Phillies

Against all odds, Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally to salvage game vs. Rockies

Against all odds, Cameron Rupp, Phillies rally to salvage game vs. Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — When Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland took the mound in the ninth Sunday, it seemed he was going to simply add to the Phillies’ misfortune.

They had just had a runner thrown out at home in the eighth. And Charlie Blackmon’s go-ahead, two-out double in the seventh off Aaron Nola gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead after a blatantly bad ball-strike call went against Nola that changed the nature of the at-bat.

So on came Holland for the ninth, the best closer in the majors this year. He had converted 34 of 35 save opportunities and took the mound with a 1.56 ERA (40⅓ innings, seven earned runs) and 18 walks, 53 strikeouts, 23 hits allowed and opponents batting a mere .168 against him.

Those gaudy numbers largely explain why the Rockies were 59-0 when leading after eight innings, the longest such streak to start a season in franchise history.

Odubel Herrera opened the ninth with a single to short center, a hit on an 0-2 slider that he hustled into a double.

“He’s been criticized for lack of hustle,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after the Phillies' 3-2 win (see Instant Replay). “But for him to take the extra base was outstanding and good to see.”

Herrera moved to third on a single by Maikel Franco, whose homer in the second tied the game at one. Hyun Soo Kim hit a grounder to shortstop Trevor Story, who was playing back and threw out Herrera at the plate. Herrera hesitated before heading home.

“First and third, you’re on third base, you have to go,” Mackanin said. "Because if they get a double play, you don’t want to be standing at third with two outs. He hesitated for the simple reason that he didn’t know if the pitcher was going to catch it.”

Cameron Rupp, who had been easily thrown out in the eighth trying to score from first on pinch hitter Andres Blanco’s double that rattled around the left-field corner, then drove Holland’s first-pitch slider into the gap in left-center, scoring Franco and Kim.

“It was a quick at-bat,” Rupp said. “He hung a slider, left it out over the plate, I drove it to the gap.”

Holland said he had a chance at 0-2 on Herrera “to throw a couple pitches the guy couldn’t put the bat on.” Instead, Holland threw what he termed “a pretty good pitch” that Herrera put in play to begin the rally.

“But the two-run double was a pitch where I thought he was looking to swing early in the count,” Holland said. “My thought was to throw a borderline pitch and see if he would chase. It was a little too good.”

The Rockies put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth, but closer Hector Neris got Blackmon to ground to first.

Blackmon’s two-out double in the seventh gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead against Nola, who saw a certain 0-2 count vanish. With the count 0-1 on Blackmon, pinch hitter Raimel Tapia, who had walked, stole second base. Before the pitch, Blackmon stepped out of the batter's box to call time, which home plate umpire Carlos Torres didn’t grant.

The pitch to Tapia was down the middle, but Torres called it a ball, meaning Nola was 1-1 rather than 0-2 on Blackmon much to the disbelief of catcher Rupp.

“After I threw the ball, and I looked at the scoreboard and it said 1-1,” Rupp said. “I said, ‘You called that a ball?’

“He goes, ‘Yeah.’

“I said, ‘How, it was right down the middle?’ I guess when I came up to throw, I blocked his vision.”

With the count 3-1 to Blackmon, Nola threw a changeup that Blackmon drove into the gap in left-center. And then Rupp was thrown out at home in the eighth. And then Herrera was thrown out at home in the ninth against the vaunted Holland.

After five straight losses on their current trip, the Phillies seemed to be staring at yet another defeat, which was going to be followed by a glum flight to Atlanta where they will be off before playing Tuesday.

“It’s nice to salvage a win out of this series,” Mackanin said. “But it’s even nicer winning on a getaway day with an off day the next day, so you got more time to savor it.”

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with the Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.