Phillies show fight in comeback win over Rockies

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Phillies show fight in comeback win over Rockies

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DENVER -- How do you figure this one? The Phillies came into baseball’s ultimate hitter’s park with the third-worst bullpen ERA (4.51) in the majors Friday night. And, of course, that bullpen held the majors’ second-highest scoring team scoreless for 4 2/3 innings.

That’s almost as hard to believe as a team getting 16 hits and scoring just three runs.

After losing their fifth straight game earlier this week, the Phillies have put together a modest, and improbable, two-game winning streak. One night after the aforementioned 16-hit victory in Minneapolis, the Phils ventured into Coors Field on Friday night and rallied for an 8-7 win over the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay).

Kyle Kendrick’s specialty since moving into the rotation last August has been keeping his team in ballgames, but he didn’t do that in this one. He was roughed up early and often and left the game trailing, 7-2, in the fifth inning. A sextet of relievers held the Rockies scoreless the rest of the way and the offense, led by Freddy Galvis’ four RBIs in two innings, surged for six runs to go on top.

Good work with the bats.

Good work out of the ‘pen.

There was one other thing the Phillies benefited from in this game.

Instead of rolling over and taking another loss, they showed some guts in pulling out a win.

“I hope we did,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel revealed that he had a little talk with his position players in the indoor batting cage before the game.

Was it more Bobby Knight or Knute Rockne?

“A little bit of both,” he said.

Manuel added, “I thought it was good. I wanted to talk to them about our base running, and leads and who we are and how we’ve been doing and what we have to do.

“We’re going to get better. And we have to.”

As poorly as the Phillies have played recently, they are just 6½ games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East. They are 3-5 on this road trip and, as bad as it has been, they still have a chance to go .500 on it if they win Saturday and Sunday. That would bring them right back to the .500 mark for the season.

There were a bunch of key moments in Friday night’s win.

Reliever Jeremy Horst entered a 7-2 game with runners on base in the fifth and got a big double play ball to keep the game in check. Mike Stutes followed with a scoreless inning in the sixth. The Phils took the lead in the top of the seventh against Wilton Lopez, the reliever they nearly traded for last winter before having health concerns, and Jake Diekman, just up from Triple A, and Justin De Fratus protected it.

Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon closed it out. Papelbon struck out dangerous Michael Cuddyer -- it was the Phils’ only K of the game -- with a runner on second for the second out and got Todd Helton on a ground ball to end the game.

Galvis had been 1 for 22 on the trip before belting a two-run triple to highlight a three-run sixth. He smacked another two-run triple -- past the aging Helton at first -- into the right-field corner to highlight another three-run inning in the seventh. Jimmy Rollins, who did not start because of a sore foot and hip, put the Phils ahead with a pinch-hit single. Of course, those two hits don’t happen if John Mayberry Jr. doesn’t work an eight-pitch walk with two outs.

“That was a good comeback for us,” Manuel said.

“A good team win,” Galvis said. “Everyone did their job. That’s good for us.”

Manuel was particularly pleased with his bullpen, especially how some of the youngsters responded.

“That’s how you grow and build confidence,” he said.

Despite his poor outing, Kendrick was all smiles after the game. It isn’t often a Phillies starting pitcher gets lit up then gets off the hook because his teammates exploded for a bunch of runs.

“Obviously, it wasn’t my night,” he said. “I couldn’t make a pitch. But the offense and the bullpen picked me up.”

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.