Phillies suffer another embarrassing loss to Indians

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Phillies suffer another embarrassing loss to Indians

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- They were both over quick. Real quick. Big early lead for the Indians. No fight from the Phillies. Embarrassing loss.

The Indians hammered the Phillies again Wednesday night, adding a 6-0 win to their 14-2 victory on Tuesday (see Instant Replay).

In the two-game series at Progressive Field, the Phillies were outscored 20-2, out-hit 31-8 and went 3 for 25 with runners on base and 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

Their two Cy Young Award winners, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, allowed a combined 12 earned runs and 18 hits in 9 2/3 innings to a team that came in three games under .500. And the Phillies’ bats were stifled by two starters with a combined eight career wins between them.

“They pretty much pounded us both games, there’s no way around it,” Lee said after giving up five runs, four earned and nine hits in six innings. “They crushed us both games. It was never really close, either one of them. We gotta have a little more pride than that and figure out a way to at least get back into games and make it somewhat competitive.”

After an encouraging three-game sweep of the Mets, the Phillies have regressed to 12-16, and the reality is that they’re 5-1 this year vs. the Mets and 7-15 against everybody else.

And Halladay and Lee have won just four of 12 starts.

“I felt OK,” Lee said. “I felt like they hit some decent pitches and got some breaks, and that’s what happens when you’re swinging the bat well as a team, putting the ball in play. It seems things go your way whenever as a group you’re squaring the ball up, and that’s what they’re doing. It seems like everything is going their way.”

Once again, the Phillies had tons of base runners. They had at least two men on base in five of the first seven innings. Their leadoff batter reached five of the first seven innings. Twice -- in the fourth and the seventh -- they had first and second with nobody out.

“We had chances,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We had men in scoring position. We just couldn’t knock them in.”

The top five in the lineup went 0 for 16, and the Phillies finished with just three hits against five Indians pitchers.

“Would’ve been nice to cash a couple in for sure,” said Michael Young, who went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and grounded into his seventh double-play of the year. “Like I said, we would’ve liked to cash in on a couple. If we could get some of those opportunities back, it’d be nice.

“They were swinging the bats well against two really good pitchers, so you have to give them some credit for that. But at the same time, we felt like we had a lot more to take offensively than what we showed these last couple games.”

This is the first time the Phillies have allowed 14 or more hits in consecutive games since a series against the Nationals last May.

The Indians have now scored 39 runs in their last four games, winning them by a combined 39-5.

“Hot,” Manuel said. “They're playing good. They have a lot of energy. Things are going good for them right now. They were aggressive. They hunted fastballs. And we gave them quite a few.”

The Phillies have now been shut out four times in their last 15 games. This is the first time they’ve been blanked four times in the first 28 games of the season since 1997.

Lee, making his first start in Cleveland since he was with the Indians in 2009, was better than Halladay a night earlier but did allow four earned runs and nine hits in six innings to fall to 2-2.

“The things I regret are obviously I walked a couple of guys and both scored,” he said. “I have to do a better job of at least making them work their way on base. But they got breaks when they needed them and they swung the bat well, you have to give them credit.
Lee was out-pitched by a 22-year-old right-hander making his sixth career start.

Trevor Bauer, promoted from Triple A Columbus earlier in the day, picked up his second career win despite walking six batters in five innings.

Bauer allowed only one hit -- a fourth-inning single by Domonic Brown -- and struck out five.

“We had some walks, but it was kind of tough to really get locked in on one certain pitch,” Young said. “He had good velocity, good breaking ball, threw his off-speed stuff over. Any count, really. There were no patterns.”

The Phillies fell to 12-16, still 5½ games behind the Braves in the NL East and trailing seven teams in the wild-card standings.

“We had a good series against the Mets and the Indians beat up on us the two games in here,” Manuel said. “We won three and all of a sudden come back and lose two. They took it to us pretty good.”

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies (45-55) at Marlins (53-45)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

After three straight series losses to begin the second half, the Phillies head to Miami for three games with the Marlins. It's the second leg of a 10-game road trip that takes the Phils to Atlanta for four games later in the week.

Let's take a look at the series opener:

1. Hellickson's sendoff?
Jeremy Hellickson makes his 21st and potentially final start for the Phillies tonight in South Florida. The Marlins are one of the teams after him, so it's possible he could just switch clubhouses later this week. 

Hellickson has boosted his trade value substantially over the last five weeks, posting a 2.54 ERA with five quality starts in six tries. He enters Monday's game 7-7 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Those are better and more consistent numbers than you'll find attached to many other pitchers on the trade market, rentals or otherwise. 

It was on this day last year that Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs which turned out to be the tipping point for the Rangers, who several days later traded the Phillies six players, four of whom were intriguing prospects now thriving in this organization. Hellickson isn't going to no-hit the Fish tonight, but if he has a similarly well-timed good start, it could result in a better return for the Phils this time around, too.

Hellickson's last start was against the Marlins in the only game in last week's four-game series that the Phillies won. He allowed one run on five hits over eight innings with eight strikeouts.

Hellickson's control has been superb this season. He's walked just 27 batters in 119⅔ innings, or 2.0 per nine innings. That's nearly a full walk per nine less than his previous career rate of 2.9. It's a major reason that Hellickson has been able to maintain a sub-4.00 ERA despite allowing 19 home runs in 20 starts.

2. Scouting Cosart
The Phillies will face their former farmhand Jarred Cosart, who is 0-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three starts this season. It's been a troubling year for Cosart, who missed a month with an oblique injury and has spent most of the season struggling at Triple A. He had a 5.22 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 12 starts with Triple A New Orleans.

Way back in 2011, Cosart headlined the Astros' return in the Hunter Pence trade. Houston received Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana for the rightfielder. None panned out in the Astros' organization, with Cosart getting traded three years later, Singleton continuing to struggle in the minors and Santana ending up in Milwaukee.

Cosart has disappointed the most of the bunch. After going 13-11 with a 3.69 ERA in 2014, his career has taken a downward trend. He's never been a big strikeout guy despite throwing in the mid-90s, and his control has always been poor. Cosart has walked 15 batters in 14⅔ innings this season and 4.3 per nine innings in his major-league career. 

He did have success, though, in three starts against the Phillies last season, going 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 12 strikeouts to three walks in 15 innings. But this lineup is much different than that one. 

Cosart is mostly a three-pitch pitcher who uses a cutter, sinker and curveball. The cutter is his main pitch, averaging 93 mph. 

3. Injuries piling up
In the span of just a few days, Maikel Franco was hit by a pitch on the wrist, Cameron Rupp was hit in the helmet and Andres Blanco fractured a finger. They've been three of the Phillies' five best offensive players this season.

Franco returned Sunday to replace Blanco, a good sign that he should be ready to go this week in Miami and Atlanta. But each Franco at-bat bears watching because wrist injuries can sap a player of his power. 

Rupp, too, could return to the starting lineup as soon as tonight after passing MLB's concussion protocol. He's hitting .276 with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and an .810 OPS in his breakout 2016 season.

4. Bourjos back to Earth
After hitting .410 in June, Peter Bourjos has hit .227 in July with a meager .263 on-base percentage. He's 4 for 36 (.111) over his last nine games with one walk, one RBI and 10 strikeouts.

Bourjos is another player the Phillies could trade this week to clear up room on the roster for Aaron Altherr and/or Nick Williams. In Bourjos and Jimmy Paredes, the Phils have replaceable outfielders who don't figure to factor too much into their future. It wouldn't simply be wishful thinking to say that by next week, the Phils' starting outfield could be Williams in left field, Odubel Herrera in center and Altherr in right.

Altherr's rehab assignment ends Wednesday. At that point the Phillies must decide whether to call him up or option him to Triple A. 

5. Almost Thompson time?
It's no coincidence that IronPigs ace Jake Thompson pitches tonight, the same night as Hellickson. Thompson would be a ready-made replacement for Hellickson in the rotation if/when Hellickson is dealt. Thompson is on a ridiculous roll at Triple A, having allowed just four earned runs over his last 62⅓ innings spanning nine starts. He's lowered his ERA from 4.23 to 2.29 over that stretch thanks to a sky-high rate of weak groundballs.

Even if Thompson were to struggle tonight, the Phillies would still likely turn to him to replace Hellickson. There doesn't seem to be much left for him to prove at Triple A, where every International League starting pitcher with an ERA even close to his 2.29 has been called up to the majors.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez 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 (see game notes).

Hellickson's value has rebounded significantly this season after he struggled 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 in the offseason. 

In 20 starts this season, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, posting a 3.84 ERA with just 2.0 walks per nine over 119⅔ innings. He also has a career-best strikeout rate of 8.0 per nine innings.

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.