Manuel airs out Phils after loss to lowly Astros

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Manuel airs out Phils after loss to lowly Astros

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON Charlie Manuel has been like the father of a perfect teenager this season. The kid does his homework, minds his manners, is always respectful, never gets in trouble. As a result dad never has to raise his voice and that blood pressure always stays an even 12080.

Now were going to see how the teenager reacts after dad got angry. Were going to see if dad can get the kid back on track after a rare slip-up.

Manuel had strong words for his team during a clubhouse meeting after it played another sloppy game in a 5-2 loss (see game breakdown) to the lowly Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

We had a little talk, Manuel admitted. Not a big talk.

The message:

Just be more alert and play the game how we can, he said.

Manuel was soft-selling the meeting. Word from the clubhouse was he rattled some cages pretty soundly.

Well see if his tongue-lashing prevents the Phils from suffering their first sweep of three of more games in over a year when they play the Astros, baseballs worst team, in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. The Phils have lost the first two games by a combined score of 10-3. Overall, they have lost three in a row for the first time since early June.

Weve talked all year long about where we want to go, Manuel said. We want to get to the World Series and win it. Were sitting in a hell of a position, but when we come out and play sloppy and dont have a lot of life Even if we werent where we are with the best record in baseball Id feel the same way.

We need to bear down. We played a good game Sunday at Milwaukee. It was just a tough game. But the last two havent been real good. If you play right and hustle and dont win, thats OK. But mental mistakes and taking things for granted. We dont want to do that. Were better than that.

We could put a little more into it. Thats the bottom line.

Playing poorly against the Astros is nothing new for the Phillies. They were swept in a four-game series by the Astros in Sept. 2009 in Houston and August 23-26, 2010 in Philadelphia. That was the series in which Jayson Werth was picked off second base by a catchers throw. Manuel read his team the riot act after one of the games in that series. It responded by going 27-8 down the stretch.

These Phillies are a lot closer to the regular-season finish line than those Phillies. These Phillies have just 17 games remaining in the regular season. They are a cinch to win the division. Their magic number for doing so is five.

In the last two games, the Phillies have made miscues in the field and taken it on the chin from two of their former pitchers, Brett Myers and J.A. Happ, who were a combined 9-28 entering the series. The Phils are just 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position in two games against the Astros.

Ouch.

This team looks as if it needs a new challenge. But at this point the only real challenge will be October. This team is beyond all that rah-rah team-record victories stuff. (It needs eight more for a team-record 102). All that matters is 11 wins in October.

Until then, what might help give the team one final push is the electricity of Citizens Bank Park. The Phils lost two in a row in a dead ballpark against a dead team in Miami earlier this month then went home and swept Atlanta in front of big crowds. On Thursday, the Phils start a 10-game homestand at the Bank. They should clinch the division during the homestand, and that will make Manuel happy.

Cole Hamels was not sharp in Tuesday nights start. He allowed nine hits and five runs in five innings.

Afterward, he acknowledged that the Phils havent played with their usual zip against the lowly Astros.

Were human, he said. Its a grind. You just have to grind your way through it. Theyre playing with a lot of motivation and were not taking it as serious.

Charlie Manuel has spoken. He wants things to change. With Roy Halladay on the mound Wednesday, he might just get his wish.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

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.

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

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MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor started serving his suspension Friday for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista after the penalty was reduced from eight to seven games.

Odor was out of the lineup for the series opener against Pittsburgh. He will be eligible to return June 4 when Texas is home against Seattle.

Bautista was suspended one game, and he was serving that Friday, when the penalty was upheld a day after his appeal was heard.

The Rangers promoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar from Triple-A Round Rock, and he was in the lineup against the Pirates as the leadoff hitter playing second base. Odor had been leading off.

Odor's penalty was cut by Major League Baseball special assistant John McHale Jr. The appeal over Odor's role in a May 15 brawl between the Rangers and Blue Jays was heard Tuesday. The league disciplined 14 players and staff over the melee in Arlington (see full story).

Red Sox: Struggling RHP Clay Buchholz to bullpen
TORONTO -- Struggling Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is being moved to the bullpen and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will take Buchholz's spot in the rotation, starting Tuesday at Baltimore.

Buchholz is 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA in 10 starts and has allowed five earned runs or more six times. He gave up season-highs of six runs and three home runs in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Colorado.

Rodriguez (right knee) is on the 15-day DL has not pitched for the Red Sox this season. He's 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA in five rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie in 2015.

Buchholz has made two career relief appearances, one in his rookie season in 2007 and another in 2008.

Manager John Farrell said Buchholz will make multi-inning appearances in order to remain stretched out and could return to the rotation later in the season.

Best of MLB: Mets spoil Urias' debut in 6-5 walk-off win

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Best of MLB: Mets spoil Urias' debut in 6-5 walk-off win

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson homered leading off the bottom of the ninth inning to give the New York Mets a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

Chase Utley, who was booed all night in his return to Citi Field, hit a tying three-run double off Jeurys Familia with two outs in a four-run ninth inning for the Dodgers.

New York took a 3-0 lead in the first against Julio Urias and chased the 19-year-old after 2 2/3 innings in his major league debut.

But in a non-save situation, Familia (2-0) failed to hold a 5-1 lead.

New York moved back into the NL East lead, by percentage points over Washington, giving Mets manager Terry Collins a happy 67th birthday. New York won for the sixth time in seven games, stopping the Dodgers' four-game winning streak (see full recap).

A-Rod, Tanaka lead Yanks to win over Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez homered for the first time since coming off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 on Friday night.

Rodriguez returned Thursday after missing three weeks with a strained right hamstring. His sixth homer of the season and 693rd overall off Chris Archer came during a three-run sixth.

Tanaka (3-0) scattered two hits and struck out four to run his career-best unbeaten streak to 11 consecutive starts, dating to last season.

Andrew Miller gave up a single and hit a batter during a scoreless eighth. Kirby Yates allowed Steve Pearce's two-out solo homer in the ninth before Aroldis Chapman got the final out.

Carlos Beltran homered in the eighth for the Yankees.

Archer (3-6) allowed four runs -- one earned -- and four hits in eight innings for the Rays, who have lost six of seven (see full recap).

Donaldson HRs spark Blue Jays' victory
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson hit two home runs and drove in five runs as the Toronto Blue Jays snapped a five-game home losing streak with a 7-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

The reigning AL MVP was 4 for 5, starting the scoring with a first-inning solo shot, and then providing the winning margin with a two-run drive, his 13th of the year in the eighth.

Justin Smoak added a solo shot in the fifth inning. Joe Biagini (2-1) got four outs and Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

Koji Uehara (2-2) worked the eighth inning for the Red Sox, allowing Ezequiel Carrera -- starting for the suspended Jose Bautista -- to reach on a bunt before surrendering the home run to Donaldson.

Boston's Xander Bogaerts was 1 for 4, extending his career-best hitting streak to 20 games, the longest active run in the majors (see full recap).