Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

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Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE -- It turns out the old sparkplug still has a little juice.

Leading off for the first time since 2004, Michael Young went 3 for 5 and conspired with John Mayberry to produce six hits from the top two spots in the lineup. Tyler Cloyd did the rest for yet another quality start, and the Phillies opened a 10-game road trip with a 5-1 win in Milwaukee on Thursday (see Instant Replay).

The Phils (31-30) won for the fifth straight game and climbed over .500 for the first time this season.

Mayberry also went 3 for 5, Delmon Young homered and Cloyd worked into the seventh without surrendering a run, all helping the Phillies claim a relatively comfortable win.

"We're happy the hard work has started to pay off and we're starting to see it in the standings," Michael Young said. "I think we're very happy with our style of play right now. We're doing a good job on the bases, running aggressively, pushing the envelope. The bases is one of those places where you can create some energy for your team, and we're doing a good job of that right now."

A pair of infield singles ignited a first-inning rally that gave Cloyd some early support. The Phillies ultimately loaded the bases with no outs, then scored on Ryan Howard's laser-beam sacrifice fly to center and a wild pitch from Brewers starter Wily Peralta (4-7), who labored through five innings of work.

"We caught a couple breaks with two infield hits, and Jimmy got a clean one," Young said, referring to the Jimmy Rollins' single to load the bases. "Their guy has great stuff and has a real bright future, but Tyler did really well. He limited the damage. Their big guys in the middle managed a couple singles, and that was about it."

Cloyd allowed four hits -- all singles -- in 6 2/3 innings of work. He worked around five walks and has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five starts since subbing in for Roy Halladay. He was saddled with a hard-luck loss in his last start Saturday, also against the Brewers.

"We mixed up a lot, threw a lot of different sequences, different pitches to hitters," Cloyd said of facing the same team twice in a week. "I made little adjustments mechanics-wise, which has helped me keep the ball down. Obviously when the ball is down, you get a little more movement on pitches. The offspeed has been down in the zone and that's the biggest thing."

The Phillies weren't satisfied with the 2-0 lead after one, scoring in the second when Cloyd drew a walk and motored around from first base on Mayberry's RBI double. In the third, speed again played a role when Domonic Brown stole both second and third base, then came across when Erik Kratz beat the ball to first to avoid a double play. Brown, who registered his team-leading 20th multi-hit game, now has six stolen bases for the year after stealing five in his career heading into 2013.

"We're not going to steal a lot of pitches when pitchers are really quick to the plate and catchers throw good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We don't have a legit base-stealer where he can go when a pitcher's release is about 1.2 or 1.25 [seconds], definitely 1.3. When you start getting up into the 1.4s and [1.]5s and [1.]6s, they have a good chance of making it."

Delmon Young added his third home run in seven games in the fifth to afford the Phillies a 5-0 lead. Milwaukee's lone run came across against reliever Mike Adams in the eighth on an RBI groundout by Jonathan Lucroy.

Two of Michael Young's hits were of the infield variety, including one to lead off the game.

"[Manuel] asked me about it when I got here," Young said of batting leadoff. "He asked if I'd done it before, I said, 'Yeah.' It doesn't really matter to me. My approach is always dictated on the situation in the game.

"I know what I'm capable of — I just have to try and stay the course. I had a little bit of a rough stretch there, but I just have to keep at it and stay the course."

The Brewers, who have been beleaguered by ineffectiveness and injuries within their rotation, plan to start Alfredo Figaro and Tom Gorzelanny over the next two days. Both have spent the majority of the year in the bullpen and may not have a typical starter's pitch count to work with, meaning the Phillies could benefit from forcing the Brewers to take a full four innings of relief work Thursday.

"We've still got to come out and outplay them," Manuel said. "Sometimes in this game when things don't look so bright for you, something always happens. That's why you go play. You don't take anything for granted."

Chooch was 'a fireball,' says Ryan Howard, last of the '08 Phillies

Chooch was 'a fireball,' says Ryan Howard, last of the '08 Phillies

NEW YORK — Phillies players were greeted by a message from Carlos Ruiz when they entered the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field on Friday.

“I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch! Gracias,” (see story).

Ruiz did not actually write those words on the whiteboard by the entry to the clubhouse, but they were his. He reached out to visiting clubhouse manager Tony Carullo and asked that the message be written in just that way.

Ruiz, 37, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, ending an 11-season run with the Phillies that included five NL East titles, a World Series championship, an All-Star Game, a slew of clutch hits, many words of praise from the pitching staff and a million calls of Choooooch from fans in the stands (see story).

“Everybody loved Chooch for a number of reasons,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s the kind of guy you loved seeing every day, a hard-working, humble and appealing human being.

“I’d like to think when he’s done playing, the Phillies might have a place for him.”

Mackanin paused and laughed.

“As long as they don’t make him manager and he takes my job.”

Ruiz’s exit leaves Ryan Howard as the only member of the 2008 World Series championship team still with the club. Over the last few seasons, Howard has seen Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Chase Utley depart.

It’s a topic that Howard seems to have grown weary of talking about.

“I've had to hear about it every year,” he said. “It's again the same thing. You play with guys your entire career and now you see them in different uniforms. It's definitely going to be something to get used to but that's baseball. That's the business aspect of it. Teams make moves and that's what happens.”

Like the rest of the core of that team, Howard, 36, has been available for trade the last few seasons, but there has been no real interest because of his decline in performance and huge salary.

So he will play out the final six weeks of his contract and try to hook on elsewhere next season.

Howard saluted his former teammate, Ruiz.

“I'm trying to think of the right words,” he said.

“The thing about Chooch — he was the quarterback in a sense. The way he handled the pitching staff, the way he prepared himself for games with the pitchers, from the defensive standpoint knowing different situations, knowing what guy you want to beat you, what guy you don't want to beat you. Just the way he played the game, he was a fireball. He was a fireball out there. I'm definitely going to miss him. I hit him up yesterday a little bit after I found out. I was happy for him and wanted to wish him the best.

“Chooch, he was always very, very positive. Always trying to help guys out, trying to pick guys up when he can and it carried over onto the field. That was his mentality.”

The Phillies acquired veteran backup catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later for Ruiz (see story). Ellis is due to join the team Saturday. In the meantime, the Phillies added prospect Jorge Alfaro from Double A (see story). He will be the backup catcher Friday night, then return to a talent-rich Reading club that has the best record in minor-league baseball and a date with the Eastern League playoffs.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard batting cleanup, Cameron Rupp catching

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard batting cleanup, Cameron Rupp catching

Following a day off, the Phillies continue their roadtrip with the start of a three-game set with the New York Mets.

Ryan Howard will bat in the heart of the Phillies order with Cameron Rupp at catcher following the trade of Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the rest of the lineup remains mostly the same as it was prior to a brief two-game series with American League rules.

With Ruiz's trade, Howard is the last remaining member of the Phillies' 2008 World Series team. He'll try to throw back to that time against the ageless Bartolo Colon. 

Howard has good power numbers against Colon. He has just six hits in 28 at-bats, but has drawn three walks and has three home runs against the 43-year-old starter. There are only 18 pitchers he has faced more often than Colon.

At catcher, Rupp had already inherited the starting job from Ruiz, but he is now the backstop with more experience in Philadelphia. The Phillies called up prospect Jorge Alfaro for now, but he will likely remain on the bench and be sent down when A.J. Ellis reports this weekend. 

Rupp has five hits in 14 at-bats against Colon. He has faced only the Braves' Julio Teheran more times than Colon in his four-year career. The five hits are tied for his most against any one pitcher (Teheran).

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Colon and the Mets. 

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Aaron Altherr, LF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Adam Morgan, P

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Another chance to solve the ageless Bartolo Colon

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Another chance to solve the ageless Bartolo Colon

Phillies (59-68) at Mets (64-63)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

On Day 1 of the post-Carlos Ruiz era, the Phillies are at Citi Field to begin a three-game series with the Mets. 

Let's take a look:

1. Quick audition for Alfaro
Jorge Alfaro has been called up by the Phillies in time for Friday's game against the Mets. It won't be for long, though, as catcher A.J. Ellis will join the Phils on Saturday.

Phillies GM Matt Klentak spoke Thursday night about the importance of receiving Ellis from the Dodgers in the Ruiz trade. Like Chooch, Ellis is known for his game-calling ability. With Cameron Rupp being more of an offensive-minded catcher, the need still exists for a vet like Ellis.

Alfaro is regarded as the top catching prospect in baseball by MLB.com, and he will likely be called up again in mid-September, but for now the promotion seems more need-based than anything else. The Phillies need a backup catcher until Ellis arrives and Alfaro was the only catcher other than Rupp on the 40-man roster. The move made sense.

2. Yet another meeting with Colon
The Phillies face 43-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon for the fourth time this season and 13th time since he joined the Mets in 2014. 

Colon (11-7, 3.36) has lost fastball velocity each season since 2011. His heater averaged 91.7 mph that season and is all the way down to 87.7 this year. But he remains effective because he commands that fastball as well as any pitcher in baseball. Colon throws one of his two fastballs a whopping 89 percent of time. His pitch distribution this season has been 65 percent two-seamers, 24 percent four-seamers, seven percent sliders and four percent changeups.

The Phillies just haven't been able to solve Colon the last several years. In his starts against them as a Met, Colon is 8-3 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Nine of the 12 were quality starts.

Colon has a 2.25 ERA in four August starts, but he's been hittable. His opponents have hit .320 this month, but Colon has beared down with men on base.

Current Phillies have hit .229 against him with four home runs, three of which belong to Ryan Howard.

3. Morgan looks to build momentum
Adam Morgan has had a rough time in the majors in 2016, going 1-7 with a 6.21 ERA, but he's coming off his best start since early May. He allowed one run in six innings vs. the Cardinals last Friday. It was his first time pitching six innings in his last seven starts.

Morgan has faced the Mets just once, last season. He allowed five runs and 11 baserunners in 3⅔ innings.

Morgan has shown he's better than his opponents at Triple A, but in the majors he's had a lot of trouble retiring righties. They've hit .300 with 67 extra-base hits and an .887 OPS in 533 plate appearances. He's essentially made all right-handed hitters look like last year's version of Nolan Arenado.

4. Power at first
The Phillies' first base production has increased since the All-Star break as Howard has gotten hot. But Tommy Joseph continues to hit for power when given the opportunity to play, hitting his 17th homer Wednesday night in Chicago.

Since 2000, only seven players have more homers than Joseph in their first 75 games: Jose Abreu, Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, George Springer, Albert Pujols, Trevor Story and Wilin Rosario. 

The Phillies lead the majors with 33 home runs from their first basemen. (Howard and Joseph have a combined 36, but three of them came when one was either pinch-hitting or DH'ing.)

Howard, by the way, is up to .199. A 1-for-3 game would get him above the Mendoza line for the first time since April 30.

5. This and that
• Setup man Hector Neris leads the majors with 64 appearances, but he's only getting better as the season progresses. In his last 18⅓ innings, he's allowed one run (0.49 ERA) and 11 baserunners (0.60 WHIP). He's struck out 26 and walked two.

• The Mets are third in the National League with 165 home runs but 13th in runs. It's a boom-bust offense that has gone bust far too often this season. The Mets rank 29th in team batting average (.241) and 27th in on-base percentage (.309).

• Yoenis Cespedes returned last Friday from a quad injury and has hit since, going 8 for 25 with three homers and two doubles.

• Travis d'Arnaud has always been a highly regarded catcher, and he's healthy now, but he's missed so much time over the last few years that the Mets can't be certain he's their catcher of the future. The 27-year-old was traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays in December 2009 in the Roy Halladay deal and then shipped to the Mets three years later with Noah Syndergaard for R.A. Dickey. D'Arnaud showed flashes last season, when he hit .268/.340/.485, but he averaged 88 games in 2014-15 and has played in just 54 this season.