Edubray Ramos

Phillies' bullpen turns in another scoreless effort in win over Nationals

Phillies' bullpen turns in another scoreless effort in win over Nationals

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The Phillies have been a lot more fun to watch in the final weeks of the season and players such as Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola are only part of the reason.

In the simplest terms, the Phillies have been more fun to watch recently because they are winning more.

The bullpen is a big reason why the Phillies are winning more. The bullpen logged 4 2/3 scoreless innings in a 7-5 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night (see observations). The Phils lost the opener of the series Monday night then took the next two to win the series. The bullpen picked up four scoreless frames in Tuesday night's win. Nine of the bullpen's 12 outs in that game came via the strikeout.

Over the last 30 games, the Phillies' bullpen has allowed just 30 earned runs in 107 2/3 innings for an ERA of 2.52. That's the fourth-best mark in the majors over that span. Only the Washington, Boston and Cleveland bullpens have performed better over that span — and all three of those teams are headed to the postseason.

The bullpen's success has helped the Phillies post a 35-37 record after the All-Star break. With three games remaining in the season — all against the Mets — the Phils have a chance to finish over .500 in the second half of the season. That would be a significant accomplishment considering the team was 29 games under .500 before the All-Star break.

The list of relievers who have stepped up in the second half includes lefties Adam Morgan and Hoby Milner and right-handers Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia and closer Hector Neris. Even recent call-up Victor Arano has shined lately. All of these relievers figure strongly in the team's plans for next season.

Neris sputtered in the first half of the season because he couldn't find his splitter. He has it again. It makes his 96-mph fastball better. He struck out two and picked up his 20th straight save since June 28 on Wednesday night.

"Caballo," said Garcia, looking over at Neris after the game.

Indeed. Neris has been a horse.

Garcia has been pretty good, too. Phillies officials used to say Garcia's stuff was just as good as Ken Giles'. Really. It was just that Giles threw more strikes and kept his composure on the mound better. Over the last few months, Garcia has made great strides in both areas. He has given up just 11 earned runs over 47 2/3 innings (2.08 ERA) since June 14.

The last few days have offered a good portrait of Garcia. He failed to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning in Atlanta on Saturday night. Instead of knocking him out of that role, manager Pete Mackanin stuck with Garcia in the eighth and used him to protect leads in that inning on Tuesday and Wednesday. Garcia responded with two scoreless innings.

"You have to trust guys and you have to keep their confidence level up," Mackanin said. "Louie has pitched so well most of the year that it’s pretty obvious that I have to go to him."

Garcia's performance in Wednesday night's win was impressive because he got the third out in the eighth with the potential tying run on third base and the go-ahead run at first base. Dangerous Ryan Zimmerman was up in that situation. Garcia pumped a 99-mph fastball by him for strike two then came back with a wicked slider off the plate for the strikeout. End of threat.

The emergence of this band of Phillies' relievers has coincided with the departures of veterans Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit through trades. Back in 2006, young players such as Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley stepped out of the shadows after veteran Bobby Abreu was traded. This situation is similar.

"We got an opportunity and we have to take advantage of it and make a name for ourselves," Garcia said. "Next year, we want to be in this same place. We want to be like those guys."

Phillies starter Mark Leiter Jr. gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings but his mates rallied with three two-out runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead and the bullpen did the rest.
 
Hoskins kept the fifth inning alive with a two-out walk and Altherr and Herrera knocked in the runs with a two-run triple and RBI double, respectively.

Jake Thompson's latest audition goes all wrong in Phillies' loss to Angels

Jake Thompson's latest audition goes all wrong in Phillies' loss to Angels

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — There is a replica Hollywood down the street at Disneyland, but Phillies pitcher Jake Thompson went through a very real tinsel town audition Wednesday night at Angel Stadium.

If manager Pete Mackanin was the casting director, Thompson probably wouldn’t be getting a callback after a 7-0 thrashing against the Los Angeles Angels (see Instant Replay).

Mike Trout, C.J. Cron and Kaleb Cowart each pelted Thompson with third-inning home runs as the Angels did all their damage at once. Cron and Cowart went back to back, as Thompson set a new career high for homers allowed in a game. The other seven innings of clean baseball by Thompson, Adam Morgan and Jesen Therrien were rendered moot.    

“Well, there’s not a whole lot you can say,” Mackanin said when asked how he would address the 23-year-old right-hander. “I would just as soon not talk to him until tomorrow. Just let him cool off, let him think about it, and then we’ll discuss it tomorrow.” 

Thompson and Mackanin both agreed that control issues were the cause of the disastrous third. Thompson grimly recognized that he served up a “fastball that Trout hits out nine times out of 10 in that count,” he said. Of the 33 pitches Thompson threw in the inning, 19 were strikes. 

Unfortunately, too many of them were right down the middle.   

“It’s all about command of your stuff,” Mackanin said. “I’ve said it so many times, but a pitcher’s best pitch is command. And he didn’t have good command today. He left a lot of balls right out in the middle of the plate. When you do that, you are going to get burned.”

Said Thompson: “I have to be able to stop the bleeding sometimes, and I couldn’t do it tonight.”

Mackanin was asked whether Thompson would get another start or be sent back down to the minors. Mackanin would not commit either way.

“We’ll talk about that,” Mackanin said. “I’m not sure. See what we got.”

It is the time of the season for Mackanin and the Phillies to figure out which players in the organization can and cannot contribute. It’s a process the bullpen is going through, as evidenced by the three solid scoreless innings of relief Morgan and Therrien provided. 

Bringing right-hander Edubray Ramos back up from Triple A is another hint at what is going on. 

Ramos wasn’t used against the Angels, but should be ticketed for plenty of late-inning work, Mackanin said.     

At the end of his prior stint in the majors this season, Ramos’ poor attitude contributed to his poor performance. The 24-year-old gave up nine earned runs in five appearances at the end of June, but Ramos believes he is ready to show what he can do after a 10-game stint at Lehigh Valley.

“The No. 1 thing was to change my attitude,” Ramos said through a translator. “I think that in the last week I was here in the big leagues, I didn’t have a good attitude. Things weren’t working for me and my attitude wasn’t helping. In Triple A, I worked on that. I also worked on my pitches and stuff.”

Ramos has a chance to show he can and should be on the roster in 2018. It is the same opportunity Thompson hopes to get, whether it is five days from now or later.

Auditions are here. The Phillies are essentially bringing a little piece of Hollywood with them in each of the final 57 games.

Phillies option struggling reliever Edubray Ramos to Triple A

Phillies option struggling reliever Edubray Ramos to Triple A

The Phillies have pulled the plug on Edubray Ramos, at least for the time being. They optioned the struggling 24-year-old reliever to Triple A Lehigh Valley on Monday and replaced him in the bullpen with right-hander Ricardo Pinto.

Ramos took the extra-inning loss Sunday in Arizona to fall to 0-7 with a 5.52 ERA in 35 appearances. No Phillies reliever has had more losses in a season since Brad Lidge had eight in 2009. Prior to that, you have to go back to 2000.

Control has been an issue all season for Ramos, who's walked 22 batters in 31 innings. This after a promising rookie year in which he struck out 40 and walked 11 in 40 innings.

Ramos faced some controversy earlier this season when he threw a pitch behind Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera's head in the eighth inning of a tie game. Ramos had clearly been thinking all winter about how he'd deal with Cabrera after the shortstop hit a walk-off home run and celebrated it on the last pitch Ramos threw in 2016.

Last week, Ramos allowed the game-winning run to the Cardinals in extra innings on a pickoff throw to first base that sailed over Tommy Joseph's head.

Pinto made one appearance for the Phils on May 31 in Miami and allowed four runs and nine baserunners in two innings. The 23-year-old had a 4.39 ERA in 15 games (eight starts) with the IronPigs.