ben lively

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

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Pete Mackanin's farewell weekend began with a 6-2 win over the New York Mets on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The win left the Phillies at a game under .500 (36-37) since the All-Star break. They went 29-58 before the break. They are 15-12 in the month of September.

This improvement did not save Mackanin's job. He was fired from the manager's position earlier Friday, but will finish out the season and move to a front-office advisory position after the season (see story).

• Rookie Ben Lively got the win in his final start of the season. He gave up two runs, both on solo homers, over six innings. He struck out just one batter, but walked none. The quality start was Lively's 10th in 15 starts this season. He has a knack for pitching around trouble and keeping his team in games. He finished with a 4.26 ERA in 88 2/3 innings in the big leagues and will surely get a long look to be in the rotation in spring training.

• Lively was visibly angry with himself after allowing a first-inning home run to Jose Reyes on an 0-1 fastball, but he got it together and pitched well. The kid's got some toughness to him.

• Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro and Cesar Hernandez all homered for the Phillies. Franco's was a two-run shot in the second inning on a 3-1 fastball from Matt Harvey. The pitch tailed right into Franco's happy zone on the inner half of the plate and he did some damage. Alfaro's homer against Hansel Robles in the sixth was a bomb — 423 feet to center.

• Robles also gave up a homer to Hernandez in the sixth inning. He came inside on the next batter, Freddy Galvis, and that prompted home plate umpire Marvin Hudson to issue warnings to both benches. The Phillies have had problems with Robles in the past. Tommy Joseph, who was not in the lineup, stood on the top step of the dugout as warnings were issued. He looked ready to take a run at Robles. Joseph was the Phillies' opening day first baseman but he's been relegated to reserve duty down the stretch and he has a history of concussions — five of them — but he was ready to go if things escalated and that says something about him as a teammate.

• Lively left with a 6-2 lead and the bullpen did the rest. Adam Morgan was first with another scoreless inning. He has given up just two runs in his last 26 innings. He struck out two to raise his total to 32 in his last 26 innings. Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos followed Morgan with a pair of scoreless frames. Over the last 31 games, the Phillies’ 'pen has given up just 30 runs in 110 1/3 innings. That's an ERA of 2.44. 

• The Phillies have hit 171 homers, their most since 2009 when they slugged a National League-high 224. The Phils have hit 101 homers at home, their most at Citizens Bank Park since they had 108 in 2009.

• Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 3.60) pitches against Mets right-hander Seth Lugo (7-5, 4.72) on Saturday night. Alvarez is auditioning for future employment. He pitched five shutout innings last weekend in Atlanta. The right-hander is coming back from shoulder surgery. It might make sense for the Phillies to try to keep him in the organization on a minor-league contract next season. Pitching depth is always needed. Alvarez, however, will surely seek a big-league deal somewhere.

Ben Lively, a fighter, can't recover from disastrous 1st inning in Phillies' loss to Braves

Ben Lively, a fighter, can't recover from disastrous 1st inning in Phillies' loss to Braves

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ATLANTA — A few hours before Friday night's game against the Atlanta Braves, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin had some words of praise for his starting pitcher, Ben Lively.

"He's just very competitive," Mackanin said of the 25-year-old right-hander. "His stuff is pretty ordinary, but he's deceptive in his delivery and he locates his fastball well.

"He's the kind of guy if you ever got in a fight with him, you'd have to kill him because he never gives up."

Lively lived up to some of his manager's words Friday night, but not all of them. He didn't give up. That's for sure. On a night when he was cut early as they say in the fight business, he managed to stick around for five innings and preserve some bullpen arms.

But the location of his fastball was not crisp. The Braves' first six hitters of the game all reached base on hits (three singles, two doubles and a homer) and five of them scored.

The night ended with the Phillies absorbing a 7-2 loss (see observations).

"Bad first inning," Mackanin said. "Very poor control, command in that first inning. Then he settled down and gave us some good innings. But that first inning, he didn't hit his spots and he didn't change speeds very much. He got hurt. We were out of the game after that first inning."

Mackanin seemed irked that Lively didn't show more breaking balls in the first inning. Only two of Lively's first 15 pitches were breaking balls. He threw all fastballs to the first three hitters and gave up a double, an RBI single and an RBI double.

"I was just trying to find my fastball early in the game," Lively said. "Fifteen pitches too late. The big thing in my game is my fastball. It doesn't help when the fastball is fading toward the middle of the plate.

"Just one of those days."

Lively gave up a sixth run in the second inning and finished with three scoreless frames.

"Really, I just started establishing the inside corner," he said. "It made all my breaking stuff better."

The Phillies were never in the game, not after trailing 5-0 and 6-0. Rookie Nick Williams drove in both of the Phillies' runs with a sacrifice fly and a base hit. He has 52 RBIs in 75 games. Twenty-two of his RBIs have come this month. Williams had two of the Phillies' six hits. Cesar Hernandez walked three times and doubled.

Atlanta rookie Sean Newcomb gave up just two runs over 5 1/3 innings.

Lively joined the Phillies organization before the 2015 season. He came over from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd. He rose to the majors earlier this season and had mostly impressed, delivering a quality start in nine of his first 13 outings before this one. He is 3-7 with a 4.35 ERA in 14 starts.

The Phillies have bodies in the starting pitching department. But a number of them — Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin — have gone down with injuries this season. All three of these pitchers will be ready to go for spring training, but none are assured opening day jobs, according to Mackanin. Lively's work this season and his good health make him a solid candidate to be in the rotation in April, but nothing is certain. The Phillies front office will surely add pitching through trades and free-agent signings in the offseason, a factor that could change the mix.

Mackanin was noncommittal when asked about the possibility of Lively being in next season's rotation.

"He's in the mix for a chance to make the team," Mackanin said. "Nobody is locked in, other than (Aaron) Nola, for me."

Lively would like to end the season by leaving a good impression on the front office. He lines up to make his final start of the season next week at home.

"I'm not happy with this one," Lively said. "The last game of the season, I have to be ready to battle and end the season on a good note."

The loss left the Phillies at 61-93 (.396). With a week to go in the season, they are still in the running to have the worst record in baseball and get the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. But they have company. The White Sox are 62-91 (.405), the Tigers 62-92 (.403) and the Giants 60-94 (.390).

It's a sprint to the basement.

Phillies-Braves observations: Ben Lively ambushed in 1st inning of blowout loss

Phillies-Braves observations: Ben Lively ambushed in 1st inning of blowout loss

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ATLANTA — Ben Lively's ability to deliver quality starts escaped him early on Friday night. The rookie right-hander was tagged for five first-inning runs as he and the Phillies absorbed a 7-2 beating by the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park.

Lively had authored a quality start — six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs — in nine of his previous 13 outings this season.

The Phillies are 26-53 on the road with two more road games remaining.

• Lively allowed a sixth run in the second inning, but did manage to get things in order in the third inning. He finished with three straight scoreless innings and pitched through the fifth, preventing the team from blowing out its bullpen in the first game of the series.

• Before the game, manager Pete Mackanin praised Lively's competitiveness and said it helped him make up for having "pretty ordinary" stuff. Lively can survive with that ordinary stuff if he keeps it out of the middle of the plate. He did not do that in this game. In particular, Kurt Suzuki hit a down-the-middle, 92-mph fastball for a two-run home run in the first inning.

• The Braves' first six hitters of the game all reached on hits.

• The Braves also sent a rookie to the mound. Lefty Sean Newcomb held the Phillies to two runs over 5 1/3 innings. Newcomb has faced the Phillies three times this season and allowed just five earned runs in 16 1/3 innings. He was a first-round pick of the Angels in 2014 — he went 15th overall, eight picks behind Aaron Nola — and was traded to Atlanta in November 2015.

• The Phillies' offense did little. The Phils did not have a hit through the first three innings. Cesar Hernandez doubled to lead off the fourth and eventually scored on a fly ball by Nick Williams. Williams also singled home a run in the sixth inning. He has 52 RBIs in 75 games. Twenty-two of his RBIs have come this month. Williams had two of the Phillies' six hits.

• Odubel Herrera went hitless against the Braves for the first time this season. He had hit safely in 13 previous games this season — 16 overall, dating to last season — at a .434 clip.

• Atlanta's Ender Inciarte led off the bottom of the first inning with a double against Lively. It was his 192nd hit of the season, third most in the majors behind Charlie Blackmon (201 entering Friday) and Jose Altuve (195 entering Friday). The Braves have not had a player reach 200 hits since Marquis Grissom had 207 in 1996. Jimmy Rollins was the Phillies' last 200-hit man. He had 212 in his MVP season of 2007. Inciarte is a former Rule 5 pick by the Phillies. In fact, he opened the season with the 2013 Phillies before being sent back to Arizona, his original team. The Phillies are typically patient with players. They were not patient enough with Inciarte. In 2013, they were still hoping to contend and did not feel they could carry Inciarte. The rebuild did not begin in earnest until after the 2014 season.

• The race for the No. 1 pick in next year's draft is going right down to the wire. The Phillies are 61-93. The San Francisco Giants entered play Friday night at 60-93. The Chicago White Sox were 61-91.

• Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 7.20) gets his second look in the rotation Saturday night. He will oppose right-hander Julio Teheran (11-12, 4.52).