Phillies-Marlins thoughts: Phils need Pivetta to turn a corner in September


Phillies-Marlins thoughts: Phils need Pivetta to turn a corner in September

Phillies (50-83) at Marlins (66-67)
7:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

Thoughts on Game 2 of the Phillies' four-game series at Marlins Park, their last trip of the season to Miami:

• Some housekeeping notes first: Vince Velasquez will have surgery, reliever Casey Fien was released, and Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. The expectation remains that both outfielders will come off the DL after the weekend.

• The Phillies had an impressive night of pitching in the opener, holding Giancarlo Stanton hitless and the Marlins to two runs on eight hits, six of which were singles.

Ben Lively allowed two runs, making it eight of 10 starts that he's allowed three earned runs or less. And Adam Morgan had a dominant seventh inning, striking out the side and lowering his ERA to 4.46. 

• Morgan ends August by allowing one run in 14⅓ innings with two walks and 22 strikeouts. Yes, 22 strikeouts. He's just a different pitcher with this better fastball and tighter slider. Improbably, he has a chance next spring to pitch himself into a late-inning relief role.

• Stanton ended his insane, historic month of August by going 0 for 9 in his final two games. His 0-for-5 Thursday night was his worst game of the month. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 29, he hit .380 with 18 homers and 37 RBIs in 27 games.

• These are important games for Miami. At 66-67, the Marlins are still theoretically in contention for the final NL wild-card spot but Thursday's result pushed them to six games back.

Nick Pivetta, who has pitched exactly 100 innings in 20 starts, gets the nod tonight. He enters 5-9 with a 6.57 ERA, 106 strikeouts, 45 walks and 21 home runs allowed.

Pivetta has shown this season that he has electric stuff, but he too often either loses his control or misses over the middle of the plate. It's been a learning experience for him.

Pivetta faced the Marlins two starts ago on Aug. 22 and allowed six runs on seven hits and two homers in just 1⅓ innings. He also faced them on July 19 and gave up three runs in 5⅓ innings.

Christian Yelich has homered twice off Pivetta, while Stanton and Marcell Ozuna have taken him deep once each.

• The Phillies face Marlins left-hander Dillon Peters, who is making his major-league debut. A 10th-round pick in 2014, Peters comes up from Double A, where he was 6-2 with a 1.97 ERA in nine starts this season. With 50 walks in 236⅔ minor-league innings, his calling card is control.

The Phillies have held their own against left-handed starting pitchers this season, going 18-19.

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

AP Images

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

Roy Halladay had morphine in his system when the plane he was piloting crashed and he tragically died in November, according to Halladay's autopsy report, released Friday.

Zolpidem, the generic name for Ambien, and amphetamines were found in Halladay's system.

As TMZ points out via the Food and Drug Administration, the amount of Zolpidem found in Halladay's system (72 ng/ml) is more than enough to impair a driver and increase the risk of an accident.

Halladay had a blood alcohol content of 0.01, according to the autopsy report. 

The official cause of Halladay's death was blunt force trauma, with drowning a contributing factor.

More details can be found in this Tampa Bay Times report.

Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

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Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

It's not clear whether the Phillies will add a starting pitcher before opening day, but surely they would like to.

General manager Matt Klentak “is busting his ass every single day looking for every possible opportunity to upgrade our team from every perspective,” manager Gabe Kapler said on Tuesday. “That includes looking at every option possible for the rotation.”

Klentak has kept a close eye on the trade market, but has found the prices (i.e., the young talent that must be surrendered) for top, controllable starters to be prohibitive.

He has kept a close eye on the free-agent market, but the length of contracts that top pitchers are looking for has given him pause.

For months, the Phillies have distanced themselves from speculation that has connected them to elite level free-agent pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

But with spring training less than a month away and both pitchers still unsigned, the Phillies would at least have to consider both pitchers if their asking prices experience a January thaw.

Six or seven years? No way.

Three years? Hmmm. Let's talk.

The Phillies are hosting a number of their young players this week. Rhys Hoskins, Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter and Nick Williams were all in town on Tuesday.

Williams has set his sights on making the National League All-Star team in 2018.

“That's what I'm shooting for,” he said at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday. “I think I had a pretty good year last year. I'm shooting for more now. I don't think being an All-Star is shooting too high.”

Williams, 24, hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS in 83 games, mostly in right field, with the big club as a rookie last season.

To give himself the best chance of surpassing those numbers — and achieving his goal of making the All-Star team — Williams has spent the offseason in Austin, Texas, working with personal trainer Jeremy Hills, a former University of Texas football player.

Williams is working hard on agility, which will help him in the outfield and on the base paths.

And guess who one of his daily workout partners is?

Free-agent pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Back in Austin, between reps and protein shakes, Williams has occasionally talked up Philadelphia as a potential landing spot to Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner who will turn 32 in March.

“He loves it here,” Williams said of Arrieta, who, as a free agent and a Scott Boras client, is astute enough not to rule out any team, particularly one as deep-pocketed as the Phillies. “He has told me he likes working with young guys. I'm like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I'm not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I'm not really in his position.”

Williams smiled.

“I hope to be one day,” he said.

Williams marveled at Arrieta's work ethic in the gym.

And he expressed gratitude for the kindness and generosity Arrieta has showed him.

“He's bought a lot of my protein shakes,” Williams said.

Time will tell if the Phillies add a starting pitcher to the group that already consists of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and other youngsters. The hunch is they will, though it's unclear what the magnitude of that talent will be. Klentak's search for an arm likely won't stop with the addition of one pitcher and it will likely continue through July. And beyond. The quest to build a championship-caliber staff never stops.

“The pursuit is very real,” Kapler said of Klentak's search for pitching. “I have a lot of trust that we'll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we're better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”