Phils fail to support Hamels again in loss to D-backs

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Phils fail to support Hamels again in loss to D-backs

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX – One step forward, two steps back. That’s life these days for the Phillies, who suffered their 20th loss of the season Thursday night, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks (see Instant Replay).

If you’d like to add the word infuriating before the final score, feel free. This one fit the description -- for a lot of reasons.

First was the starting pitching. While it’s true that Cole Hamels did not have his best command -- he continues to walk batters at a rate uncharacteristic of him -- he battled and got outs when he needed them. He allowed just two runs in six innings and gave his team a chance to win, but the offense, as it often is when Hamels pitches, was pitiful.

Only one of the Phils’ six hits was for extra bases.

They were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

They made two baserunning mistakes that turned out to be super costly in a close game.

Hamels failed to turn a double play that might ultimately have helped prevent a run.

The D-backs weren’t a whole lot better. They were 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position, made a bad baserunning play of their own and scored both their runs on groundouts.

“The game was sitting right there for us,” said manager Charlie Manuel, whose team is 16-20. “We didn’t get it done.”

That’s a familiar refrain with Hamels on the mound. He is 1-5 and the Phillies are 1-7 in his eight starts. Hamels hasn’t pitched nearly as bad as that record. He has lost his last two starts by scores of 2-0 and 2-1. In April, he suffered a 2-0 loss and took a no-decision in a 2-1 loss. The Phils have scored just 17 runs while Hamels has been in the game this season.

Hamels has frequently said he’s gotten past the point of letting run-support issues frustrate him. He says he’s learned to focus on executing pitches and he’s not all that happy with that part of his game. He walked five batters (one intentionally) in this game to run his walks total to 22 in 51 1/3 innings.

“I’ve got to stop the walks,” Hamels said afterward.

Hamels did show some noticeable frustration in this game. In the fifth inning, he got mad at himself on the mound when he failed to start a double play on a comebacker to the mound with runners on first and second. The runners moved up when Hamels had to settle for one. The game was scoreless at that point with opposing pitcher Patrick Corbin coming up. The Phillies played the infield in for Corbin’s first swing -- a foul ball -- then moved it back. Corbin responded with a ground ball to shortstop Jimmy Rollins for a run. If Rollins had still been up, the run probably would not have scored.

“I pushed him back,” Manuel said. “I didn’t want them scoring two runs.”

Hamels showed frustration as that run scored.

“The frustration started with the ball hit to me and not catching it and getting a double play,” he said. “I ended up getting the ground ball I needed, but not the result.”

An inning later, Arizona eked out a run against Hamels on a heads-up drag bunt by Gerardo Parra.

Parra had a big game in right field. He gunned down Delmon Young trying to stretch a single into a double in the second inning and in the seventh turned a would-be RBI single by Kevin Frandsen into a fielder’s choice and a big out that stunted a potential Phillies’ rally.

With the Phils down, 2-0, Frandsen appeared to drop a soft liner into right field for an RBI single, but John Mayberry Jr., holding close to first in case the ball was caught by the second baseman, got a late jump to second and was forced out by Parra. One run scored on the fielder’s choice. In the end, it was a missed chance for the Phillies who would have had the bases loaded and one out with a run in if Mayberry hadn’t been nailed at second.

“It was a softly hit ball,” Mayberry said. “I was looking at the second baseman in pursuit of the ball. I thought he might have a play on it. When he lunged for it, I took a jab step back toward first because I didn’t want to get doubled off first. The jab step cost me.”

Manuel said, “In order for him to be safe he has to get a better read on the ball.”

Mayberry was hardly the only offensive culprit. Jimmy Rollins was 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position. He is 5 for 33 in those situations this season. Ryan Howard was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against the lefty Corbin, who is now 5-0. Howard is 6 for 34 (.176) with 16 Ks against lefties this season.

As a team, the Phils are 3-5 against lefty starters this season.

One step forward, two steps back. Which way will the Phillies go Friday night?

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions must still be answered on the bench and in the bullpen.

How does the bench shape up? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. The Phils are expected to go with a five-man bench so that leaves two openings. There are four players vying for those spots: Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin has impressed, but at 22 years old would benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised Stassi's work on Monday. If Stassi makes the club, the final spot would come down to Coghlan and Nava.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coughlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

Stassi, Coghlan and Nava are all non-roster players so the Phils would have to clear 40-man roster space to add any of them.

Two spots remain open in the bullpen. Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos are the candidates. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers are probably coming Tuesday.

Phillies release Hanigan, Holaday; Andrew Knapp likely backup catcher

Phillies release Hanigan, Holaday; Andrew Knapp likely backup catcher

A week before the season opener, it appears Andrew Knapp has won the Phillies' backup catcher competition.

The Phils on Monday released Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday, two veterans battling with Knapp for the backup spot to Cameron Rupp.

Knapp, 25, hasn't had an impressive spring, going 7 for 38 (.184) with 16 strikeouts, but the move makes sense because he's young and has at least a chance to contribute to the Phillies in the future, unlike Hanigan and Holaday. Plus, catcher Jorge Alfaro and first baseman Rhys Hoskins will likely open the season at Triple A, meaning Knapp would not have had an everyday spot with the IronPigs.

Knapp had his best game of the spring at the right time Sunday, hitting a two-run homer and throwing out two runners on the bases (see story).

"It's pretty obvious he seems to be the guy," manager Pete Mackanin said of Knapp. "Nothing's written in stone but if you read between the lines, it pretty much tells you something about it. No secret plans or anything like that. It is what it is right now."

At 25, Knapp isn't really a prospect anymore but rather a player the Phillies want to see sink or swim at the big-league level.

"He's not going to get 500 at-bats, but one of the things you can look at is any exposure to the big-league scene is valuable toward anyone's development," Mackanin said. "Let's say Knapp gets 200 at-bats, it's worth his while and our while to judge him, to give him a sense of confidence or knowing what he's up against.

"In that regard playing in the big leagues, even in a part-time role, is important."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round pick in 2013 out of the University of California. He broke out in 2015 by hitting .360 with a 1.050 OPS and more than an RBI per game in 241 plate appearances with Double A Reading.

Last season, the switch-hitting Knapp was an International League All-Star with Triple A Lehigh Valley, though he didn't have as impressive an offensive season, batting .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs.

"He's got a chance to be a pretty good hitter," Mackanin said. "And he's come along quite a ways defensively behind the plate to where I'm comfortable with him catching.

"Little by little he's shown improvement in the spring, even though he hasn't had the greatest spring offensively. He's had a lot of good at-bats and he's caught well."

Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp look like locks for the Phillies' bench. The final two bench spots are open with Brock Stassi, Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava and Jesmuel Valentin in the running (see story).

CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury contributed to this report.