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.

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

BOX SCORE

The loudest noise made by the Phillies' offense on Monday night was the thud — clearly audible above the small crowd — that Odubel Herrera created when he smashed his batting helmet on the dirt infield after grounding out to third base to end the seventh inning.

Herrera's frustration spoke for an entire team. The Phillies were hammered, 8-1, by the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay). They were out-hit, 13-3. The loss was the Phils' 18th in the last 22 games and they have been outscored 126-89 over that span.

The loss left the Phils at 15-27 for the season, matching their worst 42-game start since 2000 when they finished 65-97 in front of tiny crowds at Veterans Stadium in Terry Francona's last season as skipper.

Over the last two games, both losses, the Phils have just six hits.

"Three hits today, three hits yesterday," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You're not going to win a lot of games getting three hits."

Aaron Altherr had two of the Phillies' hits, both doubles against Colorado rookie Jeff Hoffman, who was very impressive with seven walk-free innings and seven strikeouts.

Herrera went hitless in three at-bats and is hitting just .200 in the month of May and .232 overall — not what the front office expected when it signed him to a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason.

"It's very frustrating because I feel like I am being selective and waiting for my pitch, but when I make contact things don't happen," Herrera said. "I feel like I'm swinging the bat well, but I'm just missing."

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff gave up nine hits, seven of which were singles, and four runs over six innings. Four of the hits that Eickhoff allowed came in the third inning when the Rockies scored three times. Two of the runs scored on a flare double and the other on a groundball through a drawn-in infield.

"I executed a lot of good pitches," Eickhoff said. "I got a lot of the contact I wanted. The ball just didn't land in the gloves."

Eickhoff did not walk a batter. He struck out four.

Despite being 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA in nine starts, the right-hander believes he has made strides his last two outings. He gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings in his previous outing at Texas. Prior to that start, he worked on fixing a mechanical flaw in his delivery.

"These past two have been night-and-day different," he said. "I felt great today and in Texas and I'm going to keep that positivity going."

Finding other things to be positive about with this team is becoming difficult.

This Phillies team was not expected to contend; it is still in a rebuild. But things weren't supposed to be this bad, either.

"I'll tell you what, I'm getting frustrated, too," general manager Matt Klentak said before the game. "This team is better … there is more talent on this team than we've shown in terms of our record.

"We'll pull out of it. We will. That's what talented players will do. I'm not going to tell the fans they shouldn't be frustrated. We've gone through a tough stretch.

"But I'm not ready to call it regression. I think there's been a lack of consistency on our team in general, with some players more than others. There's been a lack of consistency, but especially for young players, two months is a relatively small sample size to categorize it as regression."

At 29-17, the Rockies have the best record in the National League. They have 16 road wins, which is one more than the Phillies have overall. The Rockies are in town for three more days. This ugly start could get even uglier.

Best of MLB: Twins pound out 21 hits, storm back to beat Orioles

Best of MLB: Twins pound out 21 hits, storm back to beat Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Max Kepler homered and drove in four runs, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco each had a career-high four hits and the Minnesota Twins roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-7 Monday night.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning and 6-2 entering the fifth before cranking up the offense against Ubaldo Jimenez and an ineffective Baltimore bullpen.

A two-run double by Kepler helped the Twins knot the score in the fifth, Minnesota sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run sixth and Sano added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Joe Mauer had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice for the Twins, who reached season highs in runs and hits (21).

Adam Jones hit a three-run drive in the second inning off Kyle Gibson (1-4) for Baltimore (see full recap).

Peacock, Astros 1-hit Tigers
HOUSTON -- Brad Peacock and three relievers combined for a one-hitter and Jose Altuve provided the offense with an RBI double to lead the Houston Astros to 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.

Peacock was solid moving out of the bullpen to make a spot start for injured ace Dallas Keuchel. In his first start since September, Peacock allowed the lone hit and struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings. He was lifted after walking Tyler Collins with one out in the fifth inning.

Chris Devenski (3-2) took over and pitched 2 2/3 innings for the win before Will Harris pitched a scoreless eighth. Ken Giles struck out two in the ninth for his 12th save to allow the Astros to bounce back after being swept by the Indians over the weekend.

Detroit's only hit was a single by Mikie Mahtook with one out in the third on a night the Tigers tied a season high by striking out 14 times. The team's only baserunner after Collins was Victor Martinez, who was plunked with one out in the seventh. But Houston still faced the minimum in that inning when J.D. Martinez grounded into a double play to end the seventh.

The Astros struck early against Michael Fulmer (5-2) when George Springer drew a leadoff walk before scoring on the double by Altuve to make it 1-0 with one out in the first (see full recap).

Homers help Yankees top Royals
NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Chris Carter homered, and the New York Yankees once again downed Jason Vargas by beating the Kansas City Royals 4-2 Monday night.

A reversed umpire's call in the seventh inning kept the Yankees ahead and enabled Michael Pineda (5-2) to top Vargas for the second time in a week. The Royals, with the worst record in the AL, have lost five of seven.

Vargas (5-3) began the day with a 2.03 ERA, tied for second-best in the majors. But the lefty fell to 0-7 lifetime against the Yankees when he was tagged by Gardner and Gregorius, the only left-handed hitters in the New York lineup (see full recap).