Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Twins 2

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Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Twins 2

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS -- Cliff Lee pitched a gem (and got just enough run support) and the beleaguered bullpen protected a late lead as the Phillies snapped a season-long five-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

The Phillies are 32-35.

They are 2-5 on this 10-game road trip.

Starting pitching report
Lee retired the first 10 batters he faced and the minimum through six innings. He took a 1-0 lead to the mound in the seventh, allowed a one-out walk and a bang-bang infield hit. With two outs, Lee hung an 0-2 cutter and Justin Morneau lined it to the gap in left-center to give the Twins a 2-1 lead.

The Phillies rallied for two runs in the top of the eighth to get Lee the lead before he was officially out of the game.

In all, Lee went seven innings, allowed just three hits and two runs. He walked one and struck out six.

He is 8-2 on the season and 7-1 in 10 starts following a loss.

Minnesota starter Kevin Correia allowed eight hits but just one run over five innings. He threw 112 pitches in those five innings and pitched in constant trouble, but the Phillies stranded 10 runners while he was in the game.

Bullpen report
Struggling Mike Adams had a clean eighth inning to protect a one-run lead.

Jonathan Papelbon converted the save in his first save opportunity since May 29. He is 12 for 12.

Twins right-hander Jared Burton gave up the lead in the top of the eighth.

At the plate
Ben Revere, batting leadoff, followed up a three-hit game Wednesday night with four hits and two runs scored.

Pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen started the Phillies’ decisive two-run rally in the eighth with a double to right. He moved up on Revere’s bunt hit and scored on Michael Young’s RBI single to right. Running on contact, Revere scooted home from third with the go-ahead run on Jimmy Rollins’ slow grounder to first.

Ryan Howard had three singles and drove home the Phils’ first run.

Delmon Young struck out twice and grounded into a double play with multiple runners on base each time.

The Phillies had 16 hits but just two were for extra bases. They left 16 men on base and were 4 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

In the field
Minnesota rightfielder Ryan Doumit threw out Michael Young at the plate for the final out in the top of the sixth as the Phils got nothing to show for three straight two-out singles.

Twins leftfielder Oswaldo Arcia made a terrific sliding catch against the wall in foul territory on a pop up by Freddy Galvis to end the top of the seventh.

Health check
Carlos Ruiz will begin a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday with the Triple A Lehigh Valley club. The plan is for him to be activated a week from Friday (see story).

Transactions
Michael Martinez replaced Cesar Hernandez, who was sent to Triple A. Pitcher Tyler Cloyd was sent to Triple A and lefty reliever Jake Diekman will take his place on the roster Friday in Denver. John Lannan will come off the DL on Monday and pitch against his former Washington team in Philadelphia (see story).

Up next
The trip continues Friday night with the first of three in Denver against the Colorado Rockies. Pitching matchups:

Friday night -- RH Kyle Kendrick (6-4, 3.22) vs. RH Tyler Chatwood (3-1, 2.14)

Saturday afternoon -- RH Jonathan Pettibone (3-2, 3.70) vs. RH Juan Nicasio (4-2, 4.61)

Sunday afternoon -- LH Cole Hamels (2-9, 4.45) vs. RH Jhoulys Chacin (4-3, 4.52)

The Rockies got a little banged up in Thursday’s loss to the Nationals. Troy Tulowitzki, ranked in the top five in the NL in batting average, homers and RBIs, suffered a broke rib and is headed for the DL MRI. Carlos Gonzalez, ranked in the top five in the NL in homers and RBIs, was hit in the foot with a foul as he stood in the on-deck circle. Dexter Fowler was hit by a pitch on the hand. Both are day to day.

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."