Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's grand slam stuns Clayton Kershaw in win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's grand slam stuns Clayton Kershaw in win


A struggling rookie pitcher against the best team in the majors and arguably the best starter in the game …
On paper, this was not a good matchup for the Phillies.
But on the field, the Phillies managed to pull off a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and their ace, Clayton Kershaw, Monday night.
Aaron Altherr accounted for all of the Phillies' runs with a grand slam against Kershaw in the sixth.
The Dodgers still own the majors' best record at 96-54. They entered the night with a magic number of four for clinching the NL West title.
• Good job by rookie Nick Pivetta, the Phillies' starter. The night did not get off to a good start for the right-hander as he gave up a pair of homers — one was an inside-the-parker — to the first two batters of the game. But those were the only runs that Pivetta gave up over six innings. His resilience and ability to keep his team in the game are a big reason the Phillies won. Pivetta (6-10) walked two and struck out eight. He had allowed 13 runs over 10 innings in his previous two starts.
• Kershaw (17-4) entered the game with a majors-best 2.12 ERA. He had been 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA on the road.
• Entering the game, five players in the Phillies' young lineup had never had an at-bat against Kershaw. Altherr was one of them. But a hanging slider is a hanging slider, even from a three-time Cy Young Award winner. Altherr got one with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning and sent it into the upper deck to turn a 2-0 Phillies' deficit into a 4-2 lead.
• Both starting third basemen, Justin Turner and Maikel Franco, made superb defensive plays. J.P. Crawford moved from second to third and made a sweet barehanded play to end the top of the eighth.
• The Phillies got good work from their bullpen even though Hector Neris allowed a home run to make it a one-run game in the ninth. Neris has been tormented by the Dodgers this season. Back on April 29, he gave up three ninth-inning homers in a 6-5 loss at Dodger Stadium.
• Rhys Hoskins bounced back nicely from an 0-for-11 weekend and reached base twice against Kershaw with a single and a walk. He drew a two-out walk to load the bases and extend the inning for Altherr in the bottom of the sixth.
• Chase Utley started at second base for the Dodgers and struck out in both of his at-bats (see story).
• The Phillies face some tough pitching in this series. They will go against Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08) on Tuesday night and All-Star lefty Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) on Wednesday night. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola (11-10, 3.60) on Tuesday night and Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46) on Wednesday night. The series concludes Thursday afternoon with Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.21) squaring off against Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93).

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.


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.