Phillies

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

BOX SCORE

The Phillies continue to make baseball fun as they head toward the finish line of their fifth straight losing season.
 
They rallied for their eighth win in the last 11 games in beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-5, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.
 
The Phillies have taken the first three games of the series against the team with baseball's best record. All three wins have been come-from-behind efforts.
 
Aaron Altherr, the hero of Monday night's win against three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, was a key contributor again in this one. He drove in four runs late in the game with a two-run homer in the seventh and a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning.
 
• The Phillies' bullpen, which had been so good lately, blew leads of 2-1 and 5-4, but the offense overcame those issues.
 
• Despite having the second-worst record in the majors, the Phillies are 32-33 since the All-Star break.
 
• The game ended with Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera making a tremendous leaping catch at the wall on a bullet by Yasiel Puig. Herrera struck out three times at the plate, but showed maturity in not taking his struggles into the field.
 
• Cesar Hernandez started the Phillies' eighth-inning rally by working a walk against Luis Avilan. Avilan then made an errant throw to help set up Altherr's big single.
 
• Hector Neris pitched for the third night in a row and earned his second save of the series.
 
• The Dodgers rallied for three runs against the Phillies' bullpen to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh. The Phillies got the runs back quickly in the bottom of the inning. Rhys Hoskins continued to do things to help the team win when he led off with a walk against right-hander Ross Stripling. Stripling then threw two hanging curveballs and Altherr and Tommy Joseph deposited them in the left-field seats to give the Phillies the lead. Joseph, pushed into the background by Hoskins' emergence, had a two-RBI night.
 
• Phillies starter Jake Thompson gave up just one run but was not economical enough with his pitches to get past the fifth inning. Thompson allowed six base runners on three hits and three walks and got outs on several long fly balls. He walked two batters in the fifth, got a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure then got the final two outs on a pair of groundballs. He hung a full-count slider to Justin Turner with two outs, but Turner grounded it to short for the third out. Thompson survived and exited the game with a 2-1 lead.
 
• Chase Utley did not start for the Dodgers, but he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh with the Dodgers behind, 2-1. Facing rookie right-hander Victor Arano, Utley showed that famous short, chop swing in lacing a triple off the center-field wall.
 
• Arano was originally Dodgers' property. He came over to the Phillies late in the 2014 season in a trade for pitcher Roberto Hernandez. After Utley tripled, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent up left-handed hitting Andre Ethier to bat in the pitcher's spot. Pete Mackanin responded by waving lefty Hoby Milner into the game. Roberts went back to his bench and replaced Ethier with Kike Hernandez, a right-handed bat. Milner is a side-armer who struggles against right-handed bats (they were 19 for 46 against him while lefty hitters were 9 for 54). The results were predictable; Hernandez doubled home Ultey with the tying run. Milner did get to face a lefty hitter later in the inning and NL Rookie of the Year slam dunk Cody Bellinger broke the tie with a two-run double. Despite the difficult inning, Milner has made a nice showing and put himself on the map this season. He had not allowed a run in 21 straight appearances before being charged with two.
 
• The series concludes with a Thursday matinee. Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93) pitches for the Phillies against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.91).

Even with eye on top talent like Manny Machado, Phillies will give core more time

Even with eye on top talent like Manny Machado, Phillies will give core more time

ORLANDO, Fla. — On Day 1 of the winter meetings Monday, the Phillies' longstanding interest in Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado bubbled to the surface once again. The subject will continue to percolate all winter and beyond as the Orioles mull whether to trade the star player or let him play out the 2018 season, his final one before free agency.

It makes much more sense for the Phillies to try to sign Machado as a free agent next winter rather than surrender prospects — and ultimately big cash in the form of an extension — for him this winter. But if the Orioles create a market for Machado this winter, the Phillies will be in on it. At the moment, all is quiet.

It's no secret that the Phillies have deep pockets and no secret that they will spend big on top talent like Machado once their rebuild gets into the red zone. Klentak confirmed that again on Monday.

"There will come a time when we are one piece away and that one piece is a fill in the blank — starting pitcher, closer, cleanup hitter — and in that moment, when we feel that we are one piece away, or two pieces away, that's when we open up the wallet and we go do what we need to do," he said.

"But for right now, we are on the cusp of getting to where we want to go, to developing this next young core. This is what happened with (Jimmy) Rollins and (Chase) Utley and (Ryan) Howard and (Cole) Hamels. We need to give these guys a chance to become that next group."

The Phillies showed improvement in the second half of last season. They went 38-38 over the final 76 games. Klentak wants to give the team's core the chance to continue its improvement in 2018.

"The most important thing we can do next year is let this young core develop and get the reps that they need to continue their improvement," Klentak said.

"We scored almost a full run more per game in the second half than we did in the first half. That was driven by (Nick) Williams, (Rhys) Hoskins, (J.P.) Crawford and (Jorge) Alfaro joining Cesar (Hernandez), Freddy (Galvis), (Maikel) Franco, Odubel (Herrera), (Aaron) Altherr, (Andrew) Knapp. That's exciting to me. Not only do we need to let that play out, we want to let that play out. 

"We want to see what that group can do now that they're more than three months into their major-league careers. What can they do in their first full season? Or their second full season? Baseball aging curves tell us that these players are likely to get better. How much better? We don't know. But we're only going to find out if we let them play." 

Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

Phillies to upgrade bullpen with impending return of Pat Neshek

ORLANDO, Fla. — On the day he was traded from the Phillies to the Colorado Rockies in July, Pat Neshek stood in front of his locker and talked about how much he liked his time in Philadelphia. He gazed into his crystal ball and envisioned himself returning to the Phillies as a free agent over the winter.

The image in Neshek's crystal ball is about to come to life. The Phillies are on the verge of re-signing the 37-year-old right-hander, multiple sources said on Monday, the first day of baseball's winter meetings. When the deal is wrapped up in the next few days, it will be worth $16.25 million for two years with a club option for a third.

"We've been talking with the agents of a bunch of relief pitchers and we're on the goal line with one," said Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who initially acquired Neshek in a trade with Houston 14 months ago then watched the pitcher deliver four outstanding months that landed him on the National League All-Star team.

There is not a no-trade clause in Neshek's new deal, so the Phillies could peddle him once again if they are not in contention. The Phillies got three prospects for Neshek in July — infielder Jose Gomez and right-handed pitchers J.D. Hammer and Alejandro Requena. Hammer was recently named to the Arizona Fall League's All-Prospect team.

Neshek pitched in 43 games (40 1/3 innings) for the Phillies in 2017 and gave up just five runs while walking five and striking out 45. In Colorado, Neshek continued to shine. He finished the season with a 1.59 ERA in 71 games. Overall, he pitched 62 1/3 innings and gave up just 11 earned runs while walking six and striking out 69.

Neshek is expected to help set up for Hector Neris and complement Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hoby Milner, all relatively young relievers who showed breakthrough signs in 2017. The Phillies could continue to add to their bullpen before the winter is complete. Sources say they have shown interest in free-agent lefty Jake McGee.

"I think we’re open-minded to bringing in multiple bullpen reinforcements," Klentak said. "One of the goals leading into next season is to improve our run prevention. Obviously, there are a lot of ways we can do that. One way — and this is sort of the simple narrative — is to address our starting pitching. We will continue to explore ways to improve our starting pitching, but I also think we need to be prepared to improve our run prevention in other areas. Improving our bullpen is one way to do that.

"I think if we can run out a bullpen of seven or eight guys that are all high-leverage type arms, then we can start matching up in the fifth or sixth inning. If there are days when our young starters throw 100 pitches to get us through five or six innings, we shouldn't be in a position where that’s taxing our bullpen because we have the ability to carry an eighth bullpen member next year. We shouldn’t be in a position where we lose our competitiveness in the sixth inning because we should have a deep bullpen where we start throwing really good players out there early in the game. If it turns out that’s the best way for us to improve our run prevention, then that’s the way to do."

The Phillies will continue to look for starting pitching at these winter meetings and beyond. They are open to trading Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez and would look to get starting pitching in a deal for one of them. The Angels, according to sources, covet Hernandez as both a second baseman and leadoff man, but the Phillies' asking price is high.

Also on Day 1 of the winter meetings ...

The Phillies lost outfielder Cameron Perkins and infielder Engelb Vielma on waivers to Seattle and Pittsburgh, respectively. With two openings on the 40-man roster, the Phils can add a player in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. They have the third overall pick.

"I would expect that we would take advantage of the third pick in some form or fashion," Klentak said. "Whether we draft a player and retain that player or draft a player and make a trade, I think we’ll look to do something with it. That was a big part of why we put the two guys on waivers that we did. It was just to free us up to be able to participate on Thursday."