Phillies

Instant Replay: Astros 5, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Astros 5, Phillies 0

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Derek Fisher, almost a Phillie two winters ago, was a standout at the plate and in the field on Tuesday night. He helped the Houston Astros beat the Phillies, 5-0, at Citizens Bank Park. The Astros have beaten the Phillies two straight nights.

Recalled from Triple A Fresno earlier in the day, Fisher made two nice catches in center field and added a two-run single.

Fisher is a native of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, a 90-minute drive from Philadelphia. If his name sounds familiar, it's because he was initially part of the trade that brought Vince Velasquez and others to the Phillies for Ken Giles in December 2015. Eventually, Fisher was taken out of the deal and replaced by Mark Appel when the Phillies sought more pitching. Fisher recently reflected on the experience (see story).

The victory improved the Astros to 67-33, second best in the majors, while the Phillies tumbled to 34-64, worst in the majors.

Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera had in interesting game. He flipped the bat and did not run hard out of the box on a ball that Fisher caught at the wall in the first inning. He struck out in his next two at-bats, including in the sixth inning when he did not run out a dropped third strike. Herrera was double-switched out of the game the next inning and replaced in center field by Cameron Perkins. It was not immediately clear whether that was a punitive move by manager Pete Mackanin (turned out it was — more on that here).

Starting pitching report
Rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta gave up six hits and five runs over six innings. He walked one and struck out seven.

Five of the hits and four of the runs that Pivetta allowed came in the sixth inning as the Astros turned a 1-0 lead into a 5-0 lead.

Pivetta is 3-6 with a 5.73 ERA in 14 starts with the big club.

Charlie Morton, who pitched four games with the Phillies before blowing out his hamstring in April 2016 and signing in the offseason with the Astros, pitched seven shutout innings. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out nine.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia pitched two scoreless innings for the Phillies. He has pitched 19 1/3 straight scoreless innings.

Giles pithed a scoreless ninth for the Astros. He struck out two. 

At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

Maikel Franco is slumping. He was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He is 0 for his last 16 and and 1 for his last 19. 

Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez and Fisher all drove in runs with hits in the Astros' four-run sixth. Fisher had a two-run single with two outs.

Health check
Outfielder Aaron Altherr, out with a hamstring strain, is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Friday.

The Astros were without two AL MVP candidates. Shortstop Carlos Correa is on the disabled list with a ligament tear in his thumb. Centerfielder George Springer was held out with a sore quad muscle.

Transaction
In need of a fresh arm for the bullpen, the Phillies sent Ricardo Pinto to Triple A and brought up Jake Thompson (see story).

Up next
The series concludes on Wednesday night. Aaron Nola (7-6, 3.38) pitches for the Phillies against Houston's Mike Fiers (7-4, 3.59).

Pat Neshek irked by umpire's call, defensive shift after Phillies blow another one in Atlanta

Pat Neshek irked by umpire's call, defensive shift after Phillies blow another one in Atlanta

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ATLANTA — The Phillies are one loss away from being eliminated from the National League East race after blowing a three-run lead in the seventh inning and losing, 6-5, to the Braves Friday night (see first take). The Braves can wrap up the division with a win over the Phillies Saturday afternoon.

The Phillies needed to play their best ball of the season against the Braves to stay alive in the race. They haven’t done anything close to that in the first two games of the series and frustration has set in.

You could see it in Roman Quinn’s reaction after home plate umpire Gerry Davis rung him up on a called third strike with a runner on first base to end the game.

You could see it in manager Gabe Kapler’s reaction as he rushed to Quinn’s defense (see video).

And you could hear it in reliever Pat Neshek’s voice after he allowed a single, a two-run homer to Ozzie Albies, a walk and another single en route to giving up four of the five runs that the Braves scored in the decisive bottom of the seventh inning.

“Bad pitch to Albies,” said Neshek, who had allowed just three earned runs in his previous 28 appearances this season. “I think a lot of guys in the league would hit that one out. Bad location. Bad pitch. He did a good job hitting it, but it was served on a platter.”

The Phils still had a one-run lead after the homer. Neshek walked Dansby Swanson and allowed a base hit to left to Lucas Duda.

“It’s 4-3 (after the homer) and you’re just trying to protect the game,” Neshek said. “I think Gerry Davis missed some calls to Swanson. That really [messed] me up. There were two pitches — I looked them up on Brooksbaseball.net and they were strikes. That changed the game. Then I get a ground ball and I think it might be a double play and there’s nobody there. Shift? I didn’t even know we had a shift.

“I felt great. It’s just a lot of weird [stuff], man. I don’t know what else to say. … I got [crapped] on. Everything kind of just didn’t work out for me.”

Kapler, who seldom shows anger, was not mad about Davis ringing up Quinn to end the game. Quinn barked at Davis and Davis fired back. That angered Kapler. He shot out of the dugout and briefly confronted Davis.

“I saw it as an emotional, young player who was very competitive in the moment and was having his say,” Kapler said. “In that particular instance, I was upset because I thought it was the right time for Gerry to not be back in his face. I think it's the job of the official there to stay composed. I was protecting Roman Quinn, who I thought should have his say there. It was not about the strike call by any stretch.”

Regardless of the reasons, these Phillies are frustrated. They led the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5 and have lost 27 of 42 since then. One more loss and they will be officially eliminated from the NL East chase.

Kapler still believes.

“We're going to get a win tomorrow,” he said. “I believe in every single one of these guys. We're not done. We don't want to be done.”

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Braves 6, Phillies 5: Blown lead puts this team on death's doorstep

Braves 6, Phillies 5: Blown lead puts this team on death's doorstep

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ATLANTA — The Phillies are bowing out of the National League East race in spectacular fashion.

Just when it looked like they were on their way to the kind of win that could provide a little emotional fuel and keep them alive for a few more days, they fell flat on their collective face in suffering a completely disheartening 6-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park Friday night.

The pertinent facts:

• The Phillies rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie.

• The Braves responded quickly and with a vengeance in scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh.

• The emotional victory reduced the Braves’ magic number for winning the NL East to two. They can wrap up the division with a win over the Phillies Saturday afternoon.

House of horrors

Back in late March, the Phillies’ season started with a couple of difficult-to-swallow losses to the Braves in Atlanta. The losing has continued right up until fall’s doorstep. The Phillies are 2-6 in SunTrust Park this season.

A gift rally

The Phillies scored three times in the top of the seventh inning to take a 4-1 lead.

The rally was aided by a misplayed ball in left field by Atlanta super-rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. The misplay, on a catchable liner by Wilson Ramos, scored two runs and Jose Bautista followed with a single for a third run.

Often it’s the Phillies giving away runs with their defense. This time they benefitted from poor defense.

Briefly, at least.

The Braves taste it

The Braves overtook the Phillies in the standings in early August and there is no holding them back now. They looked completely unfazed by the Phillies' rally in the seventh and answered back with five runs in the bottom of the inning. Four of the runs were charged to veteran reliever Pat Neshek, who opened the frame by allowing a single, a two-run homer, a walk and a single.

The Braves tied the game on a double by Ender Inciarte (remember him?) against Luis Avilan and took the lead for good with two outs on a full-count, two-run single by Johan Camargo. Those two runs were huge because the Phils made it a one-run game in the bottom of the ninth. 

Nightly wastefulness

Roman Quinn had third base swiped with one out in the top of the third, but he came off the bag on his head-first slide and was tagged out.

The Phils wasted a leadoff triple by J.P. Crawford in the sixth.

A defensive shift cost the Phils their first run in the third inning.

Arrieta for the save

Jake Arrieta will get the ball Saturday afternoon as the Phils try to stave off elimination. He will be opposed by Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.

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