Phillies

Phillies-Marlins observations: Ben Lively bounces back in 3-2 win

Phillies-Marlins observations: Ben Lively bounces back in 3-2 win

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MIAMI — It wasn’t a fatal blow, but the Phillies landed a damaging dagger to the heart of the Miami Marlins and their fading playoff hopes with a 3-2 win on Thursday night at Marlins Park.

Ben Lively (2-5) earned the win by allowing just two runs in six innings. He also drove in two runs in an all-around performance. (OK, he made a throwing error, but still …)

Hector Neris earned his 17th save the very hard way, loading the bases before striking out J.T. Realmuto, who watched a 2-2 fastball for strike three.  

With the win, the Phillies (50-83) became the last team in the majors to reach 50 victories. The Marlins (66-67) fell six games behind the Colorado Rockies in the battle for the final wild-card berth in the National League.

• The Marlins appeared to had tied the score in the eighth inning on a swinging bunt by Tomas Telis. Reliever Luis Garcia’s throw to first bounced into right field and allowed Derek Dietrich to score from first. However, Telis ran out of the baseline at first and was called out, crushing the rally. The Phillies dodged the proverbial bullet.  

• Left-hander Adam Morgan turned in an impressive relief outing, striking out the side in the seventh. Morgan got all three batters swinging. And these weren’t just any three batters. They were Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors in homers; Christian Yelich, a Silver Slugger winner last year who has 16 homers this season; and Marcell Ozuna, a 2017 All-Star who has 31 homers and 103 RBIs (see story).

• The power versus power matchup — Stanton against Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins — never materialized. Stanton went 0 for 5 with a fly out, two strikeouts and two pop outs. He is 1 for 15 this week.

Hoskins, who has 11 homers in 22 games, didn’t go deep, but he went 1 for 3 with a single and a walk. Hoskins became the first Phillies rookie to produce a 13-game hit streak in the first month of his major-league career since Hall of Famer Chuck Klein accomplished the feat in 1928.

• The Phillies were sloppy on defense, making three errors. Shortstop Freddy Galvis, who could be forced to give up his spot upon the imminent arrival of minor-league standout J.P. Crawford, made one of the miscues. Galvis charged in on a slow roller but couldn’t make the grab.

The other two errors happened on the same play as a Dee Gordon bunt turned into — in net effect — a triple because of throwing errors by Lively and second baseman Cesar Hernandez. 
 
• Lively, who entered Friday 3 for 14 with one homer and two RBIs as a competent (for a pitcher) big-league hitter, doubled his RBI count with a two-run single in the fourth. He raised his batting average to .235.

• Left-swinging Phillies rightfielder Nick Williams has had fairly even splits against right-handers and left-handers this year. He entered Thursday batting .281 with an .844 OPS against right-handers and .280 with a .785 OPS against left-handers.

Having even splits is the key to playing every day, especially for a rookie such as Williams, who is still trying to prove himself. But in the seventh inning, with a runner on third and one out, Williams hit a grounder to third base, failing to get the run in against rookie lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia.

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.