Phillies

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Phils lose, 5-4, fail to sweep MLB-best Dodgers

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Phils lose, 5-4, fail to sweep MLB-best Dodgers

BOX SCORE

The Los Angeles Dodgers scored twice in the seventh inning to take the lead for good, en route to a 5-4 victory over the Phillies on Thursday afternoon.

Los Angeles, which salvaged the last game of the four-game series and snapped a four-game losing streak, sliced its magic number to clinch its fifth straight NL West championship to one.

The Phillies finished a 10-game homestand with a 7-3 mark, and lost for just the fourth time in 12 games.

With the Dodgers down, 4-3, veteran outfielder Andre Ethier led off the eighth with a pinch-hit homer off Phils reliever Ricardo Pinto (1-2). Chris Taylor followed with a triple, and one out later Cody Bellinger drove him in with a grounder to Rhys Hoskins at first base.

Warren Buehler (1-0), the fourth of seven Dodgers pitchers, earned the victory with an inning of scoreless relief. Kenley Jansen worked 1 1/3 innings to earn his 39th save.

Here are some observations:

• Hoskins gave the Phillies a 4-2 lead when he smoked a 2-0 offering from Los Angeles reliever Josh Fields, a 98-mph fastball, up the gap in left-center for a two-run double in the fifth. 

• Nick Williams hit a first-pitch changeup from Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda for an opposite-field two-run homer in the third, erasing a 2-0 deficit. It was Williams’ 11th homer in 74 games with the Phillies this season.

• J.P. Crawford, a natural shortstop, made no fewer than four outstanding plays at third base, the first two on groundballs off the bat of Logan Forsythe, and the last two on bouncers by Austin Barnes. In the second, Crawford dove to his left to snag Forsythe’s smash and threw to second for the force, and in the fourth he short-hopped a slowly hit bouncer and fired to first. In the fifth, Crawford ranged to his left to flag down Barnes’ grounder, and with Taylor at third and the infield up in the seventh again, Crawford snagged a ball off Barnes’ bat. The runner, Taylor, wound up scoring anyway, on Bellinger’s infield out.

 • Mark Leiter Jr. was left with a no-decision after going six innings and allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits, while striking out three and walking one. The first two batters he faced in the top of the first reached, but only one of them scored, on Yasiel Puig’s sacrifice fly. Leiter surrendered an unearned run in the third, and Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the sixth.

• Victor Arano had quite the adventure in his inning on the mound. He entered in the eighth inning, after Hoby Milner walked pinch-hitter Kiki Hernandez, and proceeded to strike out the next two hitters. Then he walked two, to loaded the bases, before retiring Taylor on a groundout to end the inning. Arano threw 21 pitches, 10 for strikes. 

• Maeda departed after three innings, having allowed two runs on three hits.

• The Phillies saw their 100-inning errorless string end five pitches into the game, when leftfielder Aaron Altherr misplayed a single by Taylor, the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter.  

• Los Angeles 3B Justin Turner was hit on the right hand by a Leiter pitch in the first inning. He later left the game, and while X-rays were negative, he was diagnosed with a bruised thumb.

• The Phillies’ final road trip of the season consists of three games, beginning Friday in Atlanta. RHP Ben Lively (3-6, 3.94) opposes LHP Sean Newcomb (3-8, 4.32).

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.