Phillies

Young Phillies end trip with valuable lesson from Stephen Strasburg in loss to Nationals

Young Phillies end trip with valuable lesson from Stephen Strasburg in loss to Nationals

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WASHINGTON — While the Washington Nationals gear up for the postseason over these final three weeks of the regular season, the Phillies remain in full development mode.
 
So maybe it was a good thing for both teams that Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg was on top of his game Sunday afternoon.
 
Strasburg pitched the Nats to the National League East title in a 3-2 win over the Phillies (see observations). And while Strasburg was completely dominant in pitching eight shutout innings and striking out 10, the Phillies' young hitters got a chance to familiarize themselves with the type of elite pitching they'll one day have to beat if they want to ascend to the top of the division.

There's some value in that.
 
"You want to throw guys right into the fire and let them know what they're up against," manager Pete Mackanin said after the game.
 
"Strasburg had his best stuff today. It's good for those young guys to see him."
 
Seven of Strasburg's strikeouts came against Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and J.P. Crawford, three of the young building blocks that have recently joined the Phillies' lineup. They will be better for the experience of seeing Strasburg's high 90s fastball, his knee-buckling breaking ball and his killer changeup.
 
"He was on today," Crawford said. "He mixed it up and commanded it. He's not afraid to throw his off-speed stuff 2-2 or 3-2. Props to him. He shut us down."
 
Strasburg is on a terrific roll. He has not allowed a run in his last four starts, running his scoreless innings streak to 34, a Montreal/Washington franchise record.
 
Despite Strasburg's excellence, the Phillies were in this game. In fact, the loss was their 35th by one run, tying a team record. Overall, the Phillies have 89 losses with 19 games to play.
 
The Phils were in this game because rookie right-hander Ben Lively continued to impress with his competitiveness, willingness to attack hitters and ability to command his fastball. He became the only Phillies pitcher not named Aaron Nola to pitch into the eighth inning this season. He finished with eight innings of three-run ball. He walked one and struck out seven.
 
"He pitched extremely well," Mackanin said. "That was our first complete game of the year. It was nice not to have to go to the bullpen."
 
Pitching against a red-hot Strasburg, Lively could afford no mistakes. He made just a couple in allowing two runs in the sixth inning and another in the bottom of the eighth inning. Trea Turner tripled and scored the Nats' first run in the sixth. He then homered in the eighth to give the Nats a 3-0 lead.
 
"Two bad pitches and that was the ballgame," Lively said. "The first slider I hung all day was in that last inning. I'd rather get my teeth kicked in than lose a game like that."
 
Lively, 25, has a 3.86 ERA in 12 starts. He has pitched at least six innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs in nine of those starts. He does a lot of it with command, deception and competitiveness as he does not possess a fastball that lights up radar guns. He has put himself in line to bid for a starting spot next spring.
 
"I hope so," he said. "I've been pitching my ass off. I always pitch my ass off. That's how I always am and nothing is going to change."
 
Lively has a fan in Mackanin.
 
"There's always the discussion about what's more important, velocity, deception, movement, location," Mackanin said. "A lot of people will say velocity but that's not the case for me. Location, movement and deception are just as important if not more important, and if you locate with lesser stuff you can be just as successful. We've seen many pitchers in the majors who are like that."
 
The Nationals 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 NL, 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.
 
Madson was called on to protect a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning Sunday. He sputtered a little and allowed three hits and two runs (his first in 13 innings with the Nats) before closing the door on the Phils. Williams drove in the Phillies' two runs in that inning with a base hit.
 
The Phillies finished the 11-game road trip with five wins and six losses, and Williams had 15 RBIs on the trip, giving him 45 in his first 64 big-league games. For a developing team, that was a positive. Lively's recent work has been a positive, too.

Arrieta exudes leadership, veteran savvy in pacing another Phillies’ win

Arrieta exudes leadership, veteran savvy in pacing another Phillies’ win

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Jake Arrieta prides himself on being a leader to this young Phillies’ pitching staff.

“More than anything, you want to lead by example,” he said. “Part of the mentorship and trying to help these guys progress is exactly that – going out there, having a plan, being prepared and executing. You can talk to guys until you’re blue in the face, but until you can go out there and put up results and show these guys that what you do in between starts really pays dividends, then guys really start to buy in.

“Actions speak louder than words. Any time you can put into motion what you’re trying to emphasize to these guys plays a huge role in their development. I don’t intend to be a preacher, but there’s a lot of things that I regard highly as a starting pitcher and I’m trying to emphasize to these guys and they’re grasping it and running with it.”

Arrieta provided a great example in how to grind when you don’t have your best stuff and how to minimize damage in tight situations in helping lead the Phillies to a 5-3 win over Arizona on Wednesday night (see first take).

Aaron Altherr’s three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning against Zack Greinke was the big blow for the Phillies, but also important was the way Arrieta kept everything together in the top of the fourth inning. A leadoff error, a single and two Arrieta walks pushed an Arizona run home and the bases were still loaded with no outs.

The 32-year-old former NL Cy Young winner heard a few boos – “Who likes a bases-loaded walk?” he said. “I would have booed, too.” – but he responded by getting two ground balls, one a neatly started double play by Maikel Franco, to get out of the inning and limit the damage.

“Tonight was one of those games where a young starting pitcher could give up six or seven runs,” Arrieta said. “That’s just kind of how it goes. Bases loaded no outs. A double in the gap, a walk, things escalate and before you know it you’re out of the game in the fifth. So being able to slow it down, take a deep breath, collect yourself, and then get focused on executing a pitch is really what I try and emphasize to all of these guys and if you’re able to do that more times than not you’ll be able to come out ahead.”

Arrieta battled his way through seven innings for his third straight quality start and the Phillies' 12th in 23 games as a staff. Only one of the three runs he allowed was earned as he pitched over errors by Franco, J.P. Crawford and Andrew Knapp.

“We have to defend the baseball better, everybody knows it,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Arrieta picked up the defenders and Altherr picked up everybody when he clubbed a 2-1 slider into the shrubs in center field for a three-run homer. Grienke doubled up with his slider. Altherr was looking for it and exploded on it.

Why was he looking for that pitch?

“I’d rather not say,” Altherr said with a laugh. “I’ll keep my thoughts to myself on that one.”

Makes sense. Altherr will see Greinke again someday. In the meantime, the Phils are 15-8 and they will look to take the rubber match of the series on Thursday afternoon.

Phillies overcome 3 errors to take down Diamondbacks

Phillies overcome 3 errors to take down Diamondbacks

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This is what happens when you get good pitching. You keep the game close until one big hit can win it for you.

The Phillies have utilized this recipe a lot in the early stages of this season and they did it again Wednesday night. Jake Arrieta delivered the team’s 12th quality start in 23 games and Aaron Altherr provided the big hit the team needed in a 5-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park.

Altherr, a Phoenix-area native, smacked a three-run home run against Zack Greinke with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning to rescue the Phils from a one-run deficit and give them a two-run lead.

It was Altherr’s second difference-making hit in three games. His RBI single in the 11th inning lifted the Phils to a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

Altherr got off to a slow start – he had just three hits in his first 39 at-bats – but he has seven hits and seven RBIs in his last seven games.

The win was the Phillies’ 14th in the last 18 games and it improved them to 15-8. It came against an Arizona club that entered with the second-best record in the majors and against a pitcher who had dominated the Phillies in recent seasons. In 11 previous starts against the Phillies, Greinke was 7-1 with a 2.56 ERA and a .194 opponents batting average.

Arizona is 16-7.

Arrieta went seven innings and pitched over some poor Phillies’ defense. The club made three errors, two of them in the infield (Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford) to lead off innings. Both of those errors led to runs.

Arrieta held the D-backs to four hits. He walked two and struck out two. He has won each of his last three starts and all have been quality starts – six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs. His ERA in four starts is 1.82.

After Arrieta left, relievers Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris closed out the Diamondbacks.

The two teams close out the series on Thursday afternoon with Ben Lively opposing right-hander Matt Koch. Arizona won the first game, 8-4, on Tuesday night.

Notes
• General manager Matt Klentak said right-hander Jerad Eickhoff was progressing well in his recovery from a strained lat muscle. “When he comes back to this team, he’s going to be back in the rotation,” Klentak said. “We need to get him stretched out. I think we’re looking at the later part of May. It could be sooner than that. Fortunately, right now we have five guys rolling through the rotation, doing pretty well. We can afford to do the right thing for Jerad and not rush him back.”

Relievers Pat Neshek and Mark Leiter Jr. are due back sometime in May, as well.