Phils rookie Pettibone earning praise from teammates

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Phils rookie Pettibone earning praise from teammates

When Roy Halladay went on the DL for seven weeks last season, the Phillies fell apart. They went 15-27, largely because the starting pitchers failed to step up in his absence. Cliff Lee had a 4.99 ERA while Halladay was out. Joe Blanton was at 5.02. Kyle Kendrick, 5.72.

This time, the Phils appear to be better prepared for life without Doc.

Jonathan Pettibone, who joined the rotation when John Lannan got hurt and is occupying a larger role with Halladay out, has pitched remarkably well as a rookie. He allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday to improve to 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts (see Instant Replay). He’s the first Phillie since Randy Wolf in 1999 to begin his career 3-0 while pitching exclusively as a starter.

Pettibone has kept the Phillies in each game he’s pitched, not allowing more than three runs in any start. The Phils have won four of his five outings and, even if things looked bleak early on Tuesday, he minimized damage long enough for the bats to come around.

“I'd say for this being the first time he's in the major leagues, I think he's doing a tremendous job,” manager Charlie Manuel said of his 22-year-old rookie.

“Pettibone pitched brilliantly,” added Kevin Frandsen, who homered and got on base three times filling in for Chase Utley at second base. “What he did -- he never gave in, just kept us in there. He could've let it go when we were down 2-1, but he kept fighting, fighting, fighting, and made great pitches. More than anything, the hitting will come around, but that's a stud right there. He didn't back down as a rookie. That's awesome.”

After a 1-2-3 first inning, Pettibone put runners on second and third with nobody out. He had excelled out of the stretch in his first four starts, stranding 87 percent of the men he put on base, but this time Michael Brantley got to him, singling in both runners to give the Indians a one-run lead. Two strikeouts later, the inning was over.

In the third, Pettibone again got into trouble, walking Jason Kipnis and then hitting Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana to load the bases. (The last Phillies pitcher to hit back-to-back batters was Chad Durbin on May 6, 2010.) But again, Pettibone made his pitches and got Mark Reynolds to pop out to end the threat.

After that, smooth sailing. Pettibone kept the Indians at bay long enough for John Mayberry and Domonic Brown to stake the Phillies to a two-run lead that eventually grew to four.

“Escaping with no runs, especially after that second inning, giving up two, you don't want to dig too big a hole that early in the game,” Pettibone said of escaping trouble in the third. “Getting out of that inning, I was able to build off that for the rest of the game.”

“Those mistakes by a young guy, they can just snowball,” Frandsen said. “But it just made him better. And that’s one of those cool situations as a teammate. I would never call myself old, but being around this game for a long time, that was awesome.”

Manuel yanked Pettibone with two outs in the seventh inning, ending the longest start of his young career. The righty wanted to keep going – he had thrown just 92 pitches – but a pair of lefties were coming up and Manuel opted for Antonio Bastardo.

Going deep into games is something Pettibone prides himself on. He always has. He didn’t want to come out.

“Last outing, I think I was at 110-plus [pitches] and I felt fine,” Pettibone said. “So anywhere around that kind of pitch count, you're good. Especially with adrenaline late in the game, the close ball game, you don't feel any fatigue, or anything, really. You're ready to go.”

That mentality is what impressed Frandsen about Pettibone from the time Pettibone was a 19-year-old in Single A.

“I saw him -- I guess it was an unfortunate situation where I was suspended and went down to Clearwater and I was rehabbing there two years ago -- and the first thing I said when I came back to Lehigh was, 'That kid is the best of the three,’” Frandsen recalled, referring back to Pettibone, Jarred Cosart and Trevor May. (Cosart was dealt to Houston for Hunter Pence, and May to Minnesota for Ben Revere.)

“They talked about the big three, but [Pettibone] pitched with some stones. I feel like as a young, 19-20-year-old at that time … that's different. Especially in A-ball, you can go for the strikeout every time, but he was worried about going deep into games. That takes precedence over anything.”

It certainly did on Tuesday in a close game. The Phillies were without Mike Adams (back spasms), but Pettibone got them deep enough and a beleaguered bullpen finally stranded its inherited runners (see story).

It was one of the most complete games the Phillies have played all year, and it was exactly the way they wanted to open a five-game homestand against two Ohio teams that embarrassed them on the road last month.

Cole Hamels takes the hill Wednesday, looking to pick up where the 22-year-old rookie with “stones” left off.

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

In his second-to-last game in a Phillies uniform, Ryan Howard will man first base and bat fifth against the Mets on Saturday afternoon (1:05/FOX).

Howard went 1 for 4 Friday night with a double. The first baseman has three home runs and five RBI in 44 at-bats against the Mets this season. 

Andres Blanco takes Freddy Galvis’ starting spot at shortstop and bats second. Galvis left Friday night's game with hamstring tightness. Blanco has not made a start since Sept. 16, but is batting .294 against the Mets this year.

Cameron Rupp catches and bats sixth for the second day in a row. Rupp went 2 for 3 on Friday night with an RBI. Jimmy Paredes and Aaron Altherr follow Rupp in the lineup and man the corners in the outfield.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Andres Blanco, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Phil Klein, P

And the Mets lineup:
1. Jose Reyes, 3B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
4. Curtis Granderson, CF
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. T.J. Rivera, 2B
7. James Loney, 1B
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C
9. Bartolo Colon, P

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Is Phil Klein ready to stop 5-game skid?

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Is Phil Klein ready to stop 5-game skid?

Phillies (70-90) vs. Mets (86-74)
1:05 p.m. on FOX

The Phillies continue to stumble towards the finish line with their fifth straight loss and seventh in eight games. Phil Klein makes a spot start out of the bullpen for the Phils while the Mets turn to Bartolo Colon in a nationally televised game.

Here are five things to watch on Saturday afternoon.

1. Mets playoff update
With Friday's win, the Mets cannot be eliminated this weekend. Their magic number for a playoff spot is just one.

That means that if they win one more game or the St. Louis Cardinals lose a game to the Pirates in the next two days, the Mets clinch a spot in the NL wild card game. If the Phillies are able to beat the Mets back-to-back, the Cardinals win both games and the San Fransico Giants win at least one game, the Mets will be forced to play in a tiebreaker on Monday.

Got all that?

Because the Mets won four of seven against the Giants this year, they only need one more win to clinch homefield advantage in the NL wild card game. That means that if they win on Saturday, they'll have the ability to skip Noah Syndergaard, the scheduled starter for Sunday, and have him pitch in the wild card game. 

Therefore, a win by the Phillies on Saturday that isn't accompanied by both a Cardinals and Giants loss would likely force the Mets to pitch Syndergaard before 
the wild card game.

2. Life after Howard
Ryan Howard's option for 2017 will undoubtably be declined by the Phillies after the season, meaning of course that Howard is in his final two games in a Phillies uniform.

But what exactly comes next?

It's easy enough to say Tommy Joseph. Joseph has been extremely impressive in his first season in the majors. The now-25 year old broke into the majors in a big way and carries a .257/.308/.505 line into Saturday over his first 347 big league plate appearances. He has 21 home runs and 47 RBI. 

But there are reasons to be concerned. The big one is his injury history. Joseph dealt with concussion issues that moved him to first from behind the plate. While it seems to be behind him, it does raise a question with his durability. He also struck out in over 20 percent of his plate appearances this year and will need to be better in that regard.

Furthermore, it will be interesting to see how he handles making the team out of spring training next year and manning first base every day. The term 'sophomore slump' exists for a reason because plenty of players take a step back in Year 2.

It doesn't mean Joseph can't be relied on as the future at first base. Far from it. But how the Phillies provide support for him during the inevitable peaks and valleys will be key to his long-term takeover of the first base job.

3. Klein makes spot start 
The Phillies chose not to give Jake Thompson one more start and instead will hand Klein the penultimate start of the season. 

Klein made a spot start for the Phils on Aug. 3 vs. the Giants after Aaron Nola was shut down for the season. The 27-year-old righty held his own for five innings, allowing four runs in a 5-4 Phillies win, although he didn't factor in the decision.

Things haven't gone so well for Klein since he was recalled earlier in September. Klein dominated Triple A with a 1.51 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts), but he's appeared out of the bullpen twice for the Phils in the last week. He gave up three runs and five baserunners while getting one out in the 17-0 loss on Sunday.

He followed that up with a four-out, two-run outing. He's thrown just 52 pitches and 24 strikes in those games, meaning he's lacking control and isn't fully stretched out. It's hard to blame Klein for his rust: He hadn't pitched in 16 days before Sunday.

Expect Klein's outing to be somewhat shortlived and this game to be a bullpen affair.

4. Big Bart in a big game
Believe it or not, but the oldest member of the Mets' rotation this year has been the healthiest.

Colon, who turned 43 in May, has made 32 starts, his most in a season since he won the American League Cy Young in 2005. He has started every fifth day for the Mets this year and even made one start on short rest. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, all under 30, were lost to arm injuries for the season.

The righty known as Big Bart had a streak of five straight quality starts until his last start on Sept. 26. It was the Marlins' first game after Jose Fernandez's tragic death and the Fish knocked Colon around for seven runs while he recorded just seven outs.

Colon only threw 47 pitches in that game, so he should be completely fresh today. The big man carries an impressive 3.42 ERA and 14-8 record into Saturday, made even more remarkable considering he began in baseball in 1997.

5. This and that
• Howard has just six hits off Colon in 35 plate appearances, but he has made them count. He has three home runs and eight RBI. One of the home runs came earlier this season while the other two came in 2008.

• The Mets have turned up their offense in September, averaging 5.22 runs per game and going 17-10. The Phillies have been just about the opposite, going 10-17 and scored just 4.07 runs per game. 

• The Phillies are in the midst of their fourth losing streak of at least five games this year. They won't have a chance to eclipse their nine-game losing streak from Jun. 14-22.

• At 70-90, the Phillies are 20 games under .500 for the first time all season. They currently have the eighth worst record in baseball. The worst draft pick they can finish with is No. 9 overall.