Phillies-Braves: What you need to know

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Phillies-Braves: What you need to know

Phillies (37-47) vs. Atlanta Braves (43-39)7:05 p.m. on CSN
What was in line to be one of the Phillies best wins of the season instead turned into one of the most crushing defeats in a year filled with late-inning misery.

The Phils scored five runs off Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who had allowed zero runs in his six of his previous seven starts, and carried a 5-4 lead into the ninth. But Jonathan Papelbons second blown save led to yet another walkoff loss, this one coming right before Ryan Howard makes his much-anticipated season debut.

Its a shame with the positive feelings surrounding Howards return from Achilles surgery, Thursday night and Friday afternoon could have been a rare high-point for Phillies fans. But the Phils, 10 games under .500 and trailing the Nationals by 13 games, just havent had luck on their side in 2012.

Perhaps the bats will wake up over the next few weeks to propel the Phillies back into contention in the National League. Howard is certainly a help his presence turns the Phillies lineup into one of the best in the league (see story).

Ryans return
The Phillies sorely missed Howard over the first 84 games. Phillies first basemen were 18th in baseball in home runs and OPS and 20th in on-base percentage.

The collection of Ty Wigginton, John Mayberry, Hector Luna, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome hit .258.319.414. Howard, in 2011, his worst full season in the majors, hit .253.346.488. Thats significant.

Starting pitchers
Kyle Kendrick (2-8, 5.35 ERA) takes on Tim Hudson (6-4, 3.87) Friday night.

Kendrick hasnt pitched well lately, but dont tell him that. The righthander allowed five runs in the first inning to Pittsburgh his last time out, his fourth time in the last five starts allowing at least five runs, but after the game said he thought he gave the Phillies a chance to win.

The Phillies are 4-8 in Kendricks starts this season and 4-13 when he appears. He has a 6.96 ERA since pitching a shutout in St. Louis on May 26.

Kendrick is 6-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 15 appearances (10 starts) vs. the Braves. That said, his strikeout and walk numbers against Atlanta are terrible, at 27 and 24 in 67 23 innings.

Hudson has made just 12 starts this year, as he missed much of April with a back injury. Of those 12 starts, five have been great, four were very bad and three were average.

Hudson is 7-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 22 starts against the Phillies. He has 83 strikeouts and 58 walks vs. the Phils for a 1.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio, his worst against any NL foe.

Hudsons repertoire
A sinkerballer, Hudson has had made a great career out of keeping the ball in the infield. He has a 58.8 percent career groundball rate, which is why hes able to get away with striking so few batters out.

Hudsons sinker is between 89-91 miles per hour, and righties have struggled mightily against it in recent years, batting .232 off Hudson since 2009.

Key matchup(s)
The only three-homer game of Ryan Howards career came in Sept. 2006 against Hudson. On that day, the eventual MVP took Hudson deep for his 50th, 51st and 52nd home runs of the season.

Lifetime, Howard is a .327 hitter off Hudson with six homers, 10 walks and just eight strikeouts in 63 plate appearances. Howard has more plate appearances vs. Hudson than any other pitcher.

Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley havent fared well against Hudson, batting a combined .209 in 115 at-bats.

Current Braves are hitting .310 off Kendrick. He must be careful with two Braves in particular Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward.

Bourn is 5 for 10 off Kendrick with a homer. His contract year has gone the exact opposite of Shane Victorinos. While Victorino hasnt hit well, Bourn is experiencing a career year, hitting .307 with a career-high seven home runs, a .812 OPS and 23 steals. He also leads the majors in three-hit games, with 14.

Heyward is on fire. He hit .348 with a 1.053 OPS in June and he already has two more homers in July. Hes just 1 for 11 lifetime off Kendrick, though.

Sound off
Can a Phillies lineup with Howard, Utley, Hunter Pence and a perpetually hot Carlos Ruiz make a second half run to earn a playoff berth?

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Phillies winter meetings preview: Trades, Rule 5 draft, roster crunch

Phillies winter meetings preview: Trades, Rule 5 draft, roster crunch

The Nation’s Capital will become the center of the baseball world over the next week as the winter meetings get underway Sunday in Washington.
 
The meetings run through Thursday morning, concluding with the Rule 5 draft, and will play out against a backdrop of labor peace as the owners and players agreed on a new five-year labor deal on Wednesday night.
 
Teams looking to make a big score on the free-agent market will find sluggers in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, quality producers in Dexter Fowler, Justin Turner and Ian Desmond and proven closers in Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. The trade market features a big name in former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen.
 
As for the local nine, don’t look for a week of head-spinning activity. The Phillies got most of their heavy lifting out of the way early in the offseason when they re-signed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick and reliever Pat Neshek. Hellickson and Kendrick filled two of the team’s stated needs, a veteran innings guy in the rotation and the proverbial professional hitter.
 
This is not to say the Phils won’t be active at the meetings, or in the days leading up to them or following them, because they likely will be. The team still has some secondary areas that need to be addressed, but as for a big, headline-grabbing move, well, nothing like that appears to be cooking — unless, of course, some team wants to give the Phillies multiples of top talent for one of their young core big-leaguers. As we’ve said before, this team has no untouchables and general manager Matt Klentak is willing talk about any player if the return speeds the team’s rebuild and has long-term impact.
 
With that, let’s take a look at some of the matters facing the Phils as they get set to head to the meetings:
 
Backup shortstop/utility infielder
This is an area the team probably needs to address. There are currently five infielders on the 40-man roster: the four projected starters (Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis) and recent addition Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin is strictly a second baseman and projects to play at Triple A. If the Phils had a long-term opening at shortstop, they could push J.P. Crawford. In a pinch, Hernandez could move over from second and play the position. Still, adding a utility infielder is probably a must and that player might have to come on a minor-league contract because the 40-man roster is full. The door has not been closed on the return of Andres Blanco. Even someone like versatile Emmanuel Burris could return.
 
Bullpen help
Klentak made improving the bullpen an offseason priority so it’s likely that he’s looking to make additions beyond just Neshek. As it stands now, the Phils have just one lefty reliever, promising but unproven Joely Rodriguez, so it’s important that Klentak add at least one more lefty through a signing or trade.
 
Backup catcher
The Phils have had longstanding interest in bringing back A.J. Ellis and they've maintained contact with his representatives, but they already have three catchers on their 40-man roster in Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. If the roster pinch gets solved, possibly by dealing from a position of depth and including Knapp in a trade or other transactions, Ellis could return. Other than that, it’s possible Knapp could be the big team’s backup catcher with Alfaro working every day at Triple A.
 
Another bat?
The Phils were last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second-to-last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385) in 2016 so they really need to add more than just Kendrick if they’re going to make a noticeable improvement in their offense. However, management has made it clear that it wants to keep pathways open for young players to advance to the majors.

Barring a trade, seven of the eight starting position spots are pretty much set. Right field is the exception and that would be a nice landing spot for one of those young players, speedy Roman Quinn. There’s a strong possibility that Quinn will be the opening day rightfielder. However, given his health history, it might be wise to add reinforcements beyond Aaron Altherr. So it would not be surprising to see the Phillies add another bat, possibly from the left side, to their bench.
 
Trade rumors
They go hand-in-hand with the winter meetings. Even before the start of the meetings, the Phils have been connected to McCutchen and even power-hitting Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier in rumors. The feel here is that a deal for either player is unlikely, especially McCutchen, whose defense has become a concern. The Phillies are committed to building a lasting contender with their farm system as the foundation. Acquiring a McCutchen or a Dozier would require giving up multiples of young talent and that’s not the way the Phils want to operate at the moment. They're looking to retain as much young talent as possible.
 
Trade talk
Though the Phillies will be protective of their prospects in trades, the do have money and payroll flexibility. This makes it possible that they could fill a need by taking on salary as long as that salary is attached to a short-term contract. The Phils under Klentak have already done this with Hellickson, Charlie Morton and Neshek. And, as mentioned, if some team wants to send the Phils a big return, players like Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Hector Neris would be very much in play.
 
The Rule 5 draft
After landing players like Shane Victorino, David Herndon, Ender Inciarte, Herrera and Tyler Goeddel over the last decade or so, the Phils could end up sitting out this year’s Rule 5 draft. It’s not that they wouldn’t like to add a young player to their stocks and build some spring-training competition, more that they’ve already added so many young players that they’re out of room. The Phils added 11 players in maxing out their 40-man roster two weeks ago, thus protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. No other team added more than eight players.

The Phils pushed their number of protected players to 11 because they were fearful the new Collective Bargaining Agreement could increase roster size from 25 to 26 and an extra spot would make it easier for teams to carry a Rule 5 player. In the end, rosters stayed at 25. Maybe that will help the Phils retain one of the players they chose not to protect. Among that group is left-handed-hitting outfielder Andrew Pullin. There is much rumble around baseball that the Phillies could lose him. Relievers Hoby Milner and Miguel Nunez, outfielder Carlos Tocci and first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi are also names to watch on Thursday.
 
Of immediate concern
Teams have until 8 p.m. Friday to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players or let them become free agents. The Phillies have four such players: Galvis, Hernandez, outfielder Cody Asche and reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Galvis and Hernandez will be tendered contracts. Asche and Gomez are on the fence. Gomez had 37 saves before struggling over the final weeks of the 2016 season. It’s possible the Phils could look to sign him before the tender deadline to a deal below his arbitration salary, projected to be $4.6 million by MLBTradeRumors.com. If Asche is non-tendered, the Phils could pick up a roster spot for a winter-meetings acquisition or a Rule 5 pick.

John Kruk joining Phillies' broadcast booth in 2017

John Kruk joining Phillies' broadcast booth in 2017

John Kruk is back with the Phillies.

According to sources, Kruk will join the team’s television broadcast crew on CSNPhilly during the 2017 season. Kruk will replace Matt Stairs on the broadcast crew and join a team that already includes lead broadcaster Tom McCarthy, color men Mike Schmidt and Ben Davis and sideline reporter Gregg Murphy. Stairs was recently named Phillies hitting coach.

Details of the agreement with Kruk were not immediately known so it’s unclear how many games he will broadcast. Stairs and Davis basically split the 162-game schedule.

Kruk most recently worked as a studio and in-game analyst for ESPN. He left the network on good terms in the fall.

Kruk, 55, played six seasons with the Phillies and made three National League all-star teams. He was a fan favorite and a key member of the 1993 NL pennant-winning team.

Before going into broadcasting, Kruk spent some time as a minor-league hitting coach with the Phillies when his playing career ended. Now he is back with the Phillies.