Phillies

Jeremy Hellickson adds luster to trade value with gem against Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson adds luster to trade value with gem against Marlins

BOX SCORE

If you put an ear to the door of Matt Klentak’s box above home plate at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, here’s what you might have heard:
 
Yippeeeee!
 
Who could blame the Phillies first-year general manager if he shared a few celebratory fist bumps with his boys in the front office? This is the time of year to make deals, to add a few more pieces to the rebuild. And less than two weeks before the trade deadline, there’s a shiny new coat of paint on one of Klentak's best movable assets.
 
Trade candidate Jeremy Hellickson pitched his best game of the season as he joined Tyler Goeddel (three RBIs) in leading the Phillies to a 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).
 
Hellickson pitched eight walk-free innings and gave up just five hits and a run. He used a moving fastball that he kept down in the zone and a good changeup to strike out eight batters. The outing had to have added a little luster to the 29-year-old right-hander’s trade value and a number of scouts, including one from the Baltimore Orioles, were in attendance to see it. The Orioles, according to a major league source, have discussed Hellickson as an addition to their rotation. The Marlins are another team that has kicked around the idea of adding Hellickson. Surely, their interest didn’t wane after seeing his work up close.
 
“I don't know what's going on [with trades],” manager Pete Mackanin said. “But if anybody does have interest, I'm sure they were impressed by tonight. He did a great job. Really good job.”
 
Hellickson will be a free agent this winter. From the time the Phillies acquired him from Arizona in November, he was viewed as a potential trade chip that could help the Phillies in their rebuild if he pitched well. In 20 starts, Hellickson is 7-7 with a 3.84 ERA. He has pitched six or more innings in each of his last eight starts, the best run of his career. He won’t fetch the price in a trade that Cole Hamels did a year ago. He’s not that kind of pitcher. But the Phils should be able to get a young arm with some upside from a contending team looking to add experience to the back end of its rotation.
 
If/when Hellickson gets traded, the Phillies will bring up Jake Thompson from Triple A. The 22-year-old right-hander pitched six more scoreless innings on Wednesday (see highlights). Over his last nine starts, he has given up just four earned runs in 62 1/3 innings.
 
Before the game, Mackanin praised Hellickson for his contributions and said he’d welcome those contributions for the remainder of the season. But Mackanin also said he was eager to see more young pitchers come up from the minors.
 
Hellickson said all the predictable things after the game. (The days of players openly wishing to leave ended with Jonathan Papelbon last summer.) He said he wanted to remain with the Phillies, but understands the business of the game, having been dealt twice before in his career.
 
“I guess I’m anxious just to get it over with,” he said. “Like I’ve said before, I want to be here. I want to win here. I really think we can if we just get on a little roll. My focus is here right now.”

Hellickson was asked if he would find it exciting to pitch for a contender.

“I feel like we’re a contender, so I would like to be here,” he said. “Again, I’ll worry about that when it happens.”

At 44-52 and eight games back in the wild-card race, the Phillies aren’t really contenders. Hellickson has been nothing short of a class act since the day he arrived, and he clearly will continue to be one as the deadline approaches.

He pitched a pretty classy game, too, Wednesday night.

“Fastball command and keeping the fastball down are always key for me,” he said. “The fastball was down tonight, so the changeup was working off that well. Me and Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) were together. I didn’t really shake off much. I just stayed aggressive throughout the game and tried to get ahead as much as I could.”

Goeddel got his first start since the All-Star break as Mackanin looked to stoke a slumbering offense that scored just 10 runs in the previous five games. The rookie responded with a two-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single in the second inning.

But this night belonged to Hellickson. Even Goeddel noticed that from his post in left field.

“You could really tell early on that Helly was on his game,” Goeddel said. “I didn’t even get a ball in left field. That’s how on he was. His changeup was unbelievable.”

Hellickson’s turn comes up again Monday in Miami. Will he still be a Phillie? Or will he be an Oriole by then? Or maybe a Marlin, pitching against the Phillies? Wouldn't that be something?

Time will tell. The only sure thing is Hellickson didn’t hurt his trade value Wednesday night.

Phillies’ next 3 opponents have even more to play for, which doesn’t bode well

Phillies’ next 3 opponents have even more to play for, which doesn’t bode well

The Phillies will begin their final road trip of the season Tuesday and they’ll be either four or five games out of the second wild-card spot with 14 to play, pending the result of Cubs-Reds Monday night.

The first stop of the 11-game trip is Atlanta, where the Braves will have as much to play for as the Phillies. They are four games behind the Dodgers in their long shot attempt to gain home-field advantage in the NL playoffs. If the Dodgers had a larger lead and no advantage was to be gained, Atlanta might have been resting key players by now.

After that three-game set comes a weekend series in Cleveland. The Indians are 1 1/2 games behind the Rays for the second AL wild-card spot. That series against the Phillies will be a must-win for Terry Francona’s club.

The last stop is D.C. for five games, including a doubleheader on day two. The Nationals are in good shape, leading the wild-card race by 1 1/2 games over the Cubs and 2 1/2 games on the teams chasing them. The Phillies will see all three of Washington’s aces in that series.

The Nationals clinched their eighth consecutive winning season over the weekend. That streak began the same year as the Phillies’ current string of non-winning seasons.

The road to a wild-card spot is damn near impossible. Even the path to a winning record will be challenging for the Phillies, who must go 6-8 or better to finish with at least 82 wins.

There will be change this offseason, the question is how much. The Phillies put together some nice pieces but not a winning formula in 2019. That may have even been true if half the injured relievers were still active, given how few games the Phillies had the pitching advantage in the first five innings this season.

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Bryce Harper fumes at umpire as Phillies lose more ground to put winning season in peril

Bryce Harper fumes at umpire as Phillies lose more ground to put winning season in peril

After a homestand that saw them lose four of six games, and with a killer, 11-game road trip looming, the question no longer seems to be will the Phillies make the playoffs, it’s will they even have a winning season?

They have done neither since 2011.

Making the playoffs became the longest of long shots after the Phils lost a pair of games over the weekend to the Boston Red Sox. The Sox completed a two-game sweep with a 6-3 win on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies scored just four runs in the series. Only two of their 12 hits were for extra bases and they struck out a staggering 25 times.

Twenty-freaking-five.

With 14 games remaining, the Phils are 4 ½ games back in the NL wild-card race and their overall record is 76-72. They need to go at least 6-8 to finish with a winning record and that won’t be easy with this remaining schedule:

Three games in Atlanta.

Three games at Cleveland.

Five games at Washington.

Three games at home against Miami.

Atlanta, Cleveland and Washington entered Sunday a combined 74 games over .500 and Miami gives the Phillies fits.

Finishing with a winning record will be a challenge.

But for now, manager Gabe Kapler remains focused on keeping the Phillies’ faint playoff hopes a-flicker.

“My only concern is the step right in front of us,” Kapler said after Sunday’s loss. “That's winning the game (Tuesday night) in Atlanta. I'm already past what happened in this Boston series. It's going to sting. It's going to suck. The plane ride's going to be difficult, and we'll start game-planning for Atlanta. One game at a time, one step at a time.

“We have no choice but to continue to fight. You know what? Sometimes you see the best come out in people when their backs are against the wall. Ours are against the wall. My expectation is that you'll see our best.”

The Phillies were not at their best on Sunday.

Starting pitcher Jason Vargas did not keep his club in the game and lasted just three innings for the second straight start. His ERA over his last four starts is a plump 7.63.

“It's one of those things where you don't want to say one game means more than the other but it's easier to say that earlier in the year than later in the year,” said Vargas, who surrendered a third-inning grand slam to Christian Vazquez. “When it comes down to it, you really feel like you're in a spot where you have to put Ws on the board and when it doesn't happen you feel like you let everybody down."

The Phillies were also not at their strongest on Sunday. At least they did not have their strongest personnel on the field, not after Bryce Harper got ejected for protesting a called third strike with home plate umpire Gabe Morales in the fourth inning.

Morales missed the call and Harper retreated to the video area behind the dugout. He watched the replay of the pitch, saw that it was outside the zone, returned to the dugout and shouted, “It’s not even bleeping close,” to Morales.

The umpire ejected Harper.

“Then I kind of let him have it,” Harper said. “It just sucks. You’re in the middle of a race and you’re in a 1-2 count and (Boston starter Rick) Porcello throws a front-hipper like he did in my first at-bat, which was a good pitch. I’m going to tip my cap when he throws me a good pitch, but I disagreed with that call and I kind of looked back at him and said, ‘That’s not a strike.’ He kind of looked at me like, ‘Yeah, right, stupid.’ It was that kind of look and I went back and thought, ‘Maybe he’s right.’ I went back and looked at it and it wasn’t close.”

Kapler was also ejected for defending Harper.

“I think everybody can look at the pitch and see why both Bryce was upset and I was upset on his behalf,” Kapler said. “It’s an enormous game, obviously, with a lot of implications and I thought, obviously, Bryce was right about the pitch, but just as importantly, I thought, in a game of this magnitude there could have been a little bit of a longer leash to allow him to stay in this game and allow it to play out on the field.”

A pool reporter attempted to speak with Morales shortly after the game. Morales was present but said he could not speak because crew chief Jerry Meals had already departed for the airport. Talk about your quick getaways.

Harper did not dispute that his getting ejected left his team in a bind.

“You can’t get thrown out in that situation, of course,” he said. “I don’t want to get thrown out in that situation. But, you know, it happened.

“I usually don’t complain unless it’s there. I’m pro pitcher, too. If a pitcher throws a good pitch, I’m all about it. Like I said, first at-bat Porcello threw that front-hipper and punched me out, so I tipped my cap to him right there. So the next at-bat, I’m kind of sitting on the same pitch because he kind of did the same thing and it wasn’t close. You get into a 2-2 count against him and you see another pitch. He might have punched me out on the next pitch, but also I might have hit a double in the gap and I’m on second base.

“On both sides, you have to be better, especially in these games right now. You have to be better back there. I know he’s not trying to call a strike or not call a ball, but he just has to be better for me.”



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