Phillies

Phillies-Nationals observations: Sloppy defense in 11-10 loss

Phillies-Nationals observations: Sloppy defense in 11-10 loss

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WASHINGTON — From the start, this was not going to be a good matchup for the Phillies. They seldom fare well against Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, last year's National League Cy Young winner.

Scherzer was the winning pitcher in an 11-10 Washington victory on Friday night. He is 9-1 in 14 career starts against the Phils.

The Phillies took an early 3-0 lead on Scherzer, but it vanished amid the adventures — or misadventures — of Odubel Herrera in center field.

The Phillies pulled within a run on a pair of late-game three-run homers by Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco before Nationals closer Sean Doolittle came on and nailed down the win with three strikeouts. Doolittle's second strikeout came against Jorge Alfaro. The Phillies catcher snapped his bat in half over his knee after the strikeout. That's a strong man.

The Phillies are a majors-worst 53-88.

Washington's magic number for clinching the NL East title is down to three.

• Herrera misplayed a line drive by Michael A. Taylor into an inside-the-park grand slam in the bottom of the third inning. Herrera, at first, broke in on the ball. Then he scurried back. Then he jumped flat-footed for the ball. It rolled to the wall, Herrera jogged after it and Taylor circled the bases (see story). Earlier in the inning, second baseman Cesar Hernandez booted a tailor-made double-play ball.

• Herrera's miscues did not stop with the misplay in the third inning. In the fifth, he was taking his time getting set in the batter's box and Scherzer whistled a third-strike fastball by him. Herrera is notorious for being slow to get set and Scherzer taught him a lesson. Or did he? Time will tell. And, no, Herrera was not asking for time out when he raised his left hand. He does that every time, as if to tell the umpire he's not ready. But once he's in the box, he's fair game.

• While Herrera struggled in center field, Taylor excelled there for the Nationals. He cut down a run at the plate with a perfect throw in the seventh. On Thursday night, he robbed a home run from Andres Blanco. Taylor had four hits, adding a triple late in the game.

• Phillies starter Jake Thompson was hardly sharp, but his defense was awful.

• Freddy Galvis was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season as the Phillies looked at rookie J.P. Crawford at shortstop (see story). Crawford had two hits, including his first extra-base hit, and drove in a run. He is expected to play second base on Saturday night. Galvis pinch hit in the sixth inning, so he has played in all 141 games. He will return to shortstop Saturday night.

• The Phillies did some early damage against Scherzer. He walked two in the first inning then surrendered a three-run homer to rookie Nick Williams. Williams turned around a 93-mph fastball with a short, quick, powerful stroke. It was his 10th homer — he also has 43 RBIs — since coming up on June 30. Before the game, general manager Matt Klentak raved about the production and energy Williams has brought to the club.

"It's going on three months of production from him. I can't say enough about what Nick has brought to this team," Klentak said. "He deserves all the credit for it — just the style of play, the energy level that he brings. It's contagious. I know the players and the coaching staff would share that sentiment. He has enough of a sample now that this looks like the player Nick Williams is. And that's not to say he can't get better. He's making improvements at the major-league level. Where some players come up and struggle and take steps back, he appears to be going the other way. He's been a very positive development success story."

• Hoskins, who batted third, belted a three-run homer off lefty Oliver Perez in the seventh. It was his 13th homer in 29 games with the club. Seven of the Phillies' runs were driven in by rookies — three each by Williams and Hoskins and one by Crawford.

• Phillies pitchers threw a bunch of hanging breaking balls in this game.

• Howie Kendrick has played an important role in Washington's banged-up outfield since coming over from the Phillies at the trade deadline. He entered the game hitting .310 with six doubles, two triples, five homers and 22 RBIs since the trade. He made a heads-up base-running play in the first inning when he went first to third on a base hit to leftfielder Hyun Soo Kim. He eventually scored. Kendrick's time with the Phillies was brief and he had two stints on the disabled list, but he does a lot of little things right. Word is the Nats are thrilled with the pickup.

• Another pitching injury: Promising reliever Jesen Therrien is out for the season with an injury to the ulna collateral ligament in his right elbow. Therrien is still being evaluated medically, but Tommy John surgery is a possibility. Therrien struggled in 15 appearances in the majors after putting himself on the map with some excellent work at Double A and Triple A earlier this season.

• Herrera did manage an infield hit, improving his hitting streak to 21 games, longest in the majors this season.

• The series continues on Saturday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (2-5, 4.74) opposing Washington right-hander Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.29).

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 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.