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.

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).