Tonight's lineup: Phillies showcasing Howie Kendrick in cleanup spot

Tonight's lineup: Phillies showcasing Howie Kendrick in cleanup spot

With less than a week to go before the trade deadline, the Phillies are putting Howie Kendrick in prime position to show off his skillset to a contender.

After sitting out last night's 14-3 loss, Kendrick returns to the lineup, batting cleanup and playing left field. In four games since returning from a hamstring injury, Kendrick has picked up where he left off, hitting .364 with two RBIs. Overall, Kendrick has appeared in just 37 games for the Phillies in 2017, but has been exceptional when healthy. 

Although he may not hit for power, his .350 batting average and ability to play multiple positions in the infield and outfield should be enough to interest teams. 

Cesar Hernandez will again lead off vs. the Astros. Much like Kendrick, Hernandez has had a strong return from the DL, hitting .321 with six RBIs in seven games since the All-Star break. He's also worked five walks compared to just three strikeouts. It's no surprise Hernandez's return has coincided with the Phillies' recent hot offensive stretch (see Game Notes)

Since the All-Star break, the Phillies have the seventh-most runs scored in all of baseball. Monday's loss ended a stretch of seven straight games of five or more runs scored for the Phillies — their longest single-season stretch since 2005.

Nick Williams will hit in the three-hole for the second straight game. Williams has sparked the Phils' stagnant offense since his arrival to the big leagues. In 20 MLB games, Williams is slashing .315/.350/.966 with four homers and 18 RBIs. 

Here is the Phillies lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Howie Kendrick, LF
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Tommy Joseph, 1B
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Nick Pivetta, P

And for the Astros:
1. Jose Altuve, 2B
2. Josh Reddick, RF
3. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
4. Evan Gattis, C
5. Marwin Gonzalez, SS
6. Derek Fisher, CF
7. Alex Bregman, 3B
8. Norichika Aoki, LF
9. Charlie Morton, P

Phillies prove no match for AL-best Astros in series opener

Phillies prove no match for AL-best Astros in series opener

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A lot has changed since the Houston Astros last came to Philadelphia in 2014. Back then the Astros were a rebuilding team on their way to a 92-loss season after reaching triple-digit losses the previous three seasons.

Now, the Astros' rebuild is complete and they have the best record (66-33) in the American League and the second best in the majors after the Los Angeles Dodgers (68-31).

The Astros have a powerhouse offense that ranks first in the majors in runs (594), hits (1,105), doubles (222), homers (165), batting average (.293) and OPS (.863).

Those numbers burned the eyes of Phillies manager Pete Mackanin when he got a look at them before Monday's game.

"When I look at their stat sheet and look at all their numbers, I really don't want to look at it," he said. "But once again, good pitching will stop good hitting, so if we can get good outings from some of our pitchers, we have a chance."

The Phillies did not get a good outing from their starting pitcher, nor did they get good work from the bullpen, as they lost Monday's series opener, 13-4 (see Instant Replay).

The Astros pounded out 18 hits and eight of them were for extra bases.

And they did all that damage without star shortstop Carlos Correa (.320/20/67). He is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his thumb. Also, All-Star George Springer (.311/27/66) left the game in the third inning with a sore quad muscle.

So it could have been worse if the Astros had played with a full deck.

"We’ve been playing pretty well recently and these kinds of games happen," said Mackanin, whose club is 5-5 after the All-Star break. "Unfortunately, this was one of those games.

"Houston is as good a team as we've seen. They have nine guys with double-digit home runs. They are a real aggressive team, one of the best, if not the best, that we’ve seen. They have aggressive hitters. You can't make mistakes against them. Early in the count, they hack at those mistakes. They don’t strike out a lot.

"It was noticeable that they go up there ready to hit every pitch. They're not taking to get a look at the pitcher. If you make a mistake over the plate, they look to hurt you, to do damage."

The Phillies trailed 12-1 in the seventh inning before rookie Nick Williams tripled home three runs. Williams has three triples and 18 RBIs in 72 at-bats with the big club.

Cesar Hernandez had three hits and Odubel Herrera added a pair to raise his July batting average to .364 (24 for 66).

"Other than that, there weren't a lot of bright spots," Mackanin said.

Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, pitching against his former team, worked into the fourth inning, but had his outing cut short by a one-hour, 52-minute rain delay. Velasquez might not have pitched deep into the game even in good weather conditions. He struggled with location and did not use his secondary pitches effectively. He gave up a pair of home runs (to Brian McCann and Alex Bregman) in the second inning, both on fastballs.

Mackanin was rather blunt when asked how he thought Velasquez pitched.

"He gave up six hits, two home runs, in three innings," Mackanin said. "His velocity was OK, but if you don't locate against a team like this, you're going to get hurt."

Velasquez walked three. One of those walks turned into a run.

"They were hunting fastballs," Velasquez said. "Maybe if I utilized my secondary pitches more I would have slowed their bats down and protected my fastball better. They hammer mistakes.

"I probably could have done a better job if I executed. Correa was out of the lineup. If he was in there he probably would have done some damage, too. This team is hot. They're in first place for a reason. They're very selective. They are in the zone. They're locked in."

Ricardo Pinto picked up Velasquez when the game resumed in the top of the fourth inning. He was tagged for seven hits and six runs in 1 1/3 inning. Three of the runs were unearned. 

Phillies can't overcome Marlins' power during loss in series opener

Phillies can't overcome Marlins' power during loss in series opener

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MIAMI – The Phillies were overpowered on Monday night.

Granted, the winning run for the Miami Marlins in a 6-5 walk-off victory was a single in the 10th inning by the unimposing Dee Gordon (see Instant Replay).

But it was before that.

It happened two batters into the bottom of the first and again in the third – twice – two home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and one by Justin Bour.

While the Phillies hit no home runs and had a walk by Cesar Hernandez that keyed their big third-inning, four-run rally, the Marlins posed in front of a mirror and flexed their muscles like baseball’s version of Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Saturday Night Live’s Hans and Franz).

You know … “We want to pump you up.”

“Everyone knows about them,” Hernandez said of Stanton and Bour. “They were in the Home Run Derby, and they were there because they hit so many shots.”

The Phillies, meanwhile, rank 28th out of 30 teams with 92 homers.

Nobody on the Phillies has more than 15 homers. The Marlins, who are just 23rd in the majors in long balls, have three players – Stanton, Bour and Marcell Ozuna – who each have more than 20.

Stanton has 28 homers, which leads the National League and is second in the majors behind New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who has 30.

Ozuna and Stanton were All-Stars this year, and Bour went mano a mano against Judge in a dramatic Home Run Derby.

And as the Phillies (30-61) rebuild their roster, it would be nice if they can find more thump throughout their lineup. They had just six hits in 10 innings on Monday, and only three of those were for extra bases, two doubles by rookie Nick Williams and one by Freddy Galvis.

Of the Phillies’ top 10 prospects at the start of this season, eight of them were hitters, including Williams. So maybe those thumpers are on the way.

The Phillies could have used one in the eighth. With one out and the score tied 5-5, the Phillies had the bases loaded but failed to score. Both Brock Stassi (fastball) and pinch hitter Daniel Nava (curveball) were caught looking at strike three on pitches by reliever David Phelps.

“Another one-run loss,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin lamented. “We battled.”

The battle ended in the 10th. With one out, Derek Dietrich hit a long ball to the wall in right field. Late-game substitution Ty Kelly couldn’t grab it, crashing into the wall on his attempt as Dietrich legged out a triple. The Phillies walked two batters intentionally to get to a pinch hitter, backup catcher A.J. Ellis. After Ellis hit into a fielder’s choice, Gordon drove a pitch to right field for the winner.

Gordon, the sixth batter due up in the inning, was in the clubhouse watching video and didn’t think he would have an at-bat. But when Phillies reliever Mark Leiter, Jr. – who was demoted to the minors after taking the loss – gave up the triple, things changed quickly.

“It was chaotic for a second because those intentional walks happen quickly,” Gordon said. “I didn’t even have my batting gloves on when I ran to the on-deck circle.”

Gordon slapped the gloves on quickly and delivered a line-drive single to right for Miami’s fourth walk-off of the season and its first since June 19. Stanton, by the way, nearly hit a third homer. But his high drive to deep left-center was caught by leftfielder Cameron Perkins, who jumped just a bit higher than centerfielder Odubel Herrera to make the grab up against the wall. After the catch, Herrera fell on top of Perkins.

The Marlins nearly ended the game in the bottom of the ninth.

With the bases loaded and one out, Miami had its first chance for a walk-off win. But closer Hector Neris, inheriting Ricardo Pinto’s mess, struck out Christian Yelich. Ozuna then hit a line drive off Neris’ body. The ball bounced to first baseman Tommy Joseph for the inning-ending out.

The Phillies’ bullpen, which allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings, was better than starter Jerad Eickhoff, who was mostly ineffective.

Eickhoff took a no-decision in his second start after coming off the disabled list with a back injury. He allowed five runs in six innings. He struck out eight but walked four and gave up those three homers.

“The Bour [home run] was the most frustrating one,” Eickhoff said. “I should have managed that inning better.”