Phillies-Mets observations: Mark Leiter Jr.'s early hole proves too deep to climb out of in loss

Phillies-Mets observations: Mark Leiter Jr.'s early hole proves too deep to climb out of in loss


NEW YORK — The Phillies continued to struggle against the New York Mets in an 11-7 loss Monday afternoon.

Phillies starter Mark Leiter Jr. was hit hard in taking the loss.

The Phillies are 3-9 against the Mets this season and 16-36 against them since the start of the 2015 season. The Phils have lost 21 of their last 30 games at Citi Field, dating to July 2014.

The Phillies made mistakes on the bases and in the field. This wasn't their worst game of the season, but it would probably rank in the top 5. At one point, the Phils trailed 10-0. 

The Phillies are 88-103 all-time on Labor Day.

• Leiter does not have overpowering stuff. When he's been successful, he has pitched at the knees and been able to work inside on hitters. He had trouble keeping his fastball out of the middle of the plate in this one. He gave up two homers in the third inning (to Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera), both virtually on the same pitch — 90 mph fastballs down the middle. Leiter was tagged for nine hits and nine runs.

• The Phillies have gone 141 consecutive games without using a left-handed starting pitcher. It is their longest such streak in nearly a century — since 1919. Adam Morgan was the Phillies' last lefty starter on Sept. 28 of last season. Speaking of Morgan, he has shined in the bullpen lately, showing a 96-mph fastball, a good slider, poise and control. That has prompted some to wonder if the Phils might give Morgan another shot to start down the stretch. Though he did not rule it out, manager Pete Mackanin did not sound like that was a route he wanted to take. "That's going to be a debate that we'll have, a conversation we'll have," he said. "Then the question becomes: Has he found his niche, or do you want to mess with that? I wouldn't want to.”

• Nick Williams had an adventure on the base paths in the fourth inning. He stole his first base as a big-leaguer, but he would have been out by six feet if hadn't contorted his diving body to elude the second baseman's tag after an off-line throw from the catcher. Moments later, Williams made the third out when he simply ran into third baseman Cabrera instead of making him throw the ball across the diamond. 

• Rhys Hoskins returned to the starting lineup. Odubel Herrera will do so Tuesday night (see story).

• Herrera entered the game as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. He ended a nine-pitch at-bat with an RBI single, raising his hitting streak to 18 games.

• Hoskins did not get a hit, but he was on base twice with a pair of walks. He worked a 10-pitch walk in the second inning.

• Hoskins had the bat taken out of his hands when Cesar Hernandez was caught stealing to end the top of the first.

• Maikel Franco grounded into his 19th double play of the season in the second inning. He and Tommy Joseph both rank in the top 10 in the NL in that category. Joseph entered the day ranked second in the league with 21, two behind leader Matt Kemp of the Braves.

• Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist, picked up on waivers from St. Louis, became the 47th player to appear in a game for the team this season. His debut was not good. He allowed a hit, two walks and a run. Thirteen of his 24 pitches were balls.

• Andres Blanco came off the bench and had three of the Phillies' 10 hits.

• Triple A Lehigh Valley clinched a berth in the International League playoffs Sunday. That won't delay J.P. Crawford's arrival to the majors. He will join the Phillies in New York on Tuesday (see story). The IronPigs were picked clean by the big club this season. Surging to make the playoffs is a nice accomplishment.

• The Phillies are using three rookie starters in this series. Ben Lively (2-5, 4.22) pitches Tuesday night against Jacob deGrom (13-8, 3.43). 

DeGrom owns the Phillies. He is 6-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 career starts against the Phils. He is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA (three earned runs in 19 2/3 innings) in three starts against the Phils this season. He has struck out 24 and walked just three.

Rookie Nick Pivetta (5-9, 6.28) will start for the Phillies on Wednesday against Matt Harvey (4-4, 5.97).

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

Jim Salisbury/NBCSP

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

DUNEDIN, Fla. – It’s not hard to find Charlie Manuel in spring training. In late mornings, he’s perched behind the batting cage watching Phillies hitters take their swings. During the game, he’s on the top step of the dugout, taking it all in and offering advice where needed.

Manuel didn’t stay for the game Saturday. He watched batting practice, showered and drove out of the parking lot 30 minutes before the first pitch.

Manuel, you see, had a promise to keep.

Back in November, Manuel was one of nine people to speak at Roy Halladay’s memorial service at Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring training home. Manuel stood at a podium near the very mound that Halladay trained on and spoke from the heart about what an honor it was to manage such a great talent and competitor. Manuel had jotted his words down on a paper, but he didn’t stick completely to his script that day. At one point, he looked down at Halladay’s two grieving sons, Braden and Ryan, and told them he’d be keeping tabs on their progress as young ballplayers. Manuel promised to attend their games. And that’s just what he did Saturday afternoon.

Braden Halladay, a lanky 17-year-old right-hander who bears a striking resemblance to his dad, on and off the mound, is a member of the Canadian Junior Team’s spring training roster. He was born in Toronto when his dad played for the Blue Jays, hence his eligibility to pitch for Canada.

On Saturday, Braden pitched a scoreless eighth inning against a Jays’ split-squad team on the very Dunedin Stadium mound where his dad began his career.

“I’m so glad I came over,” Manuel said after Braden’s perfect inning of work. “He did good. I’m glad he got ‘em out.”

This wasn’t the first time Manuel had seen Braden pitch. Braden pitches for Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, where he is a junior. Manuel watched him pitch five shutout innings earlier in the week. And on Wednesday night, Manuel attended young brother Ryan’s practice in Clearwater.

Manuel has a warm spot for the boys for a lot of reasons. Obviously, there was the respect he had for their dad. “When I think of Roy, I think of the perfect game and playoff no-hitter first,” Manuel said. “Right after that, I think of his work ethic. It was the best I’ve ever seen.” 

But Manuel’s affection for the boys goes beyond the respect he had for their dad. Manuel was 18, the oldest son in a family of 11 children, when he lost his dad.

“I feel for those boys,” Manuel said. “I know what they’re going through and it isn’t easy. Not easy at all.”

It takes a lot of love to get through a tragedy like the one the Halladay family has gone through. The boys get it from their mom, Brandy, who is at all of their games. And they get it from people like Charlie Manuel.

Saturday’s first pitch at Dunedin Stadium, just a few miles from the Phillies’ ballpark, was scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Manuel wanted to hustle over so he could wish Braden luck before the game. Manuel made his way down to the bullpen area and spotted one of his former Phillies players, Pete Orr, who is a coach with the Canadian team. Orr called over to Braden. A huge smile crossed the kid’s face when he saw Manuel. He sprinted over and gave Manuel a hug. Orr, who grew up near Toronto, slapped Braden on the back of his Team Canada jersey and said, “He looks good in red and white.”

He sure did.

Braden chatted with Manuel for a minute or two, and Manuel wished him luck. A reporter from Philadelphia asked Braden what it felt like to have Manuel keep tabs on his baseball career.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Braden said with a big smile. “It means a lot to me.”

The reporter wished him luck and told him that all of Philadelphia was rooting for him.

“I appreciate that,” the young pitcher said before trotting off to join his teammates.

Braden Halladay is 6-3 and 150 pounds. He entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with his team down, 11-3, at first to a smattering of applause. That grew into a big, beautiful round of applause after the PA man announced his name and everyone in the crowd realized the magnitude of the moment. Braden knelt behind the mound and wrote his dad’s initials in the dirt before delivering his first pitch. His pitching delivery is smooth and fundamentally pure.

“You can tell Roy worked with him,” Manuel said.

Braden mixed his pitches nicely in getting two pop-ups and a ground ball. He hit 83 mph on the stadium radar gun. A few months ago, Braden announced that he had committed to Penn State. Manuel sees a lot of promise in the kid.

“When he’s 21, he’ll pitch at 205 pounds,” Manuel said. “He’ll get stronger. You watch, he’s got a chance to be real good. He has a good, quick arm, command of the ball and mechanics.”

Where the game will eventually take Braden Halladay is a story for another day. Back in November, he sat in the middle of a baseball field and listened to people eulogize his dad. It was an excruciatingly difficult experience and the look on his face that day said as much.

So on Saturday, it was just great to see Braden Halladay back on a baseball field with a smile on his face. And it was great to see Charlie Manuel there, taking it all in, just as he had promised.

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

AP Images

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.