Volstad Act: Phils Hang on, Start Weekend Above .500

Volstad Act: Phils Hang on, Start Weekend Above .500

A little good news to start your Friday… The Phillies are over .500. We're not used to celebrating merely having a winning ball club in recent years. Or ever really. But there's certainly relief in looking at the standings this morning and seeing the Phillies with more wins than losses for the first time since opening day. After sweeping the Cubs, that's just where the Fightins are as Boston comes to Philly for the weekend. 
Good things usually happen for the Phils when Chris Volstad is on the mound. They're hardly alone in that regard, as Volstad hadn't won any of his previous 18 starts heading into Thursday night's showdown with a certain Mr. Halladay. And it isn't just the luck of the sport's sometimes-unfair system for doling out W's and L's to pitchers. During a span over eight games to start this season, his new club the Cubs haven't won any of his starts; in his last ten starts of 2011, his old Marlins won just twice. 
Add to that inglorious streak the fact that the Phillies essentially owned Volstad during his time with the Marlins, plus the fact that Carlos Ruiz was catching Roy Halladay in this one, and most signs were pointing to that glorious game-above-even heartland. 
Notes on the Phils' hang-on-for-dear-life 8-7 win below. 
Doc went 8 strong, allowing 7 hits and no walks, striking out 4. His 3 runs allowed came on a first-inning sac fly after a leadoff double, then a pair of solo homers in the seventh and eighth innings. After running a long count and grooving a pitch to Welington Castillo, then watching it clear the left field wall, Doc beaned the mound with the rosin bag in frustration. Gotta love that emotion despite pitching an efficient game and getting great run support. 
Halladay's batterymate once again was a key in providing the offense, continuing his early season tear with four 4 hits in 5 plate appearances and 3 RBI on the night. Chooch's average has climbed to .363, with an OBP now over .400. Elias Sports informs us that Ruiz is now 15 for 30(!) with 12 RBI in Halladay's starts this season. Get that man a Timex.
Jimmy Rollins got aboard 3 times, with a hit and a pair of walks, scoring 3 runs. 
Hunter Pence struck out with two on in the first after Volstad allowed a hit and a walk, but made much of more of a bases loaded opportunity in the second, singling to plate a pair of runs. 
Not content to leave it all on the mound, Halladay saved some for the plate, where he had a pair of hits and scored two runs as well. 
Juan Pierre continued an impressive run of his own, getting on twice out of the 2-hole and snaring a dangerous fly ball dropping just inside fair territory in the 7th. That catch would be a potentially huge difference-maker, as things started to go south for Phils pitching in that inning. Starlin Castro had just homered over Pierre's head in the previous at bat, but the left fielder helped stop the bleeding with his grab, and Doc escaped after a double play. 
After the bats added three insurance runs to take an 8-2 lead in the eighth inning—and really, look no further than this game to see how important insurance runs can be—Doc gave up the Castillo homer in the bottom of the frame, then induced three straight outs and handed the ball to Jake Diekman for the ninth. 
Diekman's debut was impressive (3 K in 1.1 IP), but there are plenty of unanswered questions for the kid. With an 8-3 lead, this was the perfect opportunity to see how he'd respond in his second appearance. He has some funky, hitter-fooling stuff, like he's throwing a rock at a dead bird. But his control is a question, and some near misses resulted in a 4-pitch walk to start the bottom of the ninth. Diekman got Castro to fly out, but then walked pinch hitter Jeff Baker, got Joe Mather to line out, then hit Ian Stewart to load the bases. 
After Castillo again struck with late-inning damage, doubling in all three baserunners, Diekman's night was done. Jonathan Papelbon came in on the eve of his matchup against the Red Sox, allowed a hit that scored a run, but then got a groundout to end the game, 8-7. 
Phewwww. 
On a night where every run counted, the Phils didn't stop swinging. They preserved a win for the ace and gave the new bullpen kid enough cushion to get whooped and not have a loss on his head. We'll take it. 
Up NextCole Hamels hosts righty Daniel Bard as the Phillies-Red Sox series kicks off tonight in South Philly. Also in town across the parking lot are the Celtics, with gorgeous weather on tap for the whole weekend. Do it right, Philadelphia... 
VOTE CHOOCHTake a minute from your Captain Busyface schedule today and vote Chooch for the All-Star Game. Could he possibly be more deserving? Short answer: No. 
And, if you like the design above, that's via Mr. Rick Penguin at zoowithroy.com. Pick one up here. 

Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Marlins 2

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AP Images

Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Marlins 2

BOX SCORE

Jeremy Hellickson gave the Phillies six more quality innings Thursday, and he and reliever Pat Neshek each struck out Giancarlo Stanton in big run-scoring situations to help the Phils to a two-game sweep and their sixth straight win.

The Phillies didn't do much hitting on the afternoon but took advantage of opportunities with runners in scoring position to claim the 3-2 win.

They are 11-9 as they hit the road for a tough, seven-game trip against the Dodgers and Cubs.

The Marlins are 10-10.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson encountered some traffic in three different innings but was able to pitch his way out of trouble. He allowed one run on seven hits over six innings with no walks and one strikeout.

It's the second straight start he hasn't walked a batter, and he's issued just three in 30 innings this season.

Hellickson continues to get outs without striking anyone out. His only K of the afternoon, though, was clutch — it came against Stanton with nobody out and runners on the corners in the fourth inning.

The fourth inning was the turning point of Hellickson's outing and really the game. Runners were on first and third with Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto coming up. Hellickson struck out Stanton, got Ozuna to pop up and Realmuto to line out, all on changeups. 

The Marlins are 7 for 54 (.130) against Hellickson's changeup since the start of last season.

Through five starts, Hellickson is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. His trade value continues to rise, as does his importance to this pitching staff.

For the Marlins, Edinson Volquez missed the strike zone plenty but gave up only three runs (two earned) over 5⅔ innings. He walked four batters for the third straight start.

Bullpen report
Pat Neshek inherited a jam in the seventh and allowed a run to score but retired Martin Prado and Stanton to end the threat. 

Neshek is a real weapon in the bullpen because of his funky delivery and unorthodox repertoire. He's already made big bats like Yoenis Cespedes and Stanton look silly this season. It pays to have different looks out of the back end of your bullpen.

Joaquin Benoit pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts. He's put just two men on base in five scoreless innings since being moved back to the eighth inning.

Hector Neris needed just seven pitches to earn his third save in as many chances.

At the plate
The Phillies didn't have many hits but were able to push runs across when they had men in scoring position. Freddy Galvis tripled and scored in the third inning, and Brock Stassi tripled in an insurance run in the sixth.

Galvis enjoys himself some Volquez — lifetime, he's 6 for 10 with two doubles, a triple and a homer off him.

It was Stassi's first career triple.

Maikel Franco reached base three more times with two singles and a walk. Franco has been locked in over the last week, going 10 for 23 with a double, two homers, 10 RBIs, three walks and just one strikeout over his last six games. His batting line has crept up to .221/.291/.403. Not great, but it was .148/.217/.278 a week ago.

And this is a little thing, but Andrew Knapp, batting eighth, had two quality plate appearances his first two times up, singling and walking with nobody on and two outs to turn the lineup over twice.

Phillie-killers silenced
Prado has more hits against the Phillies than he has against any other team. And he did have a solo homer Wednesday night, but the .305 lifetime hitter off the Phils went just 2 for 8 in the series. It's key to get him out ahead of Yelich and Stanton.

Ozuna, meanwhile, went 0 for 8 in the series. He entered as a .310 hitter against the Phillies and a .272 hitter vs. the rest of the division.

In the field
Trying quickly to turn a double play on Odubel Herrera in the first inning, Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon made an errant throw to first base that trickled past Justin Bour and allowed Daniel Nava to score. It was a heads-up baserunning play by Nava, who would have just advanced from second to third if not for Gordon's throw.

Franco made a tough play on a short-hop off the bat of Ozuna in a key spot with one out and Stanton on second base in the sixth inning. It was an all-or-nothing play — had Franco not timed the hop perfectly with his backhand, it would have put Hellickson in a jam.

On the bases
On consecutive pitches to Franco in the first inning, Herrera stole second and was then thrown out at third by a pretty good margin. The Phillies challenged that Prado didn't apply the tag but there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.

Herrera is 3 for 5 on stolen base attempts this season.

Health check
Reliever Edubray Ramos was removed in the seventh inning after taking a line drive off the elbow.

Up next
The Phillies head out West for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium and it looks like they'll avoid Clayton Kershaw after all. He was initially scheduled to pitch Sunday but here are the updated pitching probables:

Friday night at 10:10 — Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 2.55) vs. Kenta Maeda (1-2, 8.05)

Saturday night at 9:10 — Zach Eflin (0-0, 2.25) vs. Brandon McCarthy (3-0, 2.25)

Sunday afternoon at 4:10 — Nick Pivetta (MLB debut) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-4, 4.64)

NFL Draft Experience is open and bumping with Carson Wentz the early star

NFL Draft Experience is open and bumping with Carson Wentz the early star

The fans lined up early on Thursday in Philadelphia waiting for the NFL Draft Experience to open up at noon and there was actually a pretty exciting vibe while waiting in line, complete with Eagles chants. There have been plenty of Eagles chants. Expect that to be a theme throughout the weekend.

None more so than when Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz made an appearance. I first saw him drive by on a golf cart -- or a Wentz Wagon if you will -- while he was making his way to take photos with fans. A pretty exciting scene for any Eagles fan, I must say. Probably the highlight of the day so far.

He apparently messed with a Cowboys fan as well. Nicely done, Carson.

The weather in Philly is quite warm today with temps in the 80s. You'll get a good little sweat going if you decide to wait in line and participate in the 40-yard dash like I did. Running 40 yards is exhausting. And you'll have to wait a good bit to get your turn. Early on lines were maybe 20-30 minutes to participate in a drill, but they've since grown longer. Expect long lines for all of the activities today.So expect plenty of waiting if you want to try your legs at a vertical jump test or field goal kicking opportunity. After waiting probably 30 minutes, I got my two kicks up on the goal posts and will not be drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs. Kicking is tough.

There are water filling stations if you've got a bottle to put it in. Those come in handy on such a warm day.

The beer is flowing as well. At many concession stands and also at the Draft Tavern. There are plenty of options as long as you like Budweiser products. They've got some IPA they make, some Stella, a Vienna Lager, a Pilsner, and all the usual suspects. Expect to pay about $12 for a 25-ounce can.

There's a plethora of food options from relatively cheap $5 hot dogs to $12 cheesesteaks. I tried out the cheesesteak from Tony Luke's and have to say I was very disappointed. When the worker handed it to me, I literally asked, "is this hot?" To which she said, "The bread isn't but the steak is." It wasn't. So I paid $12 for a cold cheesesteak I'd give a grade of a 'C-.' It could have been a 'B-' if it was moderately warm. It had no seasoning. But there was cheese on it and cheese is pretty hard to mess up. And the roll was fresh at least. I only ate half of it so that'll tell you what I really thought of it.

You can get pretty close to the draft stage and "NFL Draft Theater" without actually having a ticket. Check out the view from the public area:

The zip line looks fun but again, expect a lengthy wait.

This guy wins the day.

You can get a t-shirt for 35 bucks too.

The crowd right before the gates opened. 

Inside the Draft Tavern. You can enjoy a beverage anywhere inside whole Draft Experience.