Phillies Hope to Break Franchise Win Record, Have Charlie Pass Gene on Final Night of Season

Phillies Hope to Break Franchise Win Record, Have Charlie Pass Gene on Final Night of Season

Game 162 is already here. It doesn't seem so long ago that we were shoveling snow, freezing our asses off and and clinging to every Twitpic of a Phillie with a palm tree in the background.

Now, 161 games later, we know the team's tremendous regular season will mean far less without some hardware at the end of October. Nevertheless, this group of Phillies has the opportunity on the final night of the season to make history.

Just a week ago, there was a general panic that the Phils had cost themselves a shot at the record books by playing the add-ons to their expanded roster for almost a week-straight following the clinch of their fifth consecutive NL East title.

But tonight, the club has the chance to set a new franchise record. A victory and sweep of the Braves would put them at 102 wins, a mark never before set by a Phillies team.

As if that isn't enough, just one more victory would also push manager Charlie Manuel ahead of Gene Mauch for the most wins ever by a Phillies manager.

Lineups, playoff scenarios, the pitching matchup, and a quick word on Charlie after the jump…

On Charlie Manuel
John Gonzalez put together a nice piece this morning recapping Manuel's tenure here in Philadelphia. Beginning with the manager's start as a throw-in in the Jim Thome acquisition (we kid…sort of), Gonzo takes us all the way through to Charlie's current status as one of the most revered coaches/managers in our city's history.

Manuel hasn't always been perfect. This website, for instance, has been tracking his every in-game strategic blunder since 2008.

But Charlie has had his finger on the pulse of this team in a way that possibly no other manager could. We may argue over the minutiae of which reliever to move to in the eighth or if he should have sat this guy on that day, but its nearly impossible to argue against his results.

The steward of five division titles and this town's first professional championship in 25 years, Charlie Manuel is about to become—with our apologies to the great Gene Mauch—the biggest winner in Phillies history.

Pitching Matchup
Doing his best to set records for his club and manager, Joe Blanton is scheduled to take the mound tonight for the Phillies. This will be Blanton's seventh start of the season, but just his second since returning from injury.

It is unknown how long Big Joe will last or how long he will allowed to throw; Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo are all expected to throw in an effort to keep the pitchers somewhat on schedule and to ease some concerns heading in to the postseason.

Fighting for the Braves' Wild Card hopes is Tim Hudson. Hudson is the owner of a 16-10 record over 32 starts, a 3.23 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He has not faired all that well against the Phillies this season, allowing 8 earned and 18 hits in just 20.2 innings of work.

Playoff Scenarios
The Atlanta Braves are currently tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Wild Card. All the history and records aside, this game will help to determine who the Phillies play in the NLDS.

A win against the Braves and a St. Louis victory over the Houston Astros would result in the Phillies hosting the Cards over the weekend and sending Ryan Howard to his hometown for Games 3 and (if necessary) 4. The reverse scenario would pit the Phillies in a first round matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Finally, should both Atlanta and St. Louis win or lose, they would be forced to break their tie in a one-game playoff. Then again, should the Braves win the Wild Card and the Diamondbacks tie the Brewers for the second best record in the NL, the Phillies would actually square off against Milwaukee.

Got all that? Good.

Rosters for Tonight's Ballgame
Charlie Manuel's 9/28 lineup:

Rollins SS, Utley 2B, Pence RF, Howard 1B, Mayberry Jr. CF, Ibanez LF, Polanco 3B, Ruiz C, Blanton P

And for the Braves:

Bourn CF, Prado LF, Jones 3B, Uggla 2B, Freeman 1B, McCann C, Diaz RF, Wilson SS, Hudson P

See you post-game.

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In an unrelated Mets note, Jose Reyes was pulled from the ballgame Wednesday afternoon after reaching base in his first at bat. His BA currently sits at .3371. He has opted to sit down for the remainder of the afternoon in order to protect that average. Ted Williams frozen head is probably spinning its gra--uh, wherever it is.

To surpass him, Ryan Braun will need to go at least 3-4 tonight in order to win the NL Batting Title.

Jose Reyes—Sportsman of the Year. Leggoo Braaaunnn.

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

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Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

For a moment on Sunday afternoon, Citizens Bank Park sprung to life as the Phillies strung together five hits in a four-run second inning.

But four home runs off starter Zach Eflin sent the Phillies to another defeat and Eflin to Lehigh Valley.

Eflin was optioned to Triple A following the Phillies' 8-4 loss to the Reds, in which he allowed seven runs on nine hits in just five innings of work (see Instant Replay)

"His first 2-3 outings were really good," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was keeping the ball down, but his last three, including today, he's elevating his sinker and once you elevate that sinker, it doesn't have the effect that you'd like to have."

The Phillies have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games and handed the Reds their first series win at CBP since Aug. 2006.  

Eflin got off to a rocky start on Sunday with three first-inning singles, allowing one run. He escaped further damage but then proceeded to give up a home run in each of his final four innings. The final home run — Adam Duvall's second on the day — came on an 0-2 pitch and extended Cincinnati's lead to 7-4. All of the Reds' hits off Eflin came on fastballs as their potent lineup feasted on his pitches high in the zone.

Two weeks ago, Eflin's ERA stood at 2.87 as he kept opponents in the ballpark with his hard sinker. However, starting with a May 17 outing in Texas, Eflin has allowed 22 runs in his last 15 innings. He's given up seven homers in his last two starts and at least nine hits in five consecutive outings as his ERA ballooned to 6.13. With Sunday's results, the Phillies were left little choice but to option the 23-year-old righty while he deals with a rough patch.

"There are some things I need to work on," Eflin said. "I need to do a better job of pitching backward, especially in fastball counts. There's a lot of things I need to work on, but at the end of the day, I'm not worried about it. I'm going to go down there, work on everything I need to work on and get back as soon as possible."

The Phillies will likely reinstate Howie Kendrick (oblique) off the 10-day disabled list Monday in a corresponding move after the veteran IF/OF completed a four-game rehab stint (see story)

Kendrick could help boost an offense that is scuffling. After a four-run second inning highlighted by Andrew Knapp's 434-foot three-run home run, the Phillies' bats fell silent. They strung together five more hits. However, three double plays and a few untimely strikeouts killed any further rallies.

The Phillies left a potential run stranded on third base in the fifth inning as Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr struck out against starter Scott Feldman, who waded into and out of trouble in five innings of work. Herrera went 0 for 4 with that strikeout, continuing to slump. His average has fallen to .217.

With Kendrick returning, Mackanin indicated he would give Herrera some days off soon to help him relax amid mounting pressure to hit.

"He's scuffling. A couple guys scuffling," Mackanin said. "I'll probably move him down in the lineup. I can't keep him in the two-hole. But he has to fight his way out. 

"We'll see when Kendrick gets here. We're going to have another outfielder. I'm going to mix and match and try to get everybody in there. Kendrick, I'm going to bring along slowly because I want to make sure he's healthy.

"In other words, I don't have a set outfield. I'm going to mix those guys up."

On the infield, Maikel Franco continued his slide on Sunday, going 1 for 4 with a strikeout and a double play. The slugger is hitting .213 this month, just as he did in April, but his power is down with just two home runs. Kendrick, who only played left field in April, played third base while at Triple A, so he could potentially spell Franco as well.

"He hit a ball hard today but he's not giving us consistent at-bats," Mackanin said. "He's searching both physically and mentally. It's not easy for him. I can tell he's down on himself. He's not happy about what's going on."

The Phillies came into this week struggling and were unable to rebound against the Rockies and Reds, losing five of seven. They averaged just 2.42 runs during the homestand.

However, the bigger problem comes in the rotation. The team gave up 5.71 runs per game in their last seven despite a 23 2/3 inning scoreless streak from the bullpen. The rotation's struggles continue to plague the team as they carry the worst record in baseball into Miami for a three-game set starting Monday.

"I certainly expected more out of our starters," Mackanin said. "We've had some issues with Nola's arm and Clay Buchholz going down. Although [Jerad] Eickhoff is going to end up having a good year in my opinion. He's been a little bit hot and cold.

"And Eflin, I counted on him to have a big year this year. I think if he gets himself straightened out down in Triple A, I think he's going to come back strong. But certainly, I can't sit here and say I'm happy with [his performance]."

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

Zach Eflin allowed a career-high four home runs and the Phillies were outslugged by the Cincinnati Reds in an 8-4 defeat Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games. The Reds, who took two of three, picked up their first series win at CBP since August 2006.

Eflin was roughed up for the third consecutive start. The Reds tagged him for seven runs in just five innings. After three hits led to a run in the first inning, he gave up home runs in each of his last four frames. Following the game, Eflin was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Jeanmar Gomez allowed a solo home run in relief. 

Andrew Knapp gave the Phillies an early lead with a three-run homer during a four-run second inning. However, three double plays stifled the Phillies' offense, which was held scoreless after the second inning. 

Scott Feldman improved to 4-4 with the win for the Reds. The Phils dropped to 17-31 while the Reds improved to 24-25. 

Starting pitching report
Eflin stumbled through five innings, allowing nine hits. He had held opponents to just four homers in first six starts but has now has let up seven in his last two appearances. Over his past three starts, Eflin's been tagged for 22 runs in 15 innings. He's given up at least nine hits in all five May starts. 

A poor sign for Eflin: Only two of his outs came on the ground. The Reds were all over his fastball and scored in each of his five innings. His ERA has gone from 2.81 to 6.13 since May 17.

Feldman labored through a 32-pitch second inning in which he gave up four runs. He settled down afterward with a pair of double plays to get through five innings. The veteran righty struck out the last two batters he faced with a man on third and one out.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia threw two shutout innings, striking out one. Jeanmar Gomez gave up rookie Patrick Kivlehan's second home run of the day in the ninth inning, snapping the Phillies' bullpen's scoreless streak at 23 2/3 innings. Gomez allowed three hits and the one run in two innings.

Blake Wood, Wandy Peralta, Drew Storen and Raisel Iglesias each threw shutout innings in relief of Feldman.

At the plate
Manager Pete Mackanin wanted the Phillies to string together 4-5 hits and they did so in the second inning. Tommy Joseph and Michael Saunders led off with back-to-back singles before Knapp drove them in with his 434-foot blast. Knapp laid off two high fastballs after falling behind 0-2 and drilled a curveball into the Phillies' bullpen.

Freddy Galvis followed with a double. Even Eflin aided the cause with his first career RBI on a run-scoring single. 

The top two in the order — Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera — went 0 for 8. Everyone else in the lineup had at least one hit. Saunders and Aaron Altherr each had two hits while Ty Kelly had a pinch-hit double.

Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Kivlehan combined for five home runs with Duvall and Kivlehan notching multi-hit games. Jose Peraza and Zack Cozart extended their hitting streaks to 13 and 11 games, respectively, in the first inning.

Up next
The Phillies head on the road and begin a three-game set with the Miami Marlins, whom they beat twice in April at Citizens Bank Park.

Monday, 7:10 p.m. — Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 4.28) vs. Edinson Volquez (0-7, 4.82)

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.— Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.55) vs. Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40)

Wednesday, 1:10 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-2, 4.34) vs. Dan Straily (3.83)