Phillies Notes: Howard, Brown looking to salvage season

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Phillies Notes: Howard, Brown looking to salvage season

As the Phillies look to the final two months of the season, manager Ryne Sandberg says he will attempt to get as much playing time for a bunch of his players.

In fact, Sandberg says there is still plenty of time for players -- namely Ryan Howard and Dom Brown -- to salvage their subpar seasons.

Howard, whose struggles in the middle of the Phillies’ lineup have been well-documented and are entering the realm of historical futility, will get a chance to turn it around. In fact, Howard will get the chance against lefty starters, too, including the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel.

“I’m trying to give him an opportunity to get at-bats and get hot and get going,” Sandberg said before Tuesday night’s series opener against Houston. “Sometimes the remedy is to face a left-handed pitcher where the left-handed hitter has to focus on staying up the middle and left-center field, so hopefully that goes a long way.”

Batting just .215 with a .664 OPS, Howard doesn’t have a hit since last Wednesday and has one hit in his last 25 at-bats. Though he recently sat out of three straight games in order to make some needed adjustments, Howard’s struggles persist.

“He continues to make adjustments and look for a comfort zone in the at the plate,” Sandberg said.

“The reason for the rest was for him to make adjustments, which he continues to search for and continues to do, so hopefully he gets it going.”

Still, Sandberg has been unable to work in Darin Ruf at first base and the slugger has just six starts since July 22. Nevertheless, with Brown still recovering from a case of tonsillitis, Ruf is getting a start in left field on Tuesday night.

“I want the best for best players and for Ryan Howard to get going and for Darin Ruf to get some at-bats,” Sandberg said.

Still time for Brown?
Like Howard, Brown has struggled to produce anything close to his All-Star-caliber numbers from a season ago. Batting just .231 with a .281 on-base percentage, Brown’s power appears to have waned, too. Since the 2013 All-Star Game, Brown has eight home runs.

Brown hit 12 homers in May of 2013 alone.

Perhaps Brown is looking for that one hot month to give his stats some shine.

At this point, it’s all he can cling to for the rest of 2014.

“I've always been in this spot, so it's not that big a deal to me,” Brown said. “Going out there, playing my game, playing hard, doing whatever I gotta do for the team. That's all I'm here for. I'm here to win, not for finances, that's just icing on the cake. I enjoy the game, I enjoy being here.

“I've been down this road for three or four years now, so it's not nothing new to me.”

Though he hasn’t been pounding the homers like last season, Brown takes solace in the fact he has 50 RBIs in 103 games. With a hot final two months of the season, perhaps he can pad those totals a bit.

“Oh yeah, for sure, I've got 50 RBIs. End up at 80 or 90, that'd sound great,” Brown said. “Like I said I'm trying to do my little part for the team, whatever that is. I don't know if I'm platooning or what, but whenever Ryno calls on my name I'll be ready to go.”

Lee all but finished?
Sandberg said lefty starter Cliff Lee will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury on his left elbow sometime in the near future. An exam on Saturday did not reveal much, according to the manager.

However, since the injury is similar to the one Lee experienced in May, Sandberg sees the clock running out on 2014 for Lee.

“Since it’s a recurrence and the last one took two months, that’s the reality. That’s the reality here,” Sandberg 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.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling 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. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

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.

Best of MLB: Padres score 4 off Papelbon in 9th, take series from Nationals

Best of MLB: Padres score 4 off Papelbon in 9th, take series from Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The San Diego Padres' three-city road trip didn't begin well. Earning their first series victory against the Washington Nationals since 2011 is helping to turn it around.

Alex Dickerson and Ryan Schimpf hit back-to-back homers off Shawn Kelley in the eighth inning and the Padres added four runs off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth to beat the Nationals 10-6 on Sunday.

"We've been on the road for a little bit, and it's definitely good to come here against a team like this and get two wins out of it," said Schimpf, whose team suffered a four-game sweep in St. Louis before winning two of three in Washington.

Ryan Buchter (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth to earn the victory.

With the game tied at 6, Wil Myers drew a one-out walk off Papelbon and moved to second on a wild pitch before Yangervis Solarte's RBI single. The Padres added two more singles to load the bases, setting up Alexei Ramirez's three-run double (see full recap).

Matz earns 1st win since May as Mets beat Marlins
MIAMI -- Helped by a couple of small victories against Giancarlo Stanton, Steven Matz earned a big win for the New York Mets.

Matz pitched six innings Sunday for his first win since May, twice escaping trouble by getting Stanton to ground out with a runner in scoring position, and the Mets took the rubber game of their series against Miami, 3-0.

"It was good to go out there and put up zeroes and get a win," Matz said.

The Mets won two of three games in the series and returned home trailing second-place Miami by half a game in the NL East.

"This was crunch time for us," manager Terry Collins said. "We couldn't lose any more ground. This was a good series for us to win."

Matz (8-6) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six. Pitching despite a bone spur in his elbow, he had been 0-5 in his past nine starts with an ERA of 4.73 (see full recap).

Reimold's HR helps Orioles beat Indians 5-3 for 3-game sweep
BALTIMORE -- This is how good things are going for the Orioles at home this season: After blowing a late-inning lead, Baltimore launched the game-winning uprising with a third strike.

Pinch-hitter Nolan Reimold hit a decisive two-out homer in the ninth inning after Pedro Alvarez reached on a strikeout, and the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 5-3 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

Cody Allen (2-4) began the ninth by striking out Alvarez, but the ball eluded catcher Roberto Perez. After fielding the bouncing ball off the backstop, Perez hit Alvarez in the helmet with the throw for an error.

"As long as I have been playing baseball the rule is you run down the baseline," Alvarez said. "I saw the ball get away from him and I just ran down to first base."

A sacrifice bunt and a strikeout followed before Reimold lined a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats (see full recap).

DeShields homers as Rangers top Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Delino DeShields is known for his speed, stealing 101 bases in 2012 in the minors, not for his power.

DeShields homered in the seventh inning to break a tie and the Texas Rangers defeated the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Sunday.

DeShields, who was recalled Thursday from Triple-A Round Rock, walked and doubled before leading off the seventh with his third home run. DeShields hit a 2-1 pitch from Luke Hochevar out to left.

"It so happened that today I was the guy that got us the go-ahead run," DeShields said. "I was just trying to hit the ball hard. I wasn't looking for anything specific. I wanted to get on base. Before I had gotten on base in every at-bat.

"With the game tied and if I get myself in scoring position, there's a good chance for me to touch home plate. I got into it pretty good and got it over the fence, but the main focus was just putting the barrel on the ball and try to get on base."

The loss dropped the Royals to 48-49, the first time the World Series champions have been below .500 since May 15 when they were 18-19. The Royals have lost 13 of 19 games in July (see full recap).

Andres Blanco breaks finger as beat-up Phillies drop series to Pirates

Andres Blanco breaks finger as beat-up Phillies drop series to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Andres Blanco isn’t the type of player who will generate a lot of headlines over the course of a season.
 
But the 32-year-old utility infielder is a favorite of manager Pete Mackanin for his ability to fill in capably at all four infield positions. The nine-year veteran is also popular in the clubhouse for his pleasant nature and unselfishness.
     
The Phillies will be without Blanco for 15 days and maybe longer after he suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning of Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates when spiked on the hand by Gregory Polanco on a play at third base (see Instant Replay).
 
Blanco will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday night before the Phillies open a three-game series against the Marlins at Miami.
 
“It’s a tough loss,” Mackanin said. “He is a valuable part of the team. He’s a guy with experience and he’s dependable. Hopefully, we’ll get him back a quicker than we hope. I don’t like the idea of being without him for long.”
 
Blanco will be examined by Phillies’ team doctors Monday in Philadelphia.
 
He needed four stitches to close a cut on the finger. There is a chance he will need surgery both because of the fracture and the risk of possible infection caused by the dirt from Polanco’s spikes getting into Blanco’s bloodstream through the cut.
 
Blanco was making his second straight start at third base in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.
 
Franco took over at third for Blanco, who is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season. Blanco hit a solo home run with two outs in the first inning off rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon to open the scoring.
 
The Phillies lack a true backup infielder beyond Blanco, which makes Taylor Featherstom the most logical candidate to be called up from Lehigh Valley as he is already on the 40-man roster.
 
Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for cash considerations just before the start of spring training, the 26-year-old has spent the entire season in the International League and is hitting .264 with 12 home runs in 87 games.
 
The Phillies did get some good injury news as Franco showed no ill effects from his wrist injury and went 1 for 2.
 
Also, catcher Cameron Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol for a second straight day after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate as Mackanin wanted to give Rupp an extra day off.
 
"If you get hit in the head, you probably want to take a little bit more precaution than if it was another part of your body,” Rupp said.
 
The Phillies were not happy that Glasnow hit Rupp and starting pitcher Aaron Nola in Saturday’s game, especially after Franco got drilled the day before. However, Rupp said he did not think the 23-year-old was headhunting.
 
“I don't believe the kid did it on purpose,” Rupp said. “It happens. Balls get away from people.”
 
Outfielder Aaron Altherr is also expected to make his season debut Wednesday with the Phillies at Miami. He has been on the disabled list all season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left wrist, an injury he suffered during spring training.
 
Altherr hit .241 with five home runs in 39 late-season games last year after making his major league debut in 2014 and going 0 for 5. He figures to be an offensive upgrade over left fielder Cody Asche and right fielder Peter Bourjos.
 
“Altherr got a taste of it here last year and did very well,” Mackanin said. “He can catch the ball, too, which is important to me. I’m looking forward to having him and seeing if he can build off last season. The lack of production from the corner outfielders has been a bane of ours all season and we could use some help.”