phillies got a pair of runs in the first on Delmon Young’s homer. After that, they put just two runners in scoring position. Meanwhile, the Phillies scored just 12 runs in the four games against the Red Sox and all but one of them came on homers.

Against spot-starter Franklin Morales, the Phillies went down in order in the second, third and fifth innings. During the fourth inning the Phillies loaded the bases with two walks and a single and looked poised to do some damage with just one out. However, catcher Erik Kratz bounced into an inning-ending double play.

From there, the Phillies had just three base runners the rest of the night.

“We didn’t muster enough offense,” Manuel said. “It’s kind of the same thing every day.”

The Phillies wasted a chance to move back to .500 for the first time since April 14. They have had three chances to get to .500 in the past seven games and have lost each time.

Nevertheless, Manuel says the Phillies’ goal isn’t simply to get back to .500.

“We want to get beyond .500. There’s no doubt about that,” the manager said. “We’re not looking at .500 as some great championship move.”

The Phillies look to bounce back on Friday night when they open a three-game series against the last-place Milwaukee Brewers. The pitching matchups for the weekend are:

Friday: Cole Hamels (1-8, 4.43) vs. Yovani Gallardo (3-5, 4.79)
Saturday: Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 5.74) vs. Mike Fiers (1-3, 6.62)
Sunday: Cliff Lee (6-2, 2.34) vs. Wily Peralta (3-6, 6.35).

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

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Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge circled the bases for the 50th time this season, breaking Mark McGwire's major league record for home runs by a rookie, and returned to the Yankees dugout to exchange handshakes, hugs and high-fives with excited teammates.

And then, he walked up the steps and back onto the field.

Embarrassed by the attention, he managed four short waves with his right hand before heading back to the bench just three seconds later.

"They kind of told me: `You got to go out there. You got to go out there,'" he would later recall. "First curtain call. I hope it was a good one."

Judge had his second straight two-homer game in an 11-3 rout of Kansas City on Monday. On an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon, the Yankees won for the 16th time in 22 games during a playoff push that earned no worse than a wild card.

The 6-foot-7, 25-year-old slugger tied McGwire's 1987 mark with a two-run drive to right-center off Jakob Junis (8-3) in the third inning that put New York ahead 3-0, driving a 93 mph high fastball 389 feet about a half-dozen rows into the right field seats (see full recap).

Russell makes food run, Cubs beat Cards to near clinch
ST. LOUIS -- Say cheese!

Addison Russell and the Chicago Cubs were all smiles after moving within a victory of another division title Monday night.

Russell hit a three-run double in the first inning, then made a food run for a fan in enemy territory while the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-2. Chicago can wrap up the division with a win Tuesday against the Cardinals or a loss by Milwaukee against Cincinnati.

Russell helped the Cubs get to starter Luke Weaver (7-2) early, then made some friends out of rival fans. After diving into the stands chasing a foul ball down the third-base line and spilling a man's tray of chips, Russell emerged from the dugout a few innings later with a plate of nachos and delivered it to the fan. Russell stopped to take a selfie before heading back to play shortstop.

"That was pretty entertaining," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said (see full recap).

Donaldson, Blue Jays stop Red Sox winning streak at 6
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox would like to get the AL East wrapped up quickly so they can start resting some banged-up players.

Josh Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, powering the Toronto Blue Jays past the first-place Red Sox 6-4 on Monday night.

Boston's six-game winning streak was snapped and its magic number to clinch a second straight division title remained at three. The Red Sox lead the second-place New York Yankees, who beat Kansas City earlier in the day, by four games with six remaining.

But the most important thing for the Red Sox was the loss of two key players to injuries. For how long? They don't know yet.

Eduardo Nunez and Mookie Betts both left the game early. Nunez aggravated a right knee injury that sidelined him for 13 games, and Betts came out with pain in his left wrist (see full recap).

Rangers fall to Astros, wild-card hopes fading
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Marwin Gonzalez had four hits and three RBIs as the AL West champion Houston Astros beat Texas 11-2 on Monday night, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the wild-card race.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the American League leader with 199 hits and a .348 batting average, left in the eighth inning after he was hit by a 95 mph fastball. The team said X-rays were negative and Altuve had a bruised forearm.

Gonzalez had two hits and scored twice in an eight-run fourth, including a two-run single that chased starter Andrew Cashner (10-11). Gonzalez later hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the sixth.

Collin McHugh (4-2) struck out six while throwing 112 pitches in five innings. The right-hander is 15-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 19 starts in September or October during his four seasons with the Astros (see full recap).

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

BOX SCORE

Before beginning a season-ending six-game homestand Monday night, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin singled out Aaron Nola when asked about the positives of what is mostly a dismal 2017 season. 

“Nola has really established himself,” Mackanin said pregame. “To me, he’s a solid No. 3 starter.”

Nola then looked the part in what was likely his final start of the year, using a sharp curveball to strike out nine over six innings in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

“I felt like just the command and getting ahead of hitters helped out this year,” Nola said. 

Returning from elbow surgery that ended his 2016 season in July, Nola (12-11) became the best starter on the team thanks to the development of a changeup in spring training to go with his fastball and dominant curveball. 

“I felt a lot stronger,” the soft-spoken Nola said when asked to sum up his season. “I felt like I was using my legs more and that increased my velocity a little bit.” 

Nola allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 27 starts. His 184 strikeouts are the most by a Phillies pitcher who made fewer than 30 starts in a season. 

“I wouldn’t call him a power pitcher. He doesn’t appear to be a strikeout pitcher,” Mackanin said. “But when you can locate your fastball and get ahead with your fastball down in the strike zone and have that kind of curveball and then you add that kind of changeup, now the hitter has three pitches to worry about.”

He struck out 36 over his final four starts and 25 1/3 innings, using his sweeping curve as an out pitch. All but one of his strikeouts Monday night came on the curve. 

“It’s been good,” Nola said. “I’ve been able to command it on both sides of the plate and down, which has helped me. I felt like my fastball command was better this year than it was last year.” 

In a rotation in which basically nothing else is settled, Nola gives the Phillies an anchor for next season. The 24-year-old LSU product has a 3.54 ERA and the changeup gives him three quality pitches. 

“It’s been kind of the cherry on top, a little bit, being able to throw that right-on-right,” catcher Andrew Knapp said of the changeup. “It’s a hard pitch to hit when you’re a left-handed hitter. But when you’re right-handed and coming to that back foot, it’s a really good pitch.” 

Nola retired the first four hitters before Jayson Werth singled and Michael A. Taylor followed by crushing a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his 17th homer. 

It was the 18th home run allowed by Nola. But he got into a groove from there. Facing a lineup without Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, Nola held the NL East champions to two runs and five hits with two walks. 

But it didn’t prevent the Phillies from losing for the fourth time in five games. 

Odubel Herrera’s solo home run on an 0-2 pitch from A.J. Cole (3-5) in the fourth was all the offense the Phillies could muster. They’ve managed seven runs in four games. 

Rhys Hoskins is slumping (0 for 4 and hasn’t homered since Sept. 14) and Nick Williams struck out three times. 

“Our bats have gone silent for a few days now,” Mackanin said. 

They still have to win one more to avoid 100 losses, and many changes are possible in the offseason. Mackanin said before the game that “I still don’t know if I’ll be back here next year," (see story)

It’s a team that still has plenty of holes and lots of questions ahead of 2018. 

Nola, though, appears to be someone they can rely on. 

“The goal is to have five [reliable] guys on every start. But it’s nice,” Mackanin said. “When Nola pitches, we all expect to win. He’s done an outstanding job. He’s had the arm issues, but he came back from that better than he was before.”