Phillies-Giants: What you need to know

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Phillies-Giants: What you need to know

Phillies (5-5) at San Francisco Giants (4-6)10:15 p.m. on TCN

The Phillies won the first leg of a 10-game road trip by beating the Giants, 5-2, on Monday night as Roy Halladay outdueled Tim Lincecum. Get ready for the middle game of a three-game set in San Francisco with our scouting report.

Starting Pitchers
Joe Blanton (1-1, 2.35 ERA) makes his second start of the season after previously losing an outing in relief. Blanton cruised last Thursday, allowing one run on three hits to the Marlins over seven innings. Blantons fastball was sharp against Miami, averaging 90.4 miles per hour, a full mile per hour more than his career average.

For the Giants, Madison Bumgarner makes his third start coming off of a terrific outing at Coors Field. The 25-year-old lefty, who signed a six-year extension Monday, struggled in his first start in Arizona, allowing nine baserunners, two homers and four runs over just four innings. Bumgarner bounced back to limit the Rockies to one run over 7 13 last Thursday.

Previous games
The Phillies scored four runs in the first inning Monday to defeat Lincecum and win their fourth game in the last five meetings at AT&T Park. Prior to that, the Phils had gone 3-7 in their last 10 in San Fran.

Halladay didnt have his best stuff he walked three batters for only the fifth time in 68 starts with the Phillies but still lasted eight innings to pick up his third win. Jonathan Papelbon faced four batters in the ninth to pick up his third save in as many chances.
Head-to-head
The Phillies are 11-10 in 21 regular-season meetings with the Giants since the start of 2009. Last year, the Phils won the season series for the first time since 2006.

Blanton has faced the Giants twice as a member of the Phillies, once in 2009 and once in 2010. He allowed two runs over seven innings in the first start, and two runs over 6 13 in the second. Blanton walked none and struck out 12 over those 13 13 innings.

The pitcher Giants fans refer to as MadBum has made just one regular-season start against the Phils. Bumgarner struck out nine Phillies over eight innings last August, but the two second-inning runs he allowed were the difference as the Giants ran into the Cliff Lee August buzzsaw. Lee shut San Fran out and went 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA in the month. (...And it wasn't even his best month of the season.)

Angel Pagan, who figures to lead off Tuesday night, is 6 for 12 off Blanton with two home runs.

Minus Ryan Howard, the Phillies are 7 for 24 (.292) off Bumgarner. Hunter Pence and John Mayberry hit back-to-back solo home runs off Bumgarner last season at spacious, windy AT&T Park.

Whos hot
Shane Victorino went 2 for 4 on Monday to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Victorino, one of four Phillies batting .300 or higher, has a .316 clip on the season.

Laynce Nix almost certainly wont start Tuesday, as his struggles against lefties are Greg Dobbsian, but he is 2 for his last 5 with a pair of doubles to drive in three runs.

Whos not
The answer is still Placido Polanco, who went 1 for 4 on Monday with a first-inning double that should have been a routine flyout. Polanco continues to make weak contact only five of his 30 balls put into play have been line drives.

Storylines
A win would put the Phillies above .500 for the first time since the season-opener. It would also clinch their second straight series win in San Francisco.

A righty-heavy lineup expect to see John Mayberry in left field and Ty Wigginton at first base could find success against Bumgarner. Right-handers have hit .271 with a .716 OPS off Bumgarner in his career. Lefties are at .236 with a .614 OPS.

Pay close attention to Blantons fastball. It was by far his best pitch against the Marlins, saving 1.7 runs in the game according to Fangraphs. A key in that start was not overusing the fastball early in the count. Blanton threw it on the first pitch of an at-bat just 52 percent of the time.

Sound off
Which Phillie would you most like to see have a productive game at the plate Tuesday night?

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."