Even as Lidge returns, Phils look for bullpen help

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Even as Lidge returns, Phils look for bullpen help

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An interesting subplot unfolded in the late innings of the Phillies 5-4 loss to San Diego on Monday.

Actually there were a couple of them, and they both entered through the bullpen door.

One hundred and one games into the season, Brad Lidge finally pitched for the Phillies. The erstwhile closer threw 11 pitches in navigating a 1-2-3 seventh inning. If he continues that level of efficiency, the Phillies will have added a nice piece to their bullpen for the stretch drive and beyond.

As encouraging as Lidges performance was, team officials are still considering beefing up the relief corps for this season and next.

Thats why the eighth inning was so interesting Monday.

Moments after Lidges perfect seventh inning, San Diego right-hander Mike Adams entered the game through the same bullpen door and pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Padres. Adams struck out Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both looking and unhappy with umpire Rob Drake then retired Raul Ibanez with the potential tying run at third in helping protect a one-run lead for the Padres.

Adams was an interesting side note because Phillies officials covet him and, according to sources, still havent given up trying to acquire him before Sundays non-waiver trade deadline. Even adding a healthy and effective Lidge to the late-innings team of Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes and Ryan Madson might not stop Phils officials from continuing their pursuit of Adams. Madson will be a free agent at seasons end, and Adams, who is under control for 2012, could be a possible replacement at closer. In other words, hed help now and in the future, and thats always been the Phillies style when pondering and making deals.

Of course, the Phils are still looking for a right-handed hitter, as well, and theres a chance they could use their trade chips filling that need.

Whatever the case, Adams is still on the Phils radar screen, and he was impressive on the Citizens Bank Park mound on Monday.

So was Lidge. And the fans let him know it. The 176th consecutive sellout crowd saluted himwelcomed him back with a loud ovation as he left the mound in the seventh inning.

The ovation was great. I definitely noticed it, said Lidge, who missed the first 100 games with shoulder and elbow injuries. These fans have meant so much to me and my career. It was a great feeling. Something Ill always remember.

Lidge threw nine sliders and two fastballs. The fastballs registered 89 and 90 mph, hardly high octane, but right about where Lidge was in the second half of last season. He pitched effectively at that velocity because he located well and had good downward action on his slider. The slider was good Monday so catcher Carlos Ruiz kept riding it.

Health-wise, I feel really good, Lidge said. I have a little ways to go with my fastball. I still think theres another click or two of velocity in there that will happen real soon.

Lidge, who is unlikely to be re-signed after this season, understands he may never close for the Phils again. Thats OK. He just wants to contribute.

My biggest goal isnt necessarily what role I pitch in, its to pitch in a lot of games, he said. I just want Charlie to be able to depend on me.

After Lidge departed, the Phils received two innings of scoreless relief from Mike Stutes. In the end, however, three shutout innings from the bullpen werent enough to extricate the Phils from the early hole dug by starter Cliff Lee.

Lee does not have overpowering stuff, so when he leaves balls over the middle of the plate he is susceptible to getting his fanny kicked. The lefty threw too many good strikes, and made a very costly mental error, in falling to 9-7.

It was just one of those days, manager Charlie Manuel said. I felt like they were hitting him pretty good. His stuff was good, but he had problems with his command.

Lee allowed 10 hits and five runs over four innings. He wasnt happy about being removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning Ben Francisco grounded into a double play but Manuel wanted to try to get something going offensively.

Im never going to be happy throwing just four innings, Lee said. But its Manuels job and he makes the call. There was nothing I could do about it. I was told theyre pinch-hitting and that was it.

Lee didnt help his cause with a mental mistake in the second inning. With runners on the corners, he threw a soft pickoff to first base. Chris Denorfia, the runner on third, saw the lazy throw and stole home as the Padres rallied for four runs in the inning.

Lee took blame for that play.

I learned from it, Lee said. I cant allow that to happen. I didnt even consider the runner stealing home as a possibility. Next time, I need to be more firm in my throws to first.

A difficult start by Lee was made all that much easier to swallow by this: The Phillies took three of four from the Padres and have won nine straight series. On top of it all, Lidge made a nice showing for the first time out.

A week before the trade deadline, the Phils have the best record in the majors, but management does not want to stand pat. It is still trying to get a right-handed bat and that guy who pitched the eighth inning for San Diego is on the wish list, too.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

Best of MLB: Dodgers deny Cubs' Jake Arrieta 21st straight win

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Best of MLB: Dodgers deny Cubs' Jake Arrieta 21st straight win

CHICAGO -- Scott Kazmir and two relievers combined on a one-hitter, matching zeros with Cubs ace Jake Arrieta before the Los Angeles Dodgers got to Chicago's bullpen for a 5-0 victory Tuesday night.

Arrieta went seven scoreless innings, but was denied his 21st consecutive victory. The Cubs had won in Arrieta's last 23 starts.

Cubs left-hander Clayton Richard (0-1) gave up three straight singles to lefties in the eighth, the last Adrian Gonzalez's liner to left that scored Chase Utley and ended the Dodgers' 16-inning scoreless streak.

Corey Seager hit a three-run homer off Trevor Cahill in the ninth.

Joe Blanton (3-2) struck out three in two perfect innings as the Dodgers snapped the Cubs' six-game winning streak.

Kazmir allowed a single and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings. Adam Liberatore struck out one in a perfect ninth (see full recap).

Betts hits trio of homers in Red Sox win
BALTIMORE -- Mookie Betts hit a career-high three homers and drove in five runs, and the Boston Red Sox cruised past the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 on Tuesday night to open a three-game lead in the AL East.

Betts led off the game with a shot to center and added a three-run drive to left in the second inning. After lining out to second base in the fourth, Betts hit a bases-empty homer to right in the seventh.

Batting in the ninth inning with a chance to tie the major league record of four homers in a game, Betts grounded out to second against rookie Ashur Tolliver.

Still, he's the first Boston player to hit three homers in a game since Will Middlebrooks against Toronto on April 7, 2013. Betts' 12 home runs rank second on the team behind David Ortiz, who has 14.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts stretched his career-best hitting streak to 24 games with a single in the seventh inning (see full recap).

Rockies tie franchise record with 7 HRs
DENVER -- Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon each hit two of Colorado's team record-tying seven homers, powering the Rockies to a 17-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

Blackmon became the first player in Rockies history to hit leadoff homers in back-to-back games and added his first career grand slam in the seventh. Carlos Gonzalez homered for a fourth straight game, while DJ LeMahieu and Gerardo Parra also went deep.

It was the first time Colorado hit seven homers at Coors Field. The team also had seven on April 5, 1997, in Montreal.

Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (3-2) allowed three runs in six solid innings.

Jon Moscot (0-3) was hit hard in his return from the disabled list. He surrendered seven runs and four homers in two innings. Moscot also was grazed in the right ear in the third while bunting. Moscot stayed down for a moment before taking his base (see full recap).

Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

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Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

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The gap in talent level that exists between the Phillies and some of the top teams in the majors has really been evident over the last eight games.
 
The Phillies have lost seven of those eight games to the Tigers, Cubs and Nationals. Tuesday night brought the latest defeat, a 5-1 loss to the National League East-leading Nats at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay). The Nats have won the first two games of the series and go for the sweep on Wednesday night.
 
While losing seven of their last eight, the Phillies have seen their feel-good story turn to dust. Their record has gone from 25-19 to 26-26 and their deficit in the NL East from two games to 5½.
 
“We had a good month and a half,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “When things are going good, they snowball. When things are going bad, they snowball. We’ve got to keep that snowball from rolling. We’ve got to get out of it.”
 
There are a number of reasons the Phillies have hit hard times. Poor offense is a big one. They have been held to two or fewer runs five times in their last seven losses and 20 times for the season. They are now averaging 3.15 runs per game, the lowest mark in the majors. Offense like that is the reason why Aaron Nola can pitch six innings of two-run ball and lose on two mistake pitches as he did Tuesday night. These pitchers have no margin for error.
 
One of the offensive’s big shortcomings is the lack of power. The Phils have been out-homered 15-7 in the last eight games. Washington hit four longballs on Tuesday night; the Phillies hit none. In fact, the Phillies had just four hits – period.
 
“We’re just getting out-homered every night,” Mackanin said. “We’re not hitting home runs. I feel like it’s a broken record. We’re not hitting.”
 
For the season, the Phillies have 39 homers. Only Atlanta has hit fewer.
 
And it doesn’t appear as if things are going to get all that much better any time soon. Management would consider trading for a bat close to the July trading deadline – if the team is in the race. With reality striking hard lately, it’s tough to see this team being in the race for anything but a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. In the short term, the Phils could soon have Cody Asche back on the roster.
 
“Our pitching overall has been very good,” Mackanin said. “We’ve just got to hit.”
 
The Nationals won this game with power and good starting pitching.
 
Right-hander Joe Ross held the Phils to a run over seven innings – an RBI triple by Cesar Hernandez.
 
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth capitalized on a poorly located fastball by Nola and homered two batters into the game. Daniel Murphy got Nola in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie.
 
Nola would like to have had both pitches back.
 
“The pitch to Werth was right down the chute,” he said. “With Murphy, I wanted to get it in a little further and I didn’t.”
 
Other than that, Nola was pretty good. He pitched out of trouble in the second inning and was supported by a double play started nicely at second by Hernandez and a nice catch by Odubel Herrera in center field.
 
“We’re doing some things right but not enough of them,” Mackanin said.
 
“That’s baseball,” Nola said of the lack of run support. “Sometimes we pitch bad and get a lot of run support. The guys are battling. I feel like we’re going to bounce back the next couple of games.”
 
The Nationals blew the game open with three runs in the ninth against reliever Colton Murray. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
The two home runs deprived Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon a chance at a save as he recorded the final three outs against his old team.

Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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The Phillies' late-May slide continued in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
 
Aaron Nola delivered a solid start, but got poor run support. The Phillies entered the game averaging 3.2 runs per game, lowest in the majors.
 
The Nationals scored all their runs on home runs.
 
The Phillies have lost nine of their last 11 games. They are 1-7 in their last eight and have gone from 25-19 and two games back in the NL East to 26-26 and 5½ games back.
  
Starting pitching report
Nola went six innings and allowed two runs, both on solo homers. He walked one and struck out six. He is 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA.
 
Washington right-hander Joe Ross (5-4) pitched a strong game. He gave up just three hits and a run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Ross has given up just two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts.
 
Bullpen report
Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for the Nats in a non-save situation.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have been held to two or fewer runs 20 times in their 52 games.

Cesar Hernandez tripled home the Phillies' only run.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy accounted for the Nationals’ first two runs pair of solo homers against Nola. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer off Colton Murray in the ninth and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
Murphy also singled in the game. He had 47 hits in the month of May, tying a Washington/Montreal franchise record that had previously been shared by Al Oliver and Marquis Grissom.

Lineup stuff
Mackanin was trying to send Hernandez a message by batting him eighth (see story).
 
Bryce Harper did not play for Washington. He was hit on the right leg by a pitch in Monday night’s game.
 
Slumping Ryan Howard started at first base and went hitless in three at-bats to fall to .154. He hit .101 (7 for 69) in the month of May.
 
Howard will not start Wednesday night against Max Scherzer. He is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer. Tommy Joseph will start that game.
 
Minor matters
Cody Asche’s minor-league rehab stint expires Wednesday. He could rejoin the team at any time.
 
Up next
 The series concludes on Wednesday night. Lefty Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67) pitches against Washington right-hander Scherzer (5-4, 4.05).