Phillies-Braves 5 things: Doubleheader on tap at Citizens Bank Park

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Doubleheader on tap at Citizens Bank Park

Phillies (49-81) vs. Braves (57-72)
Game 1: 12:05 p.m. on NBC10; Game 2 follows on CSN; stream both on and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies continued their dominance over the Braves on Monday, winning 6-1 to improve to 12-2 vs. Atlanta on the season.

The Phils, despite owning the majors' worst record, have the majors' best record against any division opponent with that 12-2 mark.

Because of Tuesday's rainout, the Phillies and Braves play a doubleheader Wednesday. In Game 1, Jerad Eickhoff opposes Braves right-hander R.A. Dickey, while Game 2 pits Mark Leiter Jr. against Atlanta righty Julio Teheran.

1. What is it about this matchup?
There are several reasons behind the Phillies' pounding of the Braves this season. Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr, both on the DL with hamstring injuries, have had monster years against them. 

The Phillies have also pitched extremely well — they have a 3.12 ERA against the Braves, and that includes a 14-1 loss back in early June. Remove that game and the Phillies have a 2.36 ERA against the Braves in 2017.

Why is that? Well, Freddie Freeman missed four of the games. Matt Kemp missed five. And really, aside from Freeman, nobody in Atlanta's lineup takes pitches or works counts. The Braves have a lot of free swingers who have simply gotten themselves out early in counts against the Phillies.

Catcher Cameron Rupp said last night that he "wishes we played them every night." That probably won't sit well in the Braves' clubhouse, but it's not like they're in denial about how the season series has gone. 

2. New challenge for Hoskins
With an RBI double last night, Rhys Hoskins became only the second player in the majors this season with an extra-base hit and an RBI in six straight games. Giancarlo Stanton is the other.

Since 1950, the only two Phillies with longer streaks were Bobby Abreu in 2005 and Chase Utley in 2008.

But Wednesday brings a new challenge for Hoskins: the knuckleballer Dickey.

There are few knucklers in today's game so Hoskins has never seen someone like Dickey, who throws his knuckleball with more velocity than most. 

Dickey (8-8, 4.06) has shut down the Phillies twice this season, allowing one earned run in 14 innings with 16 strikeouts. Against all other teams, he has a 4.40 ERA.

The Phillies newest to the majors have not fared well against Dickey. Combined, Phillies rookies this season and second-year player Tommy Joseph are 1 for 15 off Dickey with five strikeouts.

3. Leiter chasing an opportunity
With all the uncertainty in the Phillies' starting rotation moving forward, Leiter has a chance to pitch his way toward a spot on the staff over these final five weeks.

Leiter is coming off an extremely impressive start vs. the Marlins — seven one-hit, shutout innings. 

Leiter has made 21 appearances this season, five as a starter and 16 as a reliever. In the five starts, he's 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

Leiter does not possess exceptional stuff, but he has a wide array of pitches (fastball, splitter, sinker, curveball, slider, cutter) and is unafraid on the mound. He doesn't nibble. So far, it's worked out more than it hasn't.

Right now, the only two pitchers assured roles in the Phillies' rotation next season are Aaron Nola and Eickhoff. The Phillies will have to add some stability in the offseason in the form of veteran arms, but one or two from the group of Leiter, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively and Zach Eflin could earn a job out of spring training.

4. Outfield plans
Herrera and Altherr could be activated Friday when rosters expand, according to CSN Phillies insider Jim Salisbury.

If/when that occurs, it will create a crowded outfield picture. Herrera and Nick Williams are obviously everyday guys, but the Phils will probably be cautious with Altherr, who has suffered multiple hamstring injuries this season. The likely result would be either Altherr or Tommy Joseph sitting on a given night.

5. This and that
• Hat tip to CSN producer Dan Roche for this stat: With 9.10 strikeouts per nine innings, Nola is first in Phillies history among starting pitchers with at least 300 innings. 

What's especially surprising about that stat is that Nola struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings in the minor leagues. He was not billed as a big strikeout guy but has missed more bats than ever before at the game's highest level.

• Rupp's towering home run last night was his 14th of the season and 30th since the start of 2016. Yasmani Grandal (45) and Willson Contreras (33) are the only National League catchers with more over that span.

• Adam Morgan in August: 13⅓ innings, 10 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 19 strikeouts. He looks like a changed man with a better fastball and a different grip on his slider. Perhaps he's finally carving out a role as a reliable lefty reliever. The Phils could sure use one.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.