Halladay, Phils earn rain-shortened win over Cards

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Halladay, Phils earn rain-shortened win over Cards

BOX SCORE

It’s amazing what a few runs can do for a pitcher.

Just ask Roy Halladay.

He rode a five-run cushion in the first inning to his second straight win Friday night. The 35-year-old right-hander went seven strong innings and came away with his 67th career complete game in the Phillies’ rain-shortened 8-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s a big difference pitching with a nice lead,” Halladay said. “Get five early runs, give one back and you get three more. It doesn’t happen very often, but it makes it a lot better because you can be aggressive and you are less tentative and tight. You can be aggressive and attack guys.”

Halladay was dead-on when he said early runs don’t happen very often -- at least with this team. Entering Friday night’s game, the Phils had scored just 13 runs in their previous seven games. None of those 13 runs were scored before the sixth inning.

Halladay’s effort Friday night evened his season record at 2-2 and snapped a four-game losing streak for the Phillies.

The Phillies’ offense snapped another troubling streak when it drew a walk for the first time since Sunday. The Phils actually had two walks in the game as they avoided becoming the first team since 1920 to go five straight games without a walk.

“We finally got a walk,” manager Charlie Manuel said with wide eyes after the game.

Manuel was in a good mood because, well, he’s always in a good mood when his team hits.

The Phils had 10 hits, four for extra bases. They chased lefty Jaime Garcia (eight runs, four earned, in three innings) early, a mild shocker considering they entered the game hitting just .131 (11 for 84) against lefties. Ryan Howard, who has struggled against left-handed pitching, got the night off. Manuel said Howard had a sore groin.

Ty Wigginton spent last season with the Phillies and made eight errors in 22 games at third base. Wigginton made another error at third in this game, but he did it for the Cardinals and it set up four of the five runs that the Phils scored in the first inning. Ben Revere (RBI triple) and Humberto Quintero (RBI double) followed the error with big hits.

The attendance was just 34,092, small by Phillies’ standards of recent seasons, but the crowd came alive with the early burst of runs.

“When we put together runs, that’ll bring life to your team,” Manuel said. “We got a break (the Wigginton error) and ran with it.”

Halladay was the story of the spring because of his consistent struggles on the mound. Whispers of a serious decline followed him into the regular season and grew louder when he was tagged for 12 hits and 12 runs over 7 1/3 innings in his first two starts.

Sunday in Miami, Halladay showed a major improvement when he pitched eight innings of one-run ball against the Miami Marlins. That was not a top test for Halladay -- even he acknowledged it -- because the Marlins, averaging just over two runs per game, are a threadbare team and they were without their best player, Giancarlo Stanton. The Cardinals, averaging over five runs per game, were a better test.

Though Halladay fell behind in a lot of counts -- he threw first-pitch strikes to just 11 of 25 hitters -- and had a poor ratio of strikes to balls (59/50), he had excellent results against the Cards. He allowed just two hits, solo homers by Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, walked two and struck out six.

Working with a lead, catcher Quintero called a lot of sinkers. It was a good pitch for Halladay and it sat around 90 mph and hit 92 several times.

Over the winter, Halladay made mechanical changes to his delivery.

“Tonight was about as good as I’ve felt,” he said. “I still need to be more consistent, but I feel good where I’m at. I feel like it’s coming together the way it should. I’ll continue to work at it until I get more consistent.”

Halladay mentioned that his delivery got out of whack a few times, especially when he tried to “add” to pitches. That was a reference to overthrowing. He seemed to do that in his first couple of starts as he tried to generate velocity. He said he needs to avoid that temptation and believes he can now recognize it when he’s doing that and make a quick fix to his delivery.

“Obviously it was a struggle for me in spring training and the first two starts of the season,” he said. “I know it’s hard for you guys to believe but I always felt I was going in the right direction. I just needed time to put it together.”

As Halladay kept the Cardinals off balance Friday night, a more important drama played in Massachusetts, where law enforcement officials nabbed one of the lowlifes who killed and maimed innocent people with a bombing at the Boston Marathon. Halladay is known for his tunnel vision, but even he knew what was going down 300 or so miles to the north.

“We all realize how lucky we are to live in this country and have the freedoms we do,” Halladay said. “That (incident) was disappointing and heartbreaking. But to see how we overcome things is gratifying. We always become stronger after things like that. I’m glad to be part of a country like that.”

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue on. Or at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday with John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4 but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P

Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

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Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

READING, Pa. – There is a photo atop Rhys Hoskins’ Twitter page that shows the Reading Fightin Phils first baseman, a Sacramento native, seated on a rock and looking out over Lake Tahoe, as well as the horizon beyond.

“Just keep livin’,” it says elsewhere on the page.

“As clichéd as it sounds, I try to stay where I am, day to day – take care of what I have to do that day,” he said Thursday, after hitting a solo homer in Reading’s 7-4 victory over Erie. “Life’s going to throw a lot of stuff at you, so just keep on going.”

The 23-year-old Hoskins, a fifth-round pick of the Phillies in 2014, as a result has managed to remain in the moment, but not without expanding his horizons – all the way to Australia, where he played winter ball this past offseason, and one day, he can only hope, Citizens Bank Park.

“I set a goal with my dad, as soon as I got drafted – a (minor-league) level a year, as long as I kept on progressing,” he said. “Try not to get caught somewhere.”

So far, so good. He spent 2014 at Williamsport, the short-season A-ball affiliate, and tore it up while splitting last season between two other Class A clubs, Lakewood and Clearwater. And recently he has begun to rake for the Double-A Fightins, a team featuring such other prospects as catcher Jorge Alfaro, rightfielder Dylan Cozens and pitcher Ben Lively.

Hoskins hit .450 while being named the Phillies Minor League Review Player of the Week for the week of May 16-22, and followed that up by hitting a walk-off grand slam Tuesday against Erie, in addition to his blast Thursday.

Overall, his stat line will not overwhelm – he was hitting .269 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 45 games through Friday – but the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is at least another name to consider going forward, as the big-league club continues its rebuild.

As for the others: Alfaro, the jewel of the Cole Hamels trade last year with Texas, was hitting .339 entering Saturday's games, and Cozens, a second-round pick in 2012, was leading the Eastern League with 13 homers and second in RBIs with 40. Lively, acquired from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd in December 2014, was 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA in nine starts.

Certainly Hoskins understands the first-base pecking order, with Ryan Howard in obvious decline. Tommy Joseph is off to a promising start for the big-league club, and Darin Ruf is at Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

At the same time, Hoskins tries not to dwell too much on such things.

“If you get caught looking ahead,” he said, “you probably miss some stuff, where you’re at right now.”

All told he hit .319 with 19 homers and 90 RBIs in his two stops last season, then asked the Phillies to arrange a winter-ball destination. They sent him to Sydney, and he excelled there, too – .323 with eight homers and 38 RBIs, in 42 games.

“The baseball was fun, a lot of fun,” he said. “I was able to get some more work in, but I think more than anything it’s a life experience. … Not too many people get to spend three months in a country on the other side of the world, especially when someone else is paying for it.”

The season ran from October to January – part of Australia’s summer – and he remained for a few weeks afterward, touring not only that country but nearby New Zealand.

No telling when he might ever be back there. 

He does have some idea of where he’d like to be, baseball-wise, but everything in its time. He’s just going to keep livin’ and continue to focus on the task at hand.

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Big test for Jerad Eickhoff

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Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Big test for Jerad Eickhoff

Phillies (26-22) at Cubs (32-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

After Friday’s 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Chicago Cubs, Jerad Eickhoff and the Phillies look to rebound against Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs’ potent offense.

1. Slowing down the Cubs
How can the Phillies slow down one of the deepest offenses in the game?

Well, they may not be able to — not many teams have.

As the Phillies learned Friday, when the Cubs hit it out of the park, they are almost unbeatable. As a team, the Cubs have hit 52 home runs in 45 games this season and are 22-5 when they hit a home run. That’s only 16 games without a homer and the Cubs are 7-9 in those games.

For the Phillies to have a chance in this series, the pitching staff must limit the long balls. 

2. Big test for Eickhoff
And it is Eickhoff’s job to do just that Saturday afternoon — to contain the Cubs.

Eickhoff’s inconsistencies have been well documented and Saturday is his biggest test yet. In his last five starts, Eickhoff has gone at least six innings and has allowed three runs or fewer in four of those starts, including a seven shutout innings his last time out against the Atlanta Braves.

Eickhoff and the Phillies would be thrilled with a start like that Saturday. 

3. Something’s gotta give
Lefties have had the better of the right-handed Eickhoff this season, hitting .302 against him with an OPS of .844, .200 points higher than his numbers against righties.

Most of the Cubs’ power bats are right-handed, with the exception of Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward. Lucky for Eickhoff, right? Not so fast.

Of the Cubs’ 52 home runs this season, 41 have come against right-handed pitchers. Something’s got to give.

4. What 5th starter?
The Phillies draw the Cubs’ fifth starter, Kyle Hendricks, Saturday. However, Hendricks might just be the best back-end pitcher in baseball this year.

Boasting a 3.30 ERA, Hendricks holds opponents to just a .218 batting average and is equally effective against both righties and lefties. Hendricks doesn’t have blazing speed on his pitches — his fastball routinely tops out at 89 mph — but what he lacks in velocity, he makes up for in pinpoint precision. The Phillies will have their work cut out for them.

5. This and that
• Hendricks tossed 6⅔ innings in his only career start against the Phillies, giving up three runs on four hits — three of which were doubles. 

• Eickhoff has one career start against Chicago, a no-decision. Eickhoff went seven strong innings, giving up just one run on three hits with eight strikeouts. 

• The Phillies have 144 RBIs on the season — the Cubs had 129 in April alone. 

• Chicago has two of the top three hitters in the league in on-base percentage in Ben Zobrist (.453) and Dexter Fowler (.436). The two sandwich Odubel Herrera, who has a .440 OBP.