Phillies

Phillies-Nationals observations: Strasburg dominates as Phils end trip with a thud

Phillies-Nationals observations: Strasburg dominates as Phils end trip with a thud

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WASHINGTON -- Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker held most of his regulars out of the lineup Sunday, but not Stephen Strasburg. Much to the Phillies' chagrin, the right-hander got the ball and was dominant in leading a 3-2 Washington win.
 
Strasburg pitched eight shutout innings, allowed two hits (both singles), a walk and struck out 10.
 
He has pitched 34 straight scoreless innings, a Montreal/Washington franchise record. He has not allowed a run in four straight starts.
 
Strasburg left with a 3-0 lead. The Phillies scored two runs in the in the ninth, on a Nick Williams base hit against Ryan Madson, but got no closer.

Trea Turner was the only Washington regular in the starting lineup. He tripled and scored the Nats' first run in the sixth and later homered.

The Nationals' win over the Phillies combined with the Marlins' loss to the Braves officially clinched the National League East title for Washington.

The Phillies went 5-6 on the 11-game trip and Williams had 15 RBIs.
 
• Battling Ben Lively delivered his third straight quality start. He became first Phillies pitcher not named Aaron Nola to pitch into the eighth inning this season. He gave up five hits and three runs in completing eight. He walked one, struck out seven and received no run support.

• While teams like the Dodgers, Astros, Cubs and Indians have gotten much of the spotlight this season, the Nationals have played a bit under the radar. But they will be a tough team to reckon with in the postseason. With Max Scherzer (2.32), Gio Gonzalez (2.50) and Strasburg (2.64), they have the second-, third- and fourth-best ERAs in the National League, and the July acquisitions of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle have bolstered the bullpen. Of course, they still need to get Bryce Harper healthy and there's optimism they will. Watch out for the Nats.

• Pete Mackanin had considered playing J.P. Crawford at second base but backed off on that because he wanted to keep Cesar Hernandez's bat in the lineup after Hernandez had three hits Saturday night. Crawford got the start at third, but Mackanin kept Maikel Franco in the lineup after he'd homered in two straight games. Franco played first base for the first time since 2015 when he played two games there. Franco had not even taken a ground ball at first base since then. He borrowed Andres Blanco's first baseman's glove for the game. Rhys Hoskins returned to left field. A lot of the positional movement is dictated by wanting to get Crawford at-bats without thrusting Freddy Galvis to the background. Galvis is a Gold Glove candidate and could be a trade candidate this winter. "I want guys to play in different places," Mackanin said. "But I want to try to keep the guys that are hitting in the lineup." Aaron Altherr got the start in center field as Odubel Herrera sat out.

• Franco had the Phillies' only two hits against Strasburg, both singles. More on him in the coming days, but he's begun to make adjustments at the plate, especially with his hands and his footwork at the plate. Time will tell what it will bring.

• Tough day for Hoskins — he struck out three times against Strasburg. It happens.

• Crawford struck out twice against Strasburg then worked a full count against Madson and yanked a single in the hole between first and second. Crawford is 4 for 20 with seven strikeouts and no walks after his first six games.

• The Phillies have just 19 games remaining and 16 of them are at home. They are off Monday and begin a 10-game homestand Tuesday night with the first of three against the Miami Marlins. Here are the pitching matchups for that series:

Tuesday night — RHP Nick Pivetta (5-10, 6.49) vs. LHP Dillon Peters (0-1, 2.25)
 
Wednesday night — RHP Aaron Nola (10-10, 3.71) vs. RHP Dan Straily (9-8, 3.95)

Thursday night — RHP Jake Thompson (1-2, 5.23) vs. RHP Jose Urena (13-6, 3.61)

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

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 also 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.

The crash took place on Nov. 7 in the Gulf of Mexico, with more details emerging in a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board two weeks later.

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

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AP Images/USA Today Images

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.”