Phillies notch another walk-off win over Rockies

slideshow-phillies-team-celebrate-ap.jpg

Phillies notch another walk-off win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

It was a curious thing when Jimmy Rollins took off from second base with two outs in the ninth inning and the Phillies trailing by a run to the Colorado Rockies in Thursday night’s dramatic 5-4 victory at Citizens Bank Park.

No, it wasn’t odd that Rollins would attempt to steal third base in that situation. Clearly, Rollins saw that it wasn’t a risk.

But why would the Rockies allow the tying run to get 90 feet from the plate after the Phillies had rallied for a walk-off win in the ninth barely 24 hours before?

So didn’t it just figure that the only way Rollins could have scored on Michael Young’s slow roller to the left of the pitcher’s mound was if he was on third base? With the way things have gone for the Phillies since Sunday, yes.

Dom Brown delivered the walk-off hit this time, scoring Young to seal the dramatics (see Instant Replay). How dramatic has it been lately? The Phillies have won four out of their last five games all by one run and three of them on walk-offs. Moreover, in Ryne Sandberg’s first week as manager of the Phillies, the team is 4-3 and feeling good after winning their first four-game series of the season.

Sure, the Phillies are still way behind in the standings. At 57-70, the Phillies are 20 games behind the first-place Braves, but they still feel like they have something to play for.

“It’s what winning will do,” Young said. “As tough as that stretch was -- and there’s no getting around it, it was a very difficult stretch for our team -- I felt like we knew we were better than that. And we look forward to showing that over the next five weeks.”

In the late innings of Thursday’s game, just like on Wednesday night, the Phillies seemed headed for a loss to the Rockies. Thursday’s game was especially dire with the Phillies trailing by three with four outs to go.

But that’s where it started. Darin Ruf belted a two-run homer with two outs to cut the deficit to one run. For Ruf it was his ninth homer of the season and seventh in August, the sixth most in the league for the month.

In the ninth, the Phillies again didn’t get going until there were two outs. After Roger Bernadina and Kevin Frandsen were retired easily by closer Rafael Betancourt, Rollins laced a 1-1 pitch into the corner in right for the double.

Two pitches later, he was standing on third with a stolen base.

Young’s dribbler and a six-pitch walk to Chase Utley (his third walk of the game) set the stage for Brown to deliver the walk-off piece.

Suddenly, the Phillies are having fun.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” Brown said. “Mike’s at-bat was very big, getting Jimmy in from third, and him stealing that base right there was definitely big as well. I just got a good pitch to hit. I knew he was going to try to get ahead of me with the first pitch. I was just looking for something up to drive.”

It was Brown’s second walk-off of his career, with the other coming on June 17 against Washington. Meanwhile, the Phillies have scored 17 runs in their last four wins and nine of those runs have come in the last two innings.

Actually, nine of the 17 runs have come with four outs or fewer to go in the game.

Needless to say, Sandberg believes games like Thursday -- as well as Wednesday and Sunday -- can spiral. Good vibes are infectious, Sandberg said, and the Phillies are feeling pretty good, lately.

“There’s a sense in these games that good things can happen with a positive energy and the guys pulling for each other,” Sandberg said. “The guys are having quality at-bats and rising to the occasion and then getting the big hit.”

Getting the big hit with a flair for the dramatic, too. Better late than never, right?

“I’d like to do something before those final at-bats, to be honest with you,” Young said. “The key is making sure we’re getting wins. I think the biggest thing is that we’re bearing down as a team and I think that’s something we weren’t doing earlier in the year. We talked about it as a team, we weren’t coming back at all. If we were down, we were losing. It feels good to show some life, show some heart at the end of these games.”

The Phillies continue their 10-game homestand on Friday night when the Arizona Diamondbacks arrive for three games. The pitching matchups for the series are:

Friday: Cole Hamels (5-13, 3.61) vs. LHP Wade Miley (9-8, 3.56)
Saturday: Ethan Martin (2-2, 5.23) vs. RHP Randall Delgado (4-4, 3.82)
Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (13-3, 2.45).

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff pitched two innings, allowed a hit, a run, walked one and struck out two in his spring debut on Monday.

Afterward, manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he believed Eickhoff's ceiling was.

"He's a pretty darn good pitcher right now," Mackanin said.

Indeed, he is.

In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old right-hander led the Phillies' starting staff in ERA (3.65), starts (33) and innings pitched (197 1/3).

He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining three pretty good pitchers named Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. He walked just 1.92 batters per nine innings and that was fourth-best among NL starters.

"Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on," Mackanin said. "He throws strikes. He knows what he's doing."

Eickhoff is intent on building on last year's success in 2017. The guy has a Halladay-like work ethic. He arrived in Clearwater on Feb. 1 and got right to work. After his two innings of work on Monday, he put in a couple of hours in the weight room and on a back field running.

"I just have to continue working," he said. "I have a very high standard for myself as a lot of us in here do. We want to be the best players that we can be."

Eickhoff is working on improving his changeup this spring and his overall goal is to make every start -- as he did last season.

"That's the priority -- make every start," he said. "That's always a priority for me.

"I'd also like to incorporate the changeup a little more and use my slider and curveball and not get heavily reliant on one or the other, which happened several times last year and I think got me into trouble at times. So incorporating both for the duration of the season and just being more crisp with execution and location is my goal.

"I'm always looking to get better. I think the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux and guys like that did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up."

Eickhoff lines up to start the second game of the regular season behind projected opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson.

The game
The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2. The Phils are 2-2 on the spring.

Maikel Franco had two hits, including his third homer of the spring. It was a long drive to left field on a 1-2 fastball. He also had a single to right field.

"The thing I like early in the spring from him is he's going deeper into counts," Mackanin said. "I think he's working toward a good year this year."

Stassi impresses
Non-roster player Brock Stassi, a candidate to win a job as a reserve first baseman and outfielder (see story), did not play in the game. He, however, has a single, double and homer in the first three games.

Mackanin gushed about Stassi’s defense when asked about it Monday.

"He's one of the best first basemen I've seen in a real long time," Mackanin said. "He has no need to improve on his defense and I like the way he swings the bat. He's a real solid baseball player so he's a guy I really want to get a good look at."

Pitching matters
Starting pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are both projected to pitch at Triple A. Both have been slowed early in camp because of health reasons, but are progressing well. Thompson has a sore right wrist and Eflin is recovering from a pair of surgeries to address tendinitis in both knees.

Both pitchers will continue to throw in the bullpen this week and ramp up to live batting practice next week. There is plenty of time for both pitchers to get their arms ready to open the season. However, the Phillies may decide to take a cautious approach with Eflin and let him build some more strength in his knees before they turn him loose. He could stay in Florida for a couple of extra weeks before joining the Triple A club.

Up next
The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz will make his first start of the spring. Here is the Phillies' posted starting lineup for the game:

1. Freddy Galvis, SS
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, DH
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Chris Coghlan, RF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Scott Kingery, 2B

MLB Notes: Josh Hamilton undergoes knee surgery

MLB Notes: Josh Hamilton undergoes knee surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton has had another surgery on his balky left knee, ending any chance of the 2010 AL MVP making the Texas Rangers' opening day roster.

The arthroscopic procedure Monday was to repair some damaged meniscus cartilage in his left knee. There were no issues with the surgically repaired ACL in that knee.

Hamilton had left spring training in Arizona and returned to Houston for the second time in less than a week to be examined by Dr. Walt Lowe, who also performed Hamilton's season-ending surgery last June.

The latest knee procedure is the 11th in Hamilton's career, and the third since the 35-year-old slugger last played in the majors in 2015.

Hamilton, in camp on a minor league contract, faces six weeks of rehabilitation before he will be able to start running again.

Orioles: Bourn broke finger during football drill
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Baltimore outfielder Michael Bourn hasn't played football since his sophomore year in high school. But it's a pigskin injury that's preventing him from playing this spring for the Orioles.

On Friday, the speedy 34-year-old broke his right ring finger catching a football at a workout. Bourn, who signed a minor league contract on Feb. 20, will be out for four weeks, making it difficult for him to be ready for Baltimore's April 3 opener. He'll make $2 million if he's put on the 40-man roster.

Bourn has difficult competition. Another veteran major league outfielder, Craig Gentry, signed two days before, plus the Orioles want to take long looks at Rule 5 outfielders Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez. Joey Rickard, a Rule 5 pick who played with the team last season, is also a serious contender.

Because he signed late, Bourn hadn't played.

"I was ready to go and pretty much ready to get into games the next couple days and now I've got to wait a about four weeks to heal. I want it to heal correctly but I want to push it, too. There's really nothing I can do about it," he said. (see full story)

Indians: Kipnis sidelined by shoulder injury
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has a rotator cuff strain and will stop throwing for a couple days.

Kipnis got a cortisone shot on Saturday, and manager Terry Francona didn't sound very worried about the situation.

"If it was during the season we wouldn't do anything," Francona said before Sunday's spring game against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. "There's so much time to get ready that to kind of put a Band-Aid on it now didn't seem to make sense."

The 29-year-old Kipnis hit .275 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs last season, helping Cleveland to the AL Central title. He added four more homers and eight RBIs in the playoffs as the Indians made it all the way to the World Series before losing to the Cubs in seven games.

Kipnis had been on a shoulder program.

"I would say probably eight out of 10 guys, as they get their arms loose, you feel something," Francona said. "You throw through stuff and you get through the aches and pains of getting back, but then when there is some history there, you just try to use good judgment.

"He can do all his cardio and everything and all that stuff, but throwing is shut down for four to five days. I don't think he's going to hit today."

The Indians also announced left-hander Tim Cooney will be sidelined for 10 to 12 weeks because of a muscle strain in his arm. Cooney went 1-0 with a 3.16 ERA in six starts with St. Louis last season and was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals in November.

"Originally, they thought it was forearm," Francona said. "It's lower than that. By all accounts, it is an extremely unique area."