Phillies

Instant Replay: Nationals 6, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Nationals 6, Phillies 1

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WASHINGTON -- The Phillies were expecting to face Stephen Strasburg when they got to the ballpark on Friday afternoon and it’s a good thing they didn’t.

A late scratch with forearm soreness, Strasburg was replaced by right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, who scratched out five innings to hold off the Phillies in a 6-1 victory.

The Phillies got off to a good start, scoring a run with one out in the first. However, struggling righty Kyle Kendrick served up plenty of hittable pitches in his 4 1/3 innings as the Nats rolled to their seventh win in a row.

The loss drops the Phillies to 68-79.

Starting pitching report
Kendrick flirted with trouble throughout his 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs -- two came after he left the game -- on eight hits and a pair of walks. Kendrick allowed at least one hit in each inning and escaped the fourth with his lone goose egg of the night.

At 10-13 and with a 4.70 ERA, Kendrick leads the National League in hits allowed with 207. In his last nine starts covering all of August and September, Kendrick is 1-6 with a 6.90 ERA and has allowed 64 hits in 45 2/3 innings.

Nats’ emergency starter Ohlendorf allowed a run in five innings on five hits and three walks. The righty was in trouble in the first inning by surrendering hits to three of the first four hitters he faced. But from there Ohlendorf retired the next nine in a row and 11 of 13 leading into the fifth inning.

Bullpen report
A night after the Phils’ ‘pen tossed 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, it turned in 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball Friday night. Cesar Jimenez, Luis Garcia, Zach Miner and Joe Savery shut down the Nats in relief of Kendrick. However, Garcia allowed two inherited runners to score when Wilson Ramos hit a bases-loaded single off the pitcher’s foot.

At the plate
Carlos Ruiz went 2 for 4 and knocked in the Phillies’ only run. But he also was thrown out at second by leftfielder Bryce Harper while trying to leg out a hard-hit ball off the fence. Harper also got an assist when Freddy Galvis doubled and was called out when he slipped off the bag.

Otherwise, the Phillies’ offense was fairly quiet against Ohlendorf and a stream of relievers. At least they didn’t have to face Strasburg.

For the Nats, Ryan Zimmerman went 3 for 5 with a leadoff homer in the third. Ramos also hit a leadoff homer in the second to go with his two-run single off Garcia’s foot.

Up next
The series continues on Saturday night with a pair of lefties squaring off. Cole Hamels (7-13, 3.45) faces Gio Gonzalez (10-6, 3.31) in a battle of former Phillies’ prospects. Hamels is 1-1 with a 2.11 ERA in three starts against the Nats this season and 14-6 with a 2.52 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 178 2/3 innings against Washington in 27 career starts.

Gonzalez is 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in seven career starts against the Phillies.

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta goes to school on Justin Verlander

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Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta goes to school on Justin Verlander

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — For a gazillion years, pitchers have been told to keep the ball down. That is still valuable advice, but with more and more hitters looking to launch the ball with an upward swing path these days, power pitchers are striking back with a high fastball above the bat head.

Nick Pivetta has a power fastball and he’s working on this technique. He consciously threw some fastballs above the belt in his two-inning spring debut Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“We're telling all of our pitchers, we're asking them to do some new things,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “And there's going to be some times in spring training games when you get hit a little bit.”

That’s OK. The new-school Phillies want their players to be open to new ideas. Pivetta, who struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings in 26 starts last season, is open learning to ride a high fastball by a hitter looking to launch. He watched on television as Justin Verlander did that for Houston in the postseason last year and he’s watched more video of Verlander and interacted with Phillies coaches about the strategy this spring.

“A key point that they brought to me was how Verlander pitched in the playoffs,” Pivetta said. “I think that’s something I can learn from a lot of the time, how he did it when he came over to Houston.

“It’s part of pitching. You’ve got to be able to command the zone, both the top and bottom. It’s not to say we’re going to only throw up. It’s just something else to work on.”

Pivetta pitched two innings and struck out three in the 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. He allowed three hits, a walk and two runs in the first inning. One of the hits was a solo homer by Curtis Granderson on a hanging breaking ball.

Kapler was pleased with Pivetta’s performace and his reponse to trying new things.

“He executed his game plan today,” Kapler said. “He executed some pretty nasty sliders at the bottom of the zone. He executed some fastballs at the top of the zone. He missed some bats, which is really encouraging.

“One of the things we’re working on with him is elevating a little bit. He has velocity and strong pitch characteristics to pitch up in the zone. But he also has the ability to pitch down in the zone with his slider and his curveball.

“He kicked ass today. He did everything we asked him to do.”

The Phillies host the Orioles on Saturday. Zach Eflin will be the starting pitcher.

Lost and found — K-Rod enjoys solid debut with Phillies

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Lost and found — K-Rod enjoys solid debut with Phillies

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — Francisco Rodriguez navigated the narrow streets of this friendly, little, old-school spring training burg looking for a place to park his Mercedes late Friday morning.

Finally, after asking several people for directions, he found a spot near the grounds crew shed at Dunedin Stadium.

The episode was a bit of a metaphor for Rodriguez’s workday with the Phillies. Back on the mound in a game situation for the first time since last summer, Rodriguez allowed a walk to the first batter he faced and later a single, but stayed composed and left two runners on base in notching a scoreless inning in his first action of the spring in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I felt kind of lost the first couple of batters,” Rodriguez said. “But once I got a ground ball, I started locating. It had been a while since I was on the mound in a game.”

Rodriguez, 36, is the most decorated player in Phillies camp. He is a six-time All-Star and baseball’s active leader in saves (437) and appearances (948). Released twice last season, he is trying to win a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen as a non-roster invite to camp.

He opened last season as Detroit’s closer, but was released in June after recording a 7.82 ERA in 28 games. The Nationals took a peek at him in the minors a few weeks later and also let him go.

Rodriguez said he was not healthy last season. He said he had issues with his groin and hamstring.

“I couldn’t be 100 percent,” he said. “But that’s not an excuse. I should have found a way to get the job done in Detroit and I couldn’t. That’s one of the reasons that I’m in this situation now.”

Rodriguez ranks fourth all time in saves behind Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith. He does not have the power fastball that once earned him the nickname K-Rod — he topped out at 89 mph Friday — but location, a good changeup and old-fashioned savvy are still strengths. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz was influential in bringing in Rodriguez for a look. The two were together in Milwaukee, where Rodriguez was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015.

“He’s a great reliever,” Kranitz said.

Does he have anything left?

“I believe so, yes,” Kranitz said.

Kranitz went on to say that Rodriguez was a high-character guy who would help the Phillies’ young pitchers.

Rodriguez was asked what pushed him to continue his career and come to camp essentially on a tryout.

“I love the game,” he said. “I don’t think I have to prove anything. I don’t think I went to Walmart and bought 900 appearances and 437 saves. I did that with a lot of pride and hard work. This is the only thing I know how to do, play baseball. God gave me the opportunity to throw a baseball and I’m going to continue to do it.”

The Phillies may go with an eight-man bullpen. That could help Rodriguez’s chances of sticking. But he will have to pitch well.

“I’m looking forward to having a great spring,” he said.