Slumping Phillies lack timely hits in loss to Cards

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Slumping Phillies lack timely hits in loss to Cards

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The Phillies threw a twist into their lingering offensive slump Thursday night.

Instead of just sputtering offensively all night, this time they actually got a bunch of hits but couldn’t get big hits when they needed them.

After managing just four runs and 13 hits in three losses in Cincinnati, the Phillies hammered out 13 hits Thursday night against former Cy Young runner-up Adam Wainright and two Cards relievers. But they left men on base inning after inning, stranded runners in key spots and lost their fourth straight game, 4-3, to the Cards at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

“As long as we keep getting them, eventually it’ll come around,” third baseman Michael Young said. “As long as we have a good approach, eventually we’ll start to find some holes in big spots.”

The Phils have now scored three or fewer runs in seven straight games for only the fifth time since 1976.

They fell to 6-10, their worst record after 16 games since they were 5-11 in 2007.

“We hit the ball good,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We had runners on base. That’s the best we’ve hit in a while. We had some good chances, we just couldn’t cash in. We didn’t get the big hit when we had chances.”

The Phillies wasted a bunch of good opportunities. Two on with one out in the fourth. Two on with two outs in the eighth. Then first and third with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, a jam reliever Edward Mujica worked out of by getting Kevin Frandsen to ground out, striking out Jimmy Rollins and getting Freddy Galvis to bounce out.

“I felt our approach was a little better,” Young said. “But we have to make sure that every positive turns into a win.”

Ryan Howard had three hits, and Chase Utley, Galvis and Erik Kratz had two apiece.

This was the first time since Oct. 1, 2009 in a 5-3 loss to the Astros that the Phillies scored three or fewer runs despite 13 or more hits.

The Phillies also failed to draw a walk for the fourth consecutive game, matching the longest such streak by any major-league team in 93 years. They’ve sent 135 batters in a row to the plate without a walk.

The Phillies’ latest frustrating offensive performance wasted a solid outing by Cole Hamels, who went seven innings, allowing five hits and three runs. He struck out eight and walked two.

Two of the three runs he allowed were tainted, coming on a routine fly ball that John Mayberry turned into a double and then a two-run double by Yadier Molina down the right-field line in the fourth that appeared to be foul.

Mayberry simply fell down ranging to his right while tracking down Allen Craig’s fly ball to right-center.

“I was going back on it and and looked back and the ball was in the lights,” Mayberry said. “By the time I [found it], my cleat kind of gave out, and I wasn’t able to recover and make the break.”

Craig’s double gave the Cards second and third with no outs, and Molina’s double gave the Cards a 2-0 lead.

“It kind of looked like the ball did not hit the line,” Manuel said. “It looked like it was foul. It was very, very close, but it looked like it was a foul ball.”

Two bad breaks for Hamels, but he didn’t use either one as an excuse.

“It comes with baseball,” said Hamels, winless after four starts for the first time since 2009. “There’s going to be situations you have to battle through, and it tonight it was a couple poorly executed pitches. … You have to put it past you and try to minimize runs, and I wasn’t able to do that as well as I would have liked.

“I felt really good tonight. Everything was working well. I was able to execute most of my pitches, but a few got away and didn’t go where you planned, and they came at the wrong time. When I’m making mistakes, they’re coming at the wrong time right now. Sometimes you have to be better than good to win games. You have to be great.”

The Phillies tied the game at 2-all in the sixth on doubles by Rollins, back in the leadoff spot for the first time this year, and Galvis, making his first career start in the outfield, and a base hit by Utley. They tied it at 3-all in the seventh on Kratz’s RBI single.

But Carlos Beltran’s 336th career home run, a solo shot just over the left-field wall off Mike Adams in the top of the eighth, was the game-winner.

“He’s a good hitter, and I left one up just enough where he could get a pretty good pass on it,” Adams said. “He struck it well. I thought maybe it might be to the warning track or off the wall, but it stayed up and got out.”

With the Braves winning again, the Phillies dropped 7½ games out of first place.

“I mean, they’re hot, they’re a good team,” Ben Revere said of the 13-2 Braves. “They have good pitching, good hitting, but we’re going to get hot, and when we start rolling, we’re going to be a tough team to beat also. We’re going to be up there with them, I guarantee that.

“We’ve got a good enough ball club to compete for a championship. I believe in this squad.”

Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, who Angels must move at some point

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Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, who Angels must move at some point

Yes, the Angels are going to trade Mike Trout.

It may not happen this year or even next year, but eventually Angels GM Billy Eppler will accept the reality of the bleak future ahead for his franchise. Albert Pujols, who has five years and $140 million remaining on his contract after this season, has taken the baton from Ryan Howard for the worst contract in baseball. Good luck getting out of that deal. Other than the increasingly rare Pujols hot streak, they have nobody equipped to protect Trout in the lineup. 

The starting rotation has been patched together, with both Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney going down with elbow injuries early this season. Unless one of those guys comes back healthy, there isn’t a No. 1 or No. 2 starter on the roster. Theoretically, the Angels will have money to spend on the free-agent market with both C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver coming off the books after the season. But with Andrew Cashner and Jeremy Hellickson the likely headliners on the pitching market, a quick fix for the rotation seems unlikely. 

The 2017 free-agent market for hitters isn’t much better. Should Yoenis Cespedes opt out of his contract with the Mets, he could provide a potent presence behind Trout, but there will be stiff competition for his services and he’ll be in line for a massive payday. 

Toronto’s once-dynamic duo of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista should be available, but both appear to be trending downward. Giving either player a long-term deal is a risky investment at best. 

Building around the young players in the organization isn’t a viable option. By all accounts, the Angels have the worst farm system in baseball. You can check out those rankings here or here. This is a franchise in dire need of an infusion of young talent. 

We’ve seen the Phillies in a similar situation with Cole Hamels. Once there was no way forward to win with him, the only reasonable option was to trade him. Even the most ardent Hamels supporters have to admit now that moving him made sense.  

Yes, Trout is only 24 years old and is the best all-around player in baseball. The Angels should certainly explore every possible option to build a winner around the South Jersey native, who is in the second season of a six-year deal that will pay him $119 million from 2017 through 2020. But the franchise is trending in the wrong direction. If they cannot honestly see a path to contending with him, they should look to move him and jump-start a rebuild. There will be no shortage of suitors. 

So ignore the notion that you never trade an “inner-circle Hall of Famer,” which Trout certainly is on track to become. He is signed through 2019 and the clock is ticking. 

Let the bidding begin. 

Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

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Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford singled in Matt Duffy with two outs in the 10th inning, and the surging San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 4-3 Wednesday for their 13th win in 14 games.

Duffy singled off Brad Hand (1-2) with one out, pinch-hitter Hunter Pence popped out, Duffy advanced on a wild pitch and Crawford hit a 1-2 offering over center fielder Jon Jay as Duffy scored standing up.

Crawford also singled and scored after some alert baserunning in the second inning. Duffy and Denard Span drove in runs for the NL West-leading Giants.

San Francisco completed a three-game sweep, extended its winning streak to five and improved to 9-0 against the Padres this season. The Giants' two walkoff wins in the series were against Hand (see full recap).

Arrieta moves to 9-0 in Cubs' win over Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Jake Arrieta remained unbeaten on the season despite allowing as many as four runs for the first time in nearly a year and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 on Wednesday.

Arrieta (9-0) joined the White Sox's Chris Sale as the only nine-game winners in the majors.

Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015.

Arrieta became the first Cub to win his first nine decisions since Kenny Holtzman in 1967 and it is the best start to a season for the franchise since Jim McCormick went 16-0 in 1886.

Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist each drove in two for the Cubs (see full recap).

Bradley extends hit streak to 29 in BoSox victory
BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his major league-best hitting streak to 29 games, Xander Bogaerts homered to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

Travis Shaw had three RBIs and Boston moved to a season-best 12 games over .500. The Red Sox have scored eight or more runs 10 times in their last 14 home games.

Steven Wright (4-4) had another solid outing, giving up three runs, two earned. He has now given up three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts.

Chad Bettis (4-3) held the Red Sox scoreless through three innings but was responsible for seven runs over the next two innings before getting pulled.

The Rockies have lost six of their last seven -- all on the road (see full recap).

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”