Phils fail to hold lead in walk-off loss to Rangers

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Phils fail to hold lead in walk-off loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was no surprise 14-run explosion for the Phillies on Tuesday night, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have picked up another win in the young season.

The bullpen failed to protect a late one-run lead and the Phils suffered a 3-2 loss to the Texas Rangers (see Instant Replay).

The Phils (1-1) won Monday's opener, 14-10.

Rangers’ cleanup man Adrian Beltre tied Tuesday night's game with a two-out RBI double in the seventh and won it with an RBI single with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Beltre’s game-winning hit came against right-hander B.J. Rosenberg, who entered after rookie Mario Hollands walked two men in a crucible of a major-league debut. Both of the batters that Hollands walked were left-handed hitters -- Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder.

“I’m supposed to get those guys out whether it’s my first time or not,” Hollands said.

Manager Ryne Sandberg had already used Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo in the seventh and eighth innings. Diekman, in fact, gave up the game-tying hit to the right-handed hitting Beltre in the seventh.

Hollands came into spring training largely as an unknown and pitched his way onto the club with a strong performance in Florida. Sandberg could have gone with Brad Lincoln or Justin De Fratus in the ninth -– both have big-league experience –- but he chose Hollands because he was left-handed and showed promise in spring training.

“That’s a tough spot for him,” Sandberg said. “Even though he walked two guys, I thought he showed his stuff. He might have been one pitch away from getting Fielder.”

The walk to Fielder ended Hollands' night. Enter Rosenberg, who allowed two hits and walked a batter in Monday’s opener. Rosenberg has allowed three inherited runners to score in two appearances. Sandberg has used him in big situations because “Coming out of spring training he was throwing the best.”

Given the lefties Texas sent up in the ninth inning, it might have been good to have Bastardo in that inning, but Sandberg wanted to use him in the eighth inning -- even if it was against the bottom of the order -- with the game tied.

“Being on the road, Bastardo is our eighth-inning guy,” Sandberg said. “We’re trying to put a zero up there and trying to score in our half of the inning. We went that route.”

There were other factors in the loss beside the bullpen.

A.J. Burnett and Martin Perez hooked up in a scoreless duel for five innings before the Phillies broke through with two runs in the sixth. They scored both of those runs after Ben Revere, another potential run, was picked off second base in a play that had to be reviewed before the umpires got it right.

“That was a big play,” Sandberg said. “He wasn’t going anywhere. He was getting his lead and [Perez] quick-picked him. As it turned out we could have possibly put up a crooked number there.

“Ben was trying to be aggressive so he could score on a hit. You don’t want to get picked off there. Hopefully we’ll learn from it.”

Ryan Howard, dropped from the cleanup spot for the first time since June 2008, a span of 665 starts, capped that inning with a two-out RBI double off the lefty Perez. The double gave the Phils a 2-0 lead.

Howard had a chance to do more damage when he batted with two men on base and the score tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth. He struck out swinging at a breaking ball off the plate from lefty Neal Cotts.

“It is what it is,” Howard said of being moved out of the cleanup spot, a move Sandberg may employ more often against left-handed starters. “Where we hit in the lineup is Ryno’s decision. My job is to get hits and knock in runs. Whether I hit fourth or fifth, I’ve got to do a job.

“I was able to come through in [the sixth inning]. I wish I could have come through later on. But that’s a situation where it doesn’t matter if I’m hitting fourth or fifth.

“I was a little anxious. It’s early. I’m still working out some kinks. I have to let the ball travel a little deeper and not be so quick.

“I’ll get in the cage tomorrow and keep working to get better, so if that situation presents itself again there will be a different result.”

The Phillies face another left-handed starter (Robbie Ross) in Wednesday’s series finale. After Tuesday night’s game, Sandberg was asked where Howard would hit Wednesday.

“I haven’t done the lineup yet,” the manager said.

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.