Phillies fail to support Lee in loss to Reds

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Phillies fail to support Lee in loss to Reds

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CINCINNATI -- The Phillies are up to their frustrating old tricks again, not scoring enough runs to back solid pitching efforts from Cliff Lee.

Lee made 30 starts last season. The Phillies scored three or fewer runs in 20 of them.

So far this year, the run-support problem is even worse.

Lee has made three starts. The Phils have scored just two runs in two of those games. Lee was able to beat the Braves with that meager support in the third game of the season, but Monday night his strong effort against the Cincinnati Reds went for naught in a 4-2 loss (see Instant Replay).

“That’s baseball,” said Lee, who allowed just two runs in seven innings. “It happens.”

Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo joined Lee in a fast-moving pitchers’ duel. The right-hander didn’t allow a run for 7 2/3 innings until Chase Utley, getting a night off from the starting lineup, tied the game with a two-run pinch-hit homer with two outs in the top of the eighth.

Needing to keep things in check in the bottom of the inning, the Phillies put the ball in reliever Jeremy Horst’s hand, but that move didn’t work. Horst, who had started warming up when Lee was pinch-hit for, allowed a swinging-bunt hit and a flare double to right before Brandon Phillips put the Reds ahead with a two-run single against Mike Adams.

Adams was supposed to fix the Phillies’ leaky eighth inning, but he was not called upon to start the frame because Horst was warm and ready. Instead, Adams was brought in after Horst had issued an intentional walk to load the bases.

“Utley hit a home run with two outs,” manager Charlie Manuel explained. “We didn’t really have very much time to get someone in. Horst hadn’t pitched in five days and he was ready. Actually, with Adams, we’re using him a lot. I’m concerned about him. We were kind of hesitant [to use him]. Also, with the way their lineup was with left-handed hitters coming up at the top of the order, we wanted a lefty. When the guy hit the swinging bunt and then the flare into right field -- that broke everything loose. It wasn’t like Horst did badly. Actually, it was bad luck.”

After the Reds took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, it was ballgame time. Aroldis Chapman got the save. His final pitch was a 100-mph fastball by Ryan Howard.

The loss dropped the Phillies to 6-7.

The Reds are also 6-7.

The Phillies had just five hits in the game. Utley’s homer was the only extra-base hit.

Four games into this trip, the Phils have scored just eight runs. Maybe Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young will help the offense when they are ready at the end of the month.

Leadoff man Ben Revere is down to .222 and his on-base percentage is a woeful .276. Revere could be moved to eighth when Ruiz and Young are ready.

While Revere has struggled lately at the plate, his defense remains top shelf. He made two sensational catches in the first three innings. The first was a running, twisting, diving, over-the-shoulder robbery of Todd Frazier in the second inning, the second a wall-climber on Ryan Hanigan in the third.

Lee called the catch on Frazier “the best I’ve seen in a while. He had to go up and out to get it. It was huge. It saved a run.”

Before the game, Phillies players watched television coverage of the horrific events in Boston where three people were killed in a bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Revere was so moved by the tragic event that he wrote "Pray For Boston" on a piece of tape on his glove. The glove had some magic in it during the game and Revere had seven putouts.

“I’d like to get a Gold Glove,” he said. “I’m busting my tail for that.”

Lee had a difficult inning in the seventh. He allowed two hits and his first walk of the season. He also threw a wild pitch that led to a run and made an error. With little run support, he couldn’t afford an inning like that. Utley eventually got him off the hook, but the Reds rallied against Horst and Adams to claim the win.

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to baseball's Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to baseball's Hall of Fame

NEW YORK -- Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received a majority of votes for the first time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell , on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

"Anxiety was very, very high," Bagwell said. "I wrote it on a ball tonight. It was kind of cool."

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Lee Smith, who had 478 saves, got 34 percent in his final time on the ballot. Jorge Posada, Tim Wakefield and Magglio Ordonez were among the players who got under 5 percent and fell off future ballots.

No splashes, but Phillies significantly upgraded lineup this offseason

No splashes, but Phillies significantly upgraded lineup this offseason

The addition of outfielder Michael Saunders doesn't suddenly make the Phillies an NL contender, but coupled with the trade for Howie Kendrick, the Phils' projected lineup is much deeper and more well-rounded than it was at this time last year.

By adding two capable corner outfield bats, the lineup has been lengthened, and it's unlikely you'll see someone like Freddy Galvis in the five-hole much in 2017.

The Saunders signing is not yet official, but assuming it goes through, the Phils' lineup could look like this on opening day:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (S)
2. Howie Kendrick, LF 
3. Odubel Herrera, CF (L)
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF (L)
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS (S)

Considering the Phillies started Cedric Hunter and Peter Bourjos in the outfield corners last opening day, this is a huge upgrade even if Kendrick and Saunders are not huge names. 

Phillies leftfielders hit .212/.284/.332 last season. Unless Kendrick forgets how to hit overnight, he won't come close to those numbers. Phillies rightfielders had eight home runs in 637 plate appearances last season. Give Saunders that many PAs and you're likely looking at 27 to 30 homers.

Before last season, Kendrick hit between .279 and .322 every year from 2006 to 2015. Having a guy who can hit .290 with a .330-plus on-base percentage in the two-hole is a big deal, especially if he's hitting between Hernandez (.371 OBP last season) and Herrera (.361 OBP). You can foresee plenty of scenarios where, if that's the 1-2-3, Herrera comes up with runners on the corners in the first inning.

Saunders is another 20-plus home run bat. When you look through the Phillies' lineup, there are potentially five of those. Plus, don't sleep on the improvement Herrera made in that department last season, almost doubling his HR total from eight to 15.

The balance of left-handed and right-handed bats will make the Phillies more difficult to pitch to. It was important that the outfield bat they added was left-handed, because if not you'd be looking at an extremely right-handed heavy middle of the order.

Also, don't underestimate the impact of adding two veteran hitters who have had success in the majors. Franco could use all the additional advice he can get. Herrera, too, is at an impressionable age. Might Franco be less likely to give away an at-bat, as he did so many times in 2016, with someone like Kendrick there to greet him at the top step of the dugout? That question may sound silly, but the entire environment changes when you add a respected veteran leader to a clubhouse filled with kids.

This is not to say the Phillies will have a top-five offense in 2017. They'll still likely be toward the bottom-half or bottom-third of the National League, but as of right now this isn't the NL's worst lineup like it was for the majority of last season. The Reds and Padres have worse lineups, and you could add the Brewers and Pirates to that list if Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen are traded.

Pete Mackanin has called for more offense and more lineup flexibility and he's gotten it, even though it doesn't involve real star power. Kendrick's ability to also play first base and second base could allow Aaron Altherr to get some playing time in an outfield corner when Hernandez or Joseph sits. 

The only real casualty of the Saunders signing is Roman Quinn, who Mackanin confirmed Tuesday night would likely spend the year at Triple A. Quinn showed some flashes late last season and is an exciting player, but it would have been risky to rely on him as a starting outfielder in 2017 given he's never even reached 400 plate appearances in a season.