Phillies-Reds 5 things: More rain as Phils go for series win

Phillies-Reds 5 things: More rain as Phils go for series win

Phillies at Reds
12:35 p.m. on CSN and streaming live on and the NBC Sports app

Some game notes ahead of the Phillies' series finale with the Reds Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park:

1. Buchholz's debut
Longtime Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz makes his Phillies debut and first-ever start in the National League after a rough spring.

Buchholz, 32, had a 6.65 ERA in six spring starts, allowing five home runs in 21 2/3 innings.

Buchholz is a reclamation project for GM Matt Klentak and the Phillies. They acquired him in December for minor-league second baseman Josh Tobias, who was expendable with the organization deep in second basemen (Cesar Hernandez, Scott Kingery, Jesmuel Valentin, perhaps Freddy Galvis once J.P. Crawford is called up).

It was a move similar to the Phillies' acquisition last offseason of Jeremy Hellickson from the Diamondbacks. That moved worked out as Hellickson has been the most solid and consistent he's been since his first two years in Tampa. 

But there's more reason for skepticism with Buchholz, who has alternated good and bad seasons in each of the last six. He also had seven trips to the DL from 2008-15.

Buchholz's last successful season was 2015, when he went 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA, 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.8 walks in 18 starts with Boston. 

The Phillies are hoping he pitches well enough in the season's first two months to become an enticing trade candidate. If that doesn't work out, well, it's not like they're committed to him. Buchholz is due $13.5 million this season before reaching free agency. If he stumbles over the first two months and Jake Thompson pitches well at Triple A, you could see Thompson up to take his place.

Buchholz has a pretty diverse repertoire. He has a four-seam fastball (about 93 mph), cutter, curveball, changeup and sinker, and last season he threw each of those pitches between 16 and 25 percent of the time.

2. Searching for offense
The Phillies made left-hander Brandon Finnegan look like an All-Star Wednesday night. He allowed just one hit (in the first inning) over seven shutout innings and struck out nine. 

It's the second straight year Finnegan shut the Phillies down in Game No. 2 of the season. Last April 6, he also struck out nine while allowing two runs over six innings in a Reds win.

Three of the Phillies' four hits last night were infield hits, so there was next to no offense to speak of. With a much different looking lineup on getaway day -- Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Andrew Knapp are starting -- they're hoping to do enough at the plate to leave Cincinnati with a series win over the lowly Reds.

Will they respond?

The Phillies had six games like this last season with no runs and four or fewer hits. On four of the six occasions, they lost the next day, three of them by one run.

3. Fitting name
The Phillies face Reds rookie Rookie Davis. Yes, a rookie named Rookie. His real name is William Davis, but he's had the nickname from his father since birth.

Davis, 23, was one of four prospects the Reds acquired from the Yankees in December 2015 for Aroldis Chapman. 

The 6-foot-5 right-hander spent most of last season at Double A before making a handful of starts at Triple A. All told, he went 10-5 with a 3.82 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 37 walks in 125 innings.

Davis is a strike-thrower with a 93-to-95 mph fastball, a mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. He doesn't project to miss a ton of bats at the major-league level.

4. First start for Stassi and Knapp
Pete Mackanin had already planned to play Brock Stassi and Andrew Knapp Thursday before Wednesday's 2-0 loss, and the Phils are hoping the infusion of two rookies breathes some life into the lineup. Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp were a combined 1 for 15 with seven strikeouts in the first two games.

For Stassi, it's the culmination of a long journey to the majors that was well-documented locally and nationally over the last week. Some nerves will be there for the 27-year-old, but at least he shook some of that off in the season opener with a pinch-hit walk.

With the left-handed hitting Stassi and switch-hitting Knapp in the lineup, Maikel Franco is the only true right-handed hitter in the Phillies' lineup Thursday.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (S)
2. Daniel Nava, LF (S)
3. Odubel Herrera, CF (L)
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF (L)
6. Andrew Knapp, C (S)
7. Brock Stassi, 1B (L)
8. Freddy Galvis, SS (S)
9. Clay Buchholz, P 

5. This and that
• After sitting through a rain delay last night, some more precipitation is in store for the Phillies and Reds Thursday. There is a 50 percent or better chance of rain through 5 p.m.

• Tommy Joseph sits after going 0 for 8 with five strikeouts in the first two games. Pitchers are usually ahead of hitters this early in the season, but Joseph also had difficulty catching up to fastballs at times last season. Mackanin isn't going to switch things up because of two games, but the situations bears watching. 

• How good has John Kruk been so far?

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff


Brock Stassi's toe hurt.
Maikel Franco's ribs and head hurt.
Pain never felt so good.
The Phillies pulled off their most dramatic win of the young season when they rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, at chilly Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night (see Instant Replay).
Franco completed a three-RBI night when he smacked a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single to right to give the Phillies the walk-off win. It was the Phillies' third straight win and fifth in the last seven games as they improved to 8-9 with a chance to sweep a series and even their record at .500 on Sunday afternoon.
Franco will be in the lineup.
But he might need a couple of Advil to get going.
After his game-winning hit, Franco was hilariously chased into right field by his euphoric teammates. The Phillies third baseman absorbed a beat down with Andres Blanco delivering a blow to the top of Franco's head.
"You see that -- boom!" Blanco said in the happy clubhouse after that game.  
Franco did more than see it.

He felt it.
"Whitey got me," he said, laughing and pointing to his head and ribs. "My body is screaming right now."
Across the clubhouse, Stassi was feeling Franco's pain. His foot got stepped on during the happy scrum.
"My toe is killing me," he said with a laugh.
Stassi, too, might need an Advil before Sunday's game. He has a good chance to be in the lineup at first base because Tommy Joseph seems like a candidate for a day off after a tough night. Joseph made a costly throwing error in the top of the 10th inning that helped the Braves take a 3-2 lead.
Stassi helped rescue the Phillies from that deficit. His 10th inning single was the first of three one-out hits that the Phils collected against Braves' closer Jim Johnson. With the bases loaded, Johnson made Odubel Herrera look bad with a swinging strikeout for the second out. That brought up Franco. New hitting coach Matt Stairs is constantly encouraging Franco to use the whole field and that's just what the cleanup man did in lacing a liner to the warning track in right.

"To right field! How 'bout that," manager Pete Mackanin said.
It was Franco's second single of the night. He would have been awarded a game-winning double if he had reached second base. But, alas, he was chased into right field.
In the clubhouse after the game, Franco was told by a club official that he could have had a double had he touched second.
Franco's eyes widened in disbelief.
"Ah, Mikey!" he said, scolding himself.
Then he laughed.
Across the clubhouse, Joseph could laugh about the miscue that saw him throw to an empty third base after a sacrifice bunt in the 10th. With everything moving fast, he mistook shortstop Freddy Galvis for a baserunner as Galvis streaked to cover third.
Joseph's error put a man on third and the Braves scored the go-ahead run on an infield hit.
The ironic part about Joseph's error was the Phillies played excellent defense -- Herrera and Aaron Altherr made great catches in the outfield and Galvis was Galvis at short -- until the 10th.
They pitched well, too, from starter Jerad Eickhoff's five innings of one-run ball to the stingy relief work of Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia and Pat Neshek. They teamed on three shutout innings.
With his top late-game tandem of Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris in need of a night off, Mackanin asked Edubray Ramos to close it out. Ramos struck out the first two batters in the ninth and was one out away from his first big-league save when Brandon Phillips unloaded on a hanging slider to tie the game at 2-2.
Ramos rebounded and got the final out of the inning. As he walked off the field, he covered his mouth with his glove and shouted. Best guess: He said a naughty word. But ultimately his teammates got him off the hook. Parts of it were pretty. Parts of it were ugly. But when the night was over, the Phillies had a win.
"It was really a wacky game," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We played well overall, then there was a flurry of activity at the end."
Mackanin reached for a bottle of water.
"I'm going to drink more of this Smart Water," he said. "It's a happy day."

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

NEW YORK -- Gio Gonzalez mentioned the tasty Latin food served in the visitors' clubhouse. And the airplanes that fly overhead. And the pretty features of the ballpark.

But if there's a real reason why the Washington lefty is so successful at Citi Field, he isn't saying.

"Any secrets?" he offered. "No."

Gonzalez pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning to win again at the Mets' stadium, and the Nationals beat New York 3-1 on a drizzly Saturday for their sixth straight victory (see full recap).

Contreras' slam powers Arrieta, Cubs to 12-8 win over Reds
CINCINNATI -- After a sputtering start, the Cubs' offense is finally rolling. And it's no surprise that they're breaking out at Great American Ball Park, a place that's just their style.

Wilson Contreras hit his first career grand slam and Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward added three-run shots on Saturday, powering Chicago to a 12-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jake Arrieta (3-0) returned to the mound where he threw his second career no-hitter last April 21 and struggled mightily at the outset, giving up two homers in the first inning. Chicago's offense pulled him through with another homer-filled game at Great American Ball Park. Arrieta helped with an RBI triple (see full recap).

Homers by Mancini, Schoop carry Orioles past Red Sox 4-2
BALTIMORE -- Just when it appeared Steven Wright had finally gained command of his fluttering knuckleball, the Baltimore Orioles found their groove.

The result: Another early exit for the 2016 All-Star in Boston's 4-2 loss Saturday night.

Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop homered in succession off Wright, Jayson Aquino won his first big league start and the Orioles used one big inning to secure their fourth straight victory (see full recap).

Simmons belts grand slam to lead Angels past Blue Jays 5-4
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Andrelton Simmons hit a tiebreaking grand slam, Tyler Skaggs pitched into the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Angels held off the slumping Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 Saturday night.

Simmons cleared the bases in the third inning off Casey Lawrence (0-2) for his second career grand slam, helping the Angels snap a three-game losing streak and win for the second time in 11 games.

Skaggs (1-1) gave up a run in the first but settled down to hold the Blue Jays to five hits over the next six innings, getting the Blue Jays to hit into three double plays along the way. He was lifted after Ryan Goins doubled to lead off the eighth (see full recap).