Phillies 2, Orioles 2: Mackanin disappointed after losing no-hitter, lead in the 9th

Phillies 2, Orioles 2: Mackanin disappointed after losing no-hitter, lead in the 9th

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- It was just a spring training game. Nonetheless, there was disappointment in Pete Mackanin's voice when it was over.

The Phillies came within two outs of a combined no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night. The no-hit bid ended when Chris Dickerson singled against reliever Michael Mariot with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Mariot was then unable to hold the Phillies' 2-0 lead. He allowed a two-run homer to the next hitter, Sean Coyle, and the game ended in a 2-2 tie.

The homer was a thrill for Coyle, who grew up in suburban Philadelphia, played at Germantown Academy and was a third-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2010.

It was not a thrill for Mackanin.

"It's a shame to lose the no-hitter," he said.

Even in spring training?

"A no-hitter is a no-hitter," he said. "It would have been nice to win that game."

Vince Velasquez, Jake Thompson and Colton Murray preceded Mariot.

Ryan Hanigan (RBI single) and Andrew Knapp (solo homer) drove in the Phillies' runs. Knapp has been 1 for 22 on the spring before the homer.
 
Velasquez's learning experience
If you were looking for distilled essence of Velasquez, the hard-throwing right-hander offered it in 3 2/3 innings of work.

His stuff was good enough to strike out six batters over the span.

By his control was so poor, especially in the first inning, that he walked four.

He ended up throwing 76 pitches, 39 strikes and 37 balls -- a terrible ratio.

High pitch counts like this were a nemesis for Velasquez last season, often preventing him from getting through the middle innings and pitching deeper into games. Being more economical with his pitches is a big goal for Velasquez this spring and season.

So it didn't happen for him on Thursday night.

But that doesn't mean the outing was a total loss. Velasquez called it a great learning experience. Though he allowed four base runners -- all on walks -- he did not give up a run. In baseball parlance, he pitched when he had to.

"This was a good, solid outing to learn from," Velasquez said. "Knowing that I was throwing a lot of pitches, I had to throw pitches in certain situations, in key situations. The changeup was working pretty well, helping me out a lot and also setting up my fastball for some of the strikeouts. Everything was pretty much down in the dirt but I had to make adjustments.

"This was pretty much one of the games where I needed to make pitches to get outs, especially bases loaded with a tough team like this. You've got to make the pitches in the heat of the moment."

Velasquez did that in the first inning. He walked three and struck out two in the frame. After the third walk, which loaded the bases, he was at 25 pitches for the inning and 15 were balls. He received a mound visit from pitching coach Bob McClure and proceeded to end the inning with two pitches and a fly ball to left.

"He was just giving me a break, trying to gather me up again," Velasquez said.

"Just the mental thing of calm down, get your composure back and breathe. It's amazing how just one meeting can change the outcome."

Velasquez often tapped his pitching hand against his leg, especially in the first inning when he had control problems. He was asked if he had a problem feeling his hand on a chilly Florida night. That was not the case. He was reminding himself to stay back and over the rubber and not get too aggressive in his delivery.

"I was reminding myself to try to be a little more controlled, be balanced and just let it work," he said.

It was an adjustment that seemed to help Velasquez in the second inning, and his overall takeaway from the night was positive.

"I think I can really take this (outing) and keep this under my hat and apply it later on down the road whenever I hit that bump again because everyone has the ups and downs," Velasquez said. "I had it last year and I've got to do my best to prevent it. This was a good learning experience to keep under my hat for the next outing. I'm glad it happened."

Up next
The Phillies host the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday afternoon. Aaron Nola will start for the Phillies against Marco Estrada. The Phillies will wear their tradition green St. Patrick's Day garb.

Phillies-Nationals observations: Not enough offense to support Aaron Nola in loss

Phillies-Nationals observations: Not enough offense to support Aaron Nola in loss

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Aaron Nola’s likely final appearance of 2017 was another good one, but also his 11th loss. 

The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits and struck out nine in six innings in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the NL East champion Washington Nationals on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. 

With the Phillies using a six-man rotation and an off day Thursday, manager Pete Mackanin said Nola was “most likely” making his last start. He gave up a two-run home run on a 3-1 fastball to Michael A. Taylor in the second inning before getting into a groove with his curveball. 

Nola (12-11) retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced and left with a 3.54 ERA as the Phillies kicked off a season-ending six-game homestand with their fourth loss in five games. 

Odubel Herrera hit an 0-2 mistake fastball for a solo shot to right in the fourth for the Phillies’ lone run. They struggled against A.J. Cole (3-5), who allowed six hits over 5 2/3 innings and collected his first major-league hit.

• It marked the 18th time in 27 starts that Nola allowed two earned runs or fewer. He gave up only eight earned runs in four starts against Washington. 

• The Phillies have scored seven runs in the past four games. 

• Rhys Hoskins hit a nubber toward first in the fourth inning that Ryan Zimmerman fielded facing the mound and blindly flipped backward to Cole covering first for the out. Hoskins flied deep to center to end the fifth and finished 0 for 4. He’s 2 for 21 in the past four games and hasn’t homered since Sept. 14. 

• Nick Williams went 1 for 4 with a single and three strikeouts. 

• Maikel Franco popped out on the 11th pitch of his at-bat to lead off the ninth against Sean Doolittle (24th save). 

• Hoskins made two fine plays at first base. He made a nice scoop of Freddy Galvis’ low throw in the first and made a leaping grab of Cesar Hernandez’s high and wide throw and tagged Matt Weiters going by for the out in the fourth. 

• Nationals slugger Bryce Harper’s return from a left knee injury was delayed by illness. Manager Dusty Baker said Harper, out since Aug. 12, woke up feeling sick. He was at the park early to get treatment and could play Tuesday. “He probably doesn’t like to hit here,” Mackanin joked. Harper’s 12 home runs at Citizens Bank Park are the most he’s hit in any road stadium. 

• Nola twice came up with runners at first and second and two outs. He grounded to first in the second and fanned in the fourth. 

• Mackanin planned to give his team a pep talk. “If they think they’re tired and ready to go home — it’s been a long season — I’m going to remind them, ‘If you want to go to the World Series, you’re going to play another entire month,’” he said. 

• With Nola likely finished for the season, it’s lining up for Henderson Alvarez to start Saturday and Nick Pivetta to go in the season finale Sunday. 

• All players from both teams on the field before the game stood for the national anthem. Baker, who is black, said he opposes kneeling, but understands the frustrations of those athletes who do it. “We’ve been talking about the same problems I had when I was 18 or 19 years old, so have we made progress or have we regressed?” Baker said. “It’s up to us to try to figure out how to come up with a solution.” 

• The Phillies dropped to 33 1/2 games behind the Nationals. They must win one of their final five games to avoid 100 losses. The Nationals must finish 5-1 to win 100 games. 

• Right-hander Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.14 ERA) will make his fourth start against the Nationals this season when he faces lefty Gio Gonzalez (15-7, 2.68) on Tuesday night. 

Pete Mackanin: 'I still don't know if I'll be here next year'

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Pete Mackanin: 'I still don't know if I'll be here next year'

Pete Mackanin may have received a contract extension in May, but the Phillies' manager has yet to receive assurances from general manager Matt Klentak that he’ll return in 2018. 

“I still don’t know if I’ll be here next year,” Mackanin said before Monday’s game against the Washington Nationals.

Mackanin took over midway through the 2015 season and has presided over the Phillies’ rebuilding project. He went 37-51 to finish 2015, 71-91 last year and was 62-94 heading into the final week of the season. 

Does Mackanin hope Klentak tells him his fate soon? 

“Of course,” Mackanin said. “I’m signed through next year and I assume I’ll be here. But you never know what they’re going to do.”

Mackanin said he’s set to meet with Klentak on Saturday to evaluate players. The season ends the next day, with the Phillies needing one victory over their final six games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961. 

“Do you need better coaches? Do you need a better manager? The answer to all these questions is you need better players,” Mackanin said as he quizzed about his future. 

Despite the dismal record, the Phillies have made progress in many areas. They may have found their future star power hitter in Rhys Hoskins. Fellow rookie Nick Williams has shown flashes. Cesar Hernandez is hitting .296. Freddy Galvis is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. Adam Morgan has pitched like a permanent setup man (see story). Mackanin believes Aaron Nola has established himself as a “solid No. 3 starter.” 

But the rest of the rotation is uncertain. They still need more offense. And while the Phillies have played well down the stretch, it’s come with no pressure in a sea of meaningless games.

Mackanin was asked if the team made a step forward this season. 

“I think individual players have made a step forward. As a team, of course not. We’re down at the bottom,” Mackanin said. “On the other hand, there are teams with similar records with much higher payrolls that were expected to do much better and haven’t. And when you look at the makeup of the team with all the pitchers that we’ve used and injuries, we’ve had a lot of unproven players.”

Mackanin revealed the angriest he’s been was back in May, when the Phillies went 6-22. He said while he's trying to keep an “even keel,” he gave his team a tongue-lashing after a home loss during that stretch. 

“I just went down the list of players,” Mackanin said. “Every one of them, I pointed out all the good things they’ve done to get here. And I asked after I got done naming every player how good they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished to get here, I asked, ‘How come we’re so bad?’”

Despite injuries and having to rush players to the majors, the Phillies were 33-36 since the All-Star break before Monday’s game. 

Mackanin acknowledged 2018 will be different, when the record will matter much more. He believes it’s time for the franchise to start winning in order to lure the potential free agents needed to become a contender again. 

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Mackanin said. “We’ve got players who have to prove they’re for real. Next year will tell us an awful lot.”

The 66-year-old Mackanin hopes he’s around to see what happens. 

“Blame the managers and coaches. How about if the players perform better?” Mackanin said. “Now, could we get the players to perform better? Everybody tries hard to do that.”