Phillies notch another walk-off win over Rockies

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Phillies notch another walk-off win over Rockies

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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).

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's 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 up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. 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 Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.