Phillies 9, Braves 0: Brock Stassi shines -- so what else is new?

Phillies 9, Braves 0: Brock Stassi shines -- so what else is new?

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Brock Stassi's campaign to make the Phillies' opening day roster gained more steam on Tuesday.

In the very role that he is auditioning for, one that would have him come off the bench to offer some good glove work at first base and some timely hitting, Stassi did a little of both in the Phillies' 9-0 win over the Atlanta Braves at Spectrum Field.

The 27-year-old career minor-leaguer replaced Tommy Joseph in the field in the third inning and made two nice defensive plays and added two more hits, including a two-run home run. The homer was Stassi's fifth of the spring, moving him into a tie for the most in the majors this exhibition season.

"I think everybody likes him," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You have to like him. Not only has he had a good spring offensively, but the at-bats he gives us are quality at-bats versus righties and lefties. And he's a well-above-average defender. He's fun to watch play."

Stassi is 13 for 31 (.419) for the spring. He is bidding to win a spot on the Phillies' bench as a backup first baseman/outfielder.

Eick is sharp
Jerad Eickhoff, who lines up to start the second game of the regular season, was sharp and economical in his fourth start of the spring. He needed just 62 pitches to get through five shutout innings. He gave up three hits, a walk and struck out five. Eickhoff was so economical with his pitch count that he threw 13 pitches in the bullpen after the outing to stretch his total to 75.

Benoit ramping up
The Phillies wanted to improve their bullpen in the offseason. They hope the additions of veterans Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit will do that. 

Neshek is pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Phillies, meanwhile, have eased the 39-year-old Benoit into action. He made just his second appearance Tuesday and was rusty. He walked a batter and hit two others, but did not allow a run.

Benoit showed plenty of arm strength, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by striking out Emilio Bonifacio on a 95-mph fastball.

"He threw the ball hard," Mackanin said. "I was surprised. He had great velocity. He was rusty, but I liked what I saw coming out of his hand."

Williams improving
Plate discipline was a big problem for prospect Nick Williams at Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. He drew just two walks over his final 66 games and had a woeful .236 on-base percentage over that span.

Williams, who will open back at Triple-A this season, is focusing on improving that aspect of his game this spring, and there have been signs of progress. He drew two walks on Tuesday and now has four in 29 plate appearances.

"Matt Stairs has been working on his approach, to soften his approach instead of jumping out after the ball," Mackanin said. "He seems to be showing improvement."

Up next
The Phillies play the Yankees in Tampa on Wednesday night. The team will get a look at utility man Chris Coghlan at second base in that game. Coghlan is bidding to make the team as a non-roster player.

Clay Buchholz will start on the mound against Michael Pineda.

Here is the posted lineup for the game, though there surely will be some changes after Joseph was hit on the left hand (see story) by a pitch Tuesday:

Chris Coghlan, 2B
Freddy Galvis, SS
Howie Kendrick, LF
Maikel Franco, 3B
Michael Saunders, RF
Tommy Joseph, 1B
Cameron Rupp, C
Aaron Altherr, CF
Andrew Knapp, DH

MLB Notes: Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to Triple A

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AP Images

MLB Notes: Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to Triple A

MIAMI -- The Chicago Cubs have demoted struggling slugger Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa.

Schwarber, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft, is batting just .171 with 12 homers and 28 RBIs in 64 games. There was no immediate announcement of a corresponding move.

Schwarber made his major league debut in 2015 and hit .246 with 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 69 games. He missed most of last season with a leg injury after a frightening outfield collision, then returned in October to help the Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908.

Chicago is 36-35 heading into Thursday night's game at Miami (see full story).

Angels: Street activated, Morin to Triple A
NEW YORK -- Reliever Huston Street has been activated by the Los Angeles Angels after recovering from a strained latissimus dorsi muscle in his back that had sidelined him since spring training.

The 33-year-old right-hander allowed one hit over 1 1/3 innings for Triple-A Salt Lake in a rehab outing on Monday.

Los Angeles opened a roster spot by optioning right-hander Mike Morin to the Bees on Thursday (see full story).

Athletics: Popular catcher Vogt designated for assignment
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Catcher Stephen Vogt has been designated for assignment by the Oakland Athletics, while rookie infielder Matt Chapman went on the 10-day disabled list with an infection in his left knee that kept him out of three straight games.

Vogt hit .217 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 54 games this season with 36 starts at catcher and seven as the designated hitter.

A two-time AL All-Star, Vogt entered as a pinch-hitter Wednesday then played left field for the first time since July 2, 2014, at Detroit, and had several balls immediately hit his way. But Oakland lost a third straight game since a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees last weekend.

Also Thursday, the A's recalled catcher Bruce Maxwell and first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson from Triple-A Nashville (see full story).

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Cardinals 1

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Cardinals 1

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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.