Phillies crush Dodgers behind offensive onslaught

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Phillies crush Dodgers behind offensive onslaught

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LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers have been playing in Los Angeles since 1958 and never have they suffered a loss this one-sided.

And to think, it came at the hands of the Phillies, a team that has had trouble scoring runs all season and entered the night averaging just 3.75 runs per game.

What’s that thing Charlie Manuel likes to say? Oh, yeah, baseball’s a funny game.

Riding a 21-hit attack and the strong starting pitching of John Lannan, the Phillies walloped the Dodgers, 16-1, on Friday night (see Instant Replay). It was the Dodgers’ worst home loss since leaving Brooklyn.

“We had a real good night,” Manuel said. “That tells you we can score and get hits. We needed a game like this. Hopefully it carries over.”

This marked the first time all season the Phils reached double-digit runs. Last year, the Phils scored double-digit runs six times. They did it 12 times in 2011.

The Phils arrived at the mathematical halfway point of the season with a 39-42 record. They are 3-2 on this important 10-game road trip, and here’s the galling part of that: They coulda, woulda, shoulda won the two games they lost. They blew a lead in the ninth inning in one of those losses and in the seventh inning in the other.

“That’s the consistency we always talk about,” Manuel said.

Friday night’s offensive charge was led by Michael Young, who had four hits, including a homer, in the ballpark of his boyhood dreams.

“I love this place,” Young, a Los Angeles-area native, said of Dodger Stadium. “My earliest memories of loving baseball started in this ballpark.

“We were overdue for a game like this. We’ve all been on the other side of these things. It’s just one of those odd games where we found some holes and got some breaks.”

Another Los Angeles-area guy had a big night with the stick. Delmon Young had three hits, including an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run double in the second. He finished the night with a career-high six RBIs.

Delmon Young’s second-inning double was his seventh straight hit in a three-game span. He is 9 for 14 in those three games, a spree that coincided with Manuel’s saying that it was time for Delmon Young to kick it in gear.

Three games ago, Delmon Young was hitting .222. Now he’s at .259.

“Maybe he heard me,” Manuel said of Delmon Young.

Delmon Young missed the first month recovering from ankle surgery. He has continually said he was a slow starter and would be a different hitter when he got to about 150 at-bats. He is at 158.

“Usually when I get to about 150 at-bats, it starts clicking,” Delmon Young said. “It was a matter of time.”

Delmon Young contributed to the Phils’ all-around solid play by gunning down a man at the plate from right field.

“It was a good game, top to bottom,” he said. “Lannan kept putting up zeroes and we kept having good at-bats.

“We could have won every game on this trip. We need to keep doing that the next couple of weeks and we’ll make up some ground.”

With a half season to go, the Phillies trail Atlanta by 7½ games in the NL East. They play the Braves three times on the next homestand.

Lannan joined the hit parade with three of them. On the mound, he benefited from his teammates building a six-run lead against lefty Chris Capuano after two innings.

“It’s good to get that run support,” said Lannan, who is 1-2 in six starts with the Phils. “It forced me to pound the zone.”

The Phils’ biggest offensive night of the season came with their highest-paid hitter, Ryan Howard, sitting on the bench (see story). He must have felt like the guy who called in sick the day the folks at the office chipped in and bought the winning Power Ball ticket.

Howard will sit again Saturday as he tries to clear his head and stay away from one of those left-handed starters that have given him fits. Howard will return to the lineup Sunday. By then we’ll have an idea whether Friday night’s one-sided win was a streak-builder for the Phils or an aberration.

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies (45-55) at Marlins (53-45)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

After three straight series losses to begin the second half, the Phillies head to Miami for three games with the Marlins. It's the second leg of a 10-game road trip that takes the Phils to Atlanta for four games later in the week.

Let's take a look at the series opener:

1. Hellickson's sendoff?
Jeremy Hellickson makes his 21st and potentially final start for the Phillies tonight in South Florida. The Marlins are one of the teams after him, so it's possible he could just switch clubhouses later this week. 

Hellickson has boosted his trade value substantially over the last five weeks, posting a 2.54 ERA with five quality starts in six tries. He enters Monday's game 7-7 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Those are better and more consistent numbers than you'll find attached to many other pitchers on the trade market, rentals or otherwise. 

It was on this day last year that Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs which turned out to be the tipping point for the Rangers, who several days later traded the Phillies six players, four of whom were intriguing prospects now thriving in this organization. Hellickson isn't going to no-hit the Fish tonight, but if he has a similarly well-timed good start, it could result in a better return for the Phils this time around, too.

Hellickson's last start was against the Marlins in the only game in last week's four-game series that the Phillies won. He allowed one run on five hits over eight innings with eight strikeouts.

Hellickson's control has been superb this season. He's walked just 27 batters in 119⅔ innings, or 2.0 per nine innings. That's nearly a full walk per nine less than his previous career rate of 2.9. It's a major reason that Hellickson has been able to maintain a sub-4.00 ERA despite allowing 19 home runs in 20 starts.

2. Scouting Cosart
The Phillies will face their former farmhand Jarred Cosart, who is 0-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three starts this season. It's been a troubling year for Cosart, who missed a month with an oblique injury and has spent most of the season struggling at Triple A. He had a 5.22 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 12 starts with Triple A New Orleans.

Way back in 2011, Cosart headlined the Astros' return in the Hunter Pence trade. Houston received Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana for the rightfielder. None panned out in the Astros' organization, with Cosart getting traded three years later, Singleton continuing to struggle in the minors and Santana ending up in Milwaukee.

Cosart has disappointed the most of the bunch. After going 13-11 with a 3.69 ERA in 2014, his career has taken a downward trend. He's never been a big strikeout guy despite throwing in the mid-90s, and his control has always been poor. Cosart has walked 15 batters in 14⅔ innings this season and 4.3 per nine innings in his major-league career. 

He did have success, though, in three starts against the Phillies last season, going 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 12 strikeouts to three walks in 15 innings. But this lineup is much different than that one. 

Cosart is mostly a three-pitch pitcher who uses a cutter, sinker and curveball. The cutter is his main pitch, averaging 93 mph. 

3. Injuries piling up
In the span of just a few days, Maikel Franco was hit by a pitch on the wrist, Cameron Rupp was hit in the helmet and Andres Blanco fractured a finger. They've been three of the Phillies' five best offensive players this season.

Franco returned Sunday to replace Blanco, a good sign that he should be ready to go this week in Miami and Atlanta. But each Franco at-bat bears watching because wrist injuries can sap a player of his power. 

Rupp, too, could return to the starting lineup as soon as tonight after passing MLB's concussion protocol. He's hitting .276 with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and an .810 OPS in his breakout 2016 season.

4. Bourjos back to Earth
After hitting .410 in June, Peter Bourjos has hit .227 in July with a meager .263 on-base percentage. He's 4 for 36 (.111) over his last nine games with one walk, one RBI and 10 strikeouts.

Bourjos is another player the Phillies could trade this week to clear up room on the roster for Aaron Altherr and/or Nick Williams. In Bourjos and Jimmy Paredes, the Phils have replaceable outfielders who don't figure to factor too much into their future. It wouldn't simply be wishful thinking to say that by next week, the Phils' starting outfield could be Williams in left field, Odubel Herrera in center and Altherr in right.

Altherr's rehab assignment ends Wednesday. At that point the Phillies must decide whether to call him up or option him to Triple A. 

5. Almost Thompson time?
It's no coincidence that IronPigs ace Jake Thompson pitches tonight, the same night as Hellickson. Thompson would be a ready-made replacement for Hellickson in the rotation if/when Hellickson is dealt. Thompson is on a ridiculous roll at Triple A, having allowed just four earned runs over his last 62⅓ innings spanning nine starts. He's lowered his ERA from 4.23 to 2.29 over that stretch thanks to a sky-high rate of weak groundballs.

Even if Thompson were to struggle tonight, the Phillies would still likely turn to him to replace Hellickson. There doesn't seem to be much left for him to prove at Triple A, where every International League starting pitcher with an ERA even close to his 2.29 has been called up to the majors.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

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PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday (see game notes).

Hellickson's value has rebounded significantly this season after he struggled in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks' trading him to the Phillies for limited value in the offseason. 

In 20 starts this season, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, posting a 3.84 ERA with just 2.0 walks per nine over 119⅔ innings. He also has a career-best strikeout rate of 8.0 per nine innings.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.