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.

Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph's last start of the year?

Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph's last start of the year?

Tommy Joseph, who has been missing from the lineup lately, starts at first base and bats fourth tonight.

Joseph will most likely be making his final start of the season with Ryan Howard expected to start the final games of the season. Joseph is batting just .235 against the Braves this season, but does have two home runs. The rookie first baseman has 21 home runs and 15 doubles in 104 games during his first season in the majors. 

Howard will be playing what are almost definitely his final games in a Phillies uniform this weekend vs. the Mets.

Maikel Franco bats fifth and plays third base. Franco, who has been hot lately, has three home runs and is batting .320 over his last 25 at-bats. He will look to continue his success against the Braves, as five of his 25 home runs this season have come against them.

Cameron Rupp gets a day off behind the plate and will be replaced by veteran catcher A.J. Ellis. Ellis has exceeded expectations in a short sample since coming over in the Carlos Ruiz trade last month. Ellis is 8 for 28 with a home run and nine RBIs in 10 games with the Phils. He's batting .285, which is astronomically better than his paltry .194 mark with the Dodgers. 

Part of the reason for Ellis' start could be his history against Braves starter Josh Collmenter. He is 4 for 11 with two home runs and four walks against the former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher.

Here is tonight's lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

And for the Braves:

1. Mallex Smith, CF
2. Dansby Swanson, SS
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Matt Kemp, LF
5. Nick Markakis, RF
6. Anthony Recker, C
7. Jace Peterson, 2B
8. Rio Ruiz, 3B
9. Josh Collmenter, P

Phillies MVP Jerad Eickhoff proved people wrong, changed expectations

Phillies MVP Jerad Eickhoff proved people wrong, changed expectations

It feels appropriate with the season coming to an end and the recent struggles of the Phillies' entire pitching staff to again point out how consistent Jerad Eickhoff has been in 2016.

Tuesday's rain delay likely cost him a shot at reaching 200 innings — he's sitting on 191⅓ with one start left — but his season has obviously been a success whether or not he reaches that mark. 

Some may argue Odubel Herrera has been the Phillies' MVP this season, but I'd go Eickhoff. Maybe that's just based on the inconsistencies of his rotation mates, but there's real value in a guy who gives you six quality innings each time out. Eickhoff this season was basically John Lackey — a reliable mid-rotation workhorse with solid but unspectacular numbers.

ESPN's longtime prospect analyst Keith Law mentioned Eickhoff this week in an Insider post looking at players he judged incorrectly. Eickhoff and Cubs Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks were the first two pitchers mentioned.

In his assessment of what went wrong with his initial evaluation of Eickhoff, Law wrote:

"I hadn't seen Eickhoff in the minors and, based on what I'd heard about him, had him as a back-end starter, saying he had the repertoire to start but giving him a limited, back-end ceiling. Eickhoff had a good curveball with Texas. But the Phillies' staff has encouraged him to throw it more often, and it's been a difference-making pitch for him. His curve accounted for 40 percent of his swings and misses in 2016, and it's one of the most effective curveballs in MLB right now; that pitch alone has made him more than just a back-end starter, and he has been the Phillies' most valuable starter this year. He is probably a league-average, No. 3 starter going forward with the arsenal he has — average fastball, plus curveball, inconsistent slider that flashes plus but on which he makes too many mistakes — and with 4-WAR potential, given his durability."

Eickhoff's curveball was what made a lot of us take notice late last season. He used it to shut down some good lineups in September, and he finished 2015 with back-to-back seven-inning, 10-strikeout games against the Nationals and Mets.

This season, he grew up. He incorporated the slider more and that led him out of an early-season funk. Early in the year, hitters were laying off his curveball and swinging at any fastball near the zone because it's a hittable pitch. Once he started showing another breaking ball, the game plan for the opposition became more complicated.

There was nothing fluky about Eickhoff's 2016 season. He'll enter the final day of the season 11-14 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. 

It's pretty startling to compare Eickhoff's numbers since joining the Phillies to Cole Hamels' with the Rangers. Have a look.

• Hamels with the Rangers (44 starts): 3.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.8 K/BB ratio, .244 opponents' batting average

• Eickhoff with the Phillies (40 starts): 3.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3.9 K/BB ratio, .244 opponents' batting average

It's not an apples to apples comparison because Hamels has pitched about 40 more innings than Eickhoff in a tougher league and in a tougher ballpark. It doesn't mean that going forward they will be equals. It just means that over the last season and a half, their production has been close to equal.

Nobody would have expected a year ago that Eickhoff would be the best piece in that trade. But until Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams graduate to the majors in full-time roles and produce, Eickhoff will be the unexpected centerpiece of that blockbuster deal with the Rangers.

He's a walking example of solid scouting and even better player development by the Phillies.

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