Phillies 8, Blue Jays 2: J.P. Crawford leads Phillies' offensive outburst

Phillies 8, Blue Jays 2: J.P. Crawford leads Phillies' offensive outburst

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- As J.P. Crawford finishes up his final days before being sent to minor-league camp for the remainder of spring, he is starting to show signs of what he is capable of at the plate.

The shortstop prospect went 2 for 2 with two RBIs against the Blue Jays on Saturday.

It was part of an impressive power output for the Phillies, who hit seven doubles in the 8-2 victory. Cameron Perkins had two doubles and two RBIs, and Nick Williams went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI.

"Needless to say the hitting was outstanding today," manager Pete Mackanin said. "I wish we could have saved some of those runs for yesterday.

But Crawford's first hit might have been the sweetest of the day because it came with the bases loaded and two outs off Blue Jays reliever J.P. Howell. On Friday, the Phillies loaded the bases three times and failed to score.

"It's good to finally execute at the plate and help my team get some more runs," Crawford said. "Those were insurance runs that we needed."

Crawford bumped his Grapefruit League batting average up to .227 while also improving the quality of his at-bats. Rather than trying to swing for the fences, Crawford is working more at getting good contact and putting balls in play.

"Recently I've been swinging too hard and trying to hit a home run every time," Crawford said. "Today I just tried the send the ball back up the middle, get a base hit and I did."

The refined approach should help Crawford as he readies for the start of the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"He's going to get a lot of at-bats in Triple-A and hopefully put a lot of good things together," Mackanin said. "I think in Triple-A he's going to … I don't want to say blossom, but he's going to make progress, and once you get that ball rolling good things are going happen."

Florimon shows off the glove
It was Pedro Florimon's first time playing third base but it was hard to tell because of the defensive prowess he showed at the position Saturday.

With a runner on second Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hit a quick grounder to third that Florimon fielded and made a quick throw to Scott Kingery at second to catch pinch runner Lane Thomas cheating off the base.

"Florimon is really sweet defensively," Mackanin said. "It was his first time playing third and he makes a play there that a lot of guys can't make."

Several Phillies had a strong day in the field, most notably catcher Andrew Knapp, who nailed Kevin Pillar trying to steal second base in the third inning.

Up next
Right-hander Aaron Nola is expected to pitch three to four innings in his start against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon in Clearwater.

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Cardinals 1

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Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Cardinals 1

BOX SCORE

Aaron Nola had everything working Thursday in his most impressive start of the season,  allowing just one run on four hits over 7⅓ innings with a season-high eight strikeouts.

Nola had remarkable, Greg Maddux-like movement and command of his two-seam fastball, especially with two strikes. He fooled the Cardinals all afternoon by starting it outside to hitters from both sides of the plate and having it run back over the outside corner for called third strikes. Of his season-high eight strikeouts, five were looking.

He also had his good, tight curveball working. When Nola pitches like this, he looks like a legitimate No. 2 starter or perhaps even more.

Leaning on Nola, the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 5-1, to avoid a sweep. It was still a series loss, though, their 17th in 24 series this season.

The Phils are 23-48; the Cards are 33-38.

Starting pitching report
Nola consistently worked ahead and stayed ahead of Cardinals hitters, throwing 20 of 27 first-pitch strikes.

Nola improved to 4-5 on the season with a 4.32 ERA. It's been an up-and-down season for him but this was the kind of start that can really get a starting pitcher into a groove.

His most impressive sequences came against Cardinals leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter, who may be the most selective hitter in the majors after Joey Votto. In Carpenter's second at-bat, Nola froze him with a two-seam fastball that darted back over the plate at the last second. The next time up, Nola struck out Carpenter swinging on one of his best, sharpest curveballs of the day.

Nola was on his way to potentially the first complete game of his career before running into some trouble in the eighth inning. He allowed a leadoff homer to second baseman Paul DeJong and walked Carpenter with one out before being lifted for Pat Neshek.

Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez had just an OK afternoon by his standards. He allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings with four strikeouts. Both earned runs came on solo home runs. Martinez was also a victim of poor infield defense in the fifth inning when the Phils scored an unearned run.

Martinez is 6-6 with a 2.87 ERA. He entered Thursday with the fifth-highest strikeout rate among NL starting pitchers.

Bullpen report
Neshek has been money in the bank all season, even if there are frustrating restrictions with his usage. He entered for Nola in the eighth inning and needed just five pitches to induce an inning-ending double play from Tommy Pham. 

In 31 appearances, Neshek has a 0.63 ERA. He's one of only two pitchers in baseball this season to allow two runs or fewer in 20-plus innings. Neshek has allowed two in 28⅔ innings. Dominant Yankees setup man Dellin Betances has allowed two in 22⅔.

Luis Garcia got the final three outs in a non-save situation, but he was set to enter even before the Phillies tacked on their final two runs in the eighth.

Garcia on June 7 in Atlanta allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning in a 14-1 Phillies loss. Aside from that game, he has a 1.65 ERA in 24 appearances. He might be the Phils' closer for a little while with Hector Neris scuffling.

At the plate
Freddy Galvis (7) and Tommy Joseph (11) each hit solo home runs. 

Galvis' homer was his 21st of the last calendar year. The only National League shortstop with more over that span is MVP candidate Corey Seager (23).

Joseph added a two-run single for insurance with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. It was the kind of hit he needed — entering that at-bat, Joseph was hitting .204 in 122 chances this season with men on base.

In the field
Cardinals second baseman DeJong had a rough fourth inning. He dropped a throw from Martinez which could have started a double play but instead placed runners on first and second with no outs.

Three batters later, DeJong couldn't handle a flip from shortstop Aledmys Diaz which would have resulted in an inning-ending forceout. Instead, everyone was safe, and the dropped ball allowed a heads-up Andres Blanco to score all the way from second. The error on the play was charged to Diaz.

On the bases
Odubel Herrera committed a baserunning gaffe for the second straight game. He was picked off of third base with one out in the fourth inning, erasing an RBI opportunity for Daniel Nava.

This just 17 hours after Herrera ran through Juan Samuel's stop sign and was thrown out at the plate by about 30 feet in the ninth inning of a tie game.

Up next
The Phillies head out West for four games in Arizona followed by two in Seattle.

They will face left-handers Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, and then right-handers Zack Greinke and Taijuan Walker. 

The Phillies haven't yet named a starter for Friday's game.

Phillies promote outfielder Andrew Pullin to Triple A after strong run with Reading

Phillies promote outfielder Andrew Pullin to Triple A after strong run with Reading

Cameron Perkins' call-up to the majors opened up an outfield spot at Triple A Lehigh Valley and Andrew Pullin was the beneficiary, earning a promotion Thursday.

Pullin's success at Double A Reading has been somewhat overshadowed by Scott Kingery's eye-popping first three months but Pullin has nearly kept pace with the second baseman all season. In 67 games with Reading, the 23-year-old Pullin hit .308/.368/.556 with 22 doubles, 14 home runs and 46 RBIs.

The left-handed hitting Pullin has been locked in for the better part of the last two years. He hit .322 with an .885 OPS last season, splitting time between Clearwater and Reading.

Pullin is not on the 40-man roster and in December was exposed in the Rule 5 draft. For whatever reason, he went unclaimed. It's difficult to imagine that happening again this winter if he's not protected on the 40.

As for Kingery, expect his promotion to come soon. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said last week that the next challenge for Kingery is looming. Don't be surprised if that promotion from Double A to Triple A occurs Monday when the IronPigs return to Lehigh Valley. With Reading home this weekend, it would be just a short trip for Kingery.