Pitching coach Dubee remains confident in Halladay

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Pitching coach Dubee remains confident in Halladay

ATLANTA -- Roy Halladay made all his starts in the second half of last season. He worked diligently conditioning his body to pitch this offseason. He began throwing bullpen sessions in January and had a full spring training.

Despite all this, Halladay continues to have trouble commanding his pitches. That was evident when he needed 95 of them to get just 10 outs in a 9-2 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday night. Sure, Halladay’s nine strikeouts were an encouraging testament to his ability to still get swings and misses, but that positive was trumped by the troubling reality that he lasted just 3 1/3 innings.

That will kill the Phillies’ bullpen if it doesn’t kill Halladay first.

“I’d rather get beat 20-0 and pitch eight innings than pitch 3 1/3,” he said. “That’s got to change.”

With all the work he’s done, one has to wonder what’s taking Halladay so long to put it all together again?

“Bad habits,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said Thursday afternoon. “Bad habits that he acquired when he was hurt.”

Halladay struggled with shoulder and back issues last season. That caused him to lower his arm angle. Dubee said Halladay’s arm angle is higher now, but the pitcher is struggling to iron out his delivery.

“This was a guy who did something as consistently as you could possibly do it for years,” Dubee said. “He developed bad habits to get the ball to the plate last year, trying to work through some health issues. I’m a big believer that the more you do something wrong, the more it becomes ingrained. If you do it wrong, and you do it wrong, and you do it wrong, it takes time to get that feeling out of your body and get the right feeling back in it.”

Halladay, who has pitched over 3,300 professional innings, has a high-mileage shoulder. Dubee has acknowledged that the 35-year-old pitcher doesn’t have the bullets he used to, but he still believes Halladay can succeed. To have success, Halladay must be able to put the ball in good spots -- keep it out of a hitter’s feast zone -- and that starts with a sound delivery.

Will Halladay, with all his wear and tear, be able to regain that delivery?

“Absolutely,” Dubee said. “Over the last three outings I’ve been encouraged each time out. I think he’s building and he continues to build.”

Dubee’s support of Halladay is not surprising. It’s his job. Elsewhere, observers of Halladay’s work are skeptical. Dubee knows that. Halladay knows that. Halladay’s results were not good last year. They were not good in spring training. They were not good Wednesday night -- even in a nine-strikeout effort.

When do the Phillies have to start seeing some results from Halladay?

“I think I am starting to see some results,” Dubee said. “You think I’m going to take the ball away from this guy? You’re talking about a two-time Cy Young Award winner. What do you think, we’re going to put him in the bullpen?

“I’m seeing results. I’m seeing nine strikeouts out of 10 outs last night. Do you see many other guys doing that in baseball? Yu Darvish against the Astros. Yu Darvish wasn’t facing the Atlanta Braves.”

Dubee has been patient with Halladay and will continue to be.

“I’ve always said when you judge players, you go off their track records,” Dubee said. “And who has a longer, better track record than this guy? And not only track record as far as being a quality pitcher, but as far as being a quality person with credentials that are out of this world.”

Halladay’s situation is a major issue not just in Philadelphia, but around all of baseball. The whispers that he is in serious decline, that the end could be near, are now shouts.

Even through his laser-like focus, Halladay hears them.

Dubee, too.

“I don’t think what’s out there is taxing to him,” Dubee said. “I think what’s taxing to him is this guy has tremendous pride and wants to be part of a winner. And he is. He’s probably the most accountable guy I’ve ever been around. And he feels very, very accountable that he has to go out there and pitch well for us to win. And that could be taxing at times, sure. I think it was taxing with Cliff [Lee] last year when he didn’t win for how long. Those things start to wear on you. But this is an accountable guy. I think the more he goes out there and relaxes and is tension-free the better he’ll be. He’s going to continue to get [support] from me.”

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

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Best of MLB: Nationals clinch NL East with win over Pirates

Best of MLB: Nationals clinch NL East with win over Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Nationals clinched their third National League East title in five years, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Saturday night behind 5 1/3 scoreless innings from rookie reliever Reynaldo Lopez.

Stephen Drew's two-run single capped a three-run first inning for the Nationals, who return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Their win ensured a playoff berth, and they won the division about 20 minutes later when the second-place New York Mets lost to Philadelphia.

Lopez (4-3) came on to the start the bottom of the fourth inning with a 6-1 lead and allowed three hits while striking out five and walking one. He was removed a runner on first and one out in the ninth inning.

Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen got one out each to end the game, and a pocket of Nationals' fans behind the visiting dugout cheered (see full recap).

Cardinals solve Wrigley again, crush Hammel, Cubs 10-4
CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to accomplish if they want to return to Chicago in two weeks for a rematch of last year's NL Division Series. They would have to qualify for one of the wild-card spots, then win the single-elimination playoff game.

If they do, the Cardinals may be the one club that won't be fazed by Wrigley Field and the Cubs.

Yadier Molina drove in four runs, Stephen Piscotty homered and the Cardinals boosted their playoff hopes by getting to Jason Hammel early in a 10-4 rout of Chicago on Saturday.

Randal Grichuk added three RBIs and Jhonny Peralta had three hits and scored three runs for the Cardinals, who stopped a two-game skid and moved into a tie with San Francisco for the final NL wild-card spot pending the Giants' game at San Diego (see full recap).

Yanks shut out for 3rd straight game in 3-0 loss to Jays
TORONTO -- The New York Yankees' offense has disappeared, and their playoffs chances have pretty much vanished, too.

Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-0 Saturday.

New York has been shut out in three straight games for the first time July 27-28, 1975.

"Whatever we're doing right now, it's not working," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We just seem to have lost it the last few days."

The Yankees have lost 10 of 13 following a seven-game winning streak and dropped 4 1/2 games back for the AL's second wild card with eight games left. They likely will miss the playoffs for the third time in four years (see full recap).

Dietrich homers, Marlins end Braves' streak at 7 win
MIAMI -- Derek Dietrich hit a two-run homer to help the Miami Marlins end the Atlanta Braves' winning streak at seven games, winning 6-4 on Saturday night.

Dee Gordon had two hits, two walks and three stolen bases - one shy of tying the Marlins' single-game franchise high, which he has done on two separate occasions.

Atlanta's Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 28 games in the first inning and has reached base in 44 straight. He also hit a solo home run in the sixth, his 32nd.

Brian Ellington (4-2) earned the win in relief and A.J. Ramos recorded his 39th save in 42 chances.

The Braves pulled within 5-4 on a wild pitch by Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning (see full recap).