Phillies

Jorge Alfaro impresses again, powers Phillies past Athletics in rain-soaked win

Jorge Alfaro impresses again, powers Phillies past Athletics in rain-soaked win

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Jorge Alfaro didn’t hesitate when asked what’s more important to him. 

“Defense, clean games. That’s all I’m thinking about,” the young catcher said early Sunday morning. “If I hit, thank God.”

Alfaro provided the Phillies with a needed bonus at the plate Saturday night, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run homer into the center field bushes in the sixth inning. He also guided seven pitchers to a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics in what turned into a bullpen game thanks to a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay (see observations)

“The thing I like the most is not so much the hitting — that’s a bonus as far as I’m concerned — because he hit .240 in Triple A,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “The thing I’m most pleased about is game calling. I like the way he calls a game. You want a good defensive catcher.”

The 24-year-old Colombian, acquired from Texas in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, wasn’t called up until August. But in 21 games, he’s made an impression that puts him in the running with Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp to be the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2018. 

"To me, we’ve got three guys competing,” Mackanin said. 

Alfaro, now hitting .317, had a lot on his plate on a dreary evening. Ben Lively allowed two runs and two hits, including Matt Olson’s screeching solo homer, in three innings but didn’t return after the lengthy delay in the bottom of the third. 

But the bullpen continued to shine. Five pitchers combined to throw five hitless innings until Hector Neris (21st save) allowed a solo homer to Jed Lowrie in the ninth. It ended a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings by the bullpen. 

“When (Joaquin) Benoit and (Pat) Neshek left, everybody thought our bullpen was going to scuffle,” Mackanin said. “But they’ve been outstanding.” 

Victor Arano struck out two in two innings to get his first major league win, while Holby Milner got two outs and extended his streak of scoreless appearances to 20. It’s the longest streak for a Phillies reliever since J.C. Romero’s 35 in a row in 2007.

“I’ve had two years with the organization and I’ve had the opportunity to learn how they like to pitch,” Alfaro said of the many relievers he also caught at Triple A Lehigh Valley. “I try to make them feel comfortable.”

The Phillies got a run in the third on Ty Kelly’s double and Cesar Hernandez’s single, then tied it an inning later on J.P. Crawford’s RBI single. 

Crawford, starting at third, added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. 

Before Alfaro connected on Simon Castro (1-3), the Phillies wasted a chance in the fifth after Freddy Galvis drew a one-out walk and raced to third on Simon Castro’s wide pickoff throw. 

Nick Williams, who had his 12-game hitting streak snapped Friday, struck out on a chin-high fastball and Rhys Hoskins flew out to left. Hoskins went 0 for 3 with a walk and is 0 for 6 in the series after homering in six straight games. 

“Hoskins hasn’t looked good at the plate the past couple games," Mackanin said, "but I know one thing, that’s not what he’s going to look like. He’s a better hitter than that.” 

Alfaro has homered four times in 21 games. It gives the Phillies something to think about heading into next spring, although September performances can sometimes be deceiving. 

“I’ll take it any way I can get it,” said Mackanin, who has overseen 181 losses over the past two seasons “The test of a player’s ability is stretched out over six months and you have to take that into consideration. We’ve all heard that. You’ve got to take with a grain of salt a spring training performance as well as a September performance, but we’re getting a good idea on the quality of the at-bats we’re seeing.” 

J.P. Crawford suffers broken left hand, out 4-6 weeks

J.P. Crawford suffers broken left hand, out 4-6 weeks

J.P. Crawford is headed back to the disabled list. The 23-year-old infielder suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch Tuesday night by St. Louis right-hander Luke Weaver. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Crawford would be out four to six weeks.

Crawford already missed five weeks earlier this season with a forearm strain. He came off the disabled list on June 6 and had been getting an extended look at third base.

Crawford’s latest injury means Maikel Franco will likely get another full-time chance at third base. Franco had lost reps to Crawford recently.

The Phillies did not immediately announce a replacement for Crawford on the roster. Outfielder Dylan Cozens could be a possibility. He is on the DL with a quadriceps injury.

Crawford was hit in the fourth inning. He was not available for comment after the game. He is hitting .194 in 34 games.

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Phillies stand by bullpen after another meltdown in loss to Cardinals

Phillies stand by bullpen after another meltdown in loss to Cardinals

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It was another bad night for the Phillies’ bullpen Tuesday. Three more runs allowed, another blown lead, another home run. For the month of June, Phillies relievers have a 6.17 ERA and they have given up 64 hits, including a majors-high 13 home runs, in 54 innings.

Things have turned so badly for the bullpen that now even dashing debutant Seranthony Dominguez is giving up killer hits.

The hard-throwing rookie right-hander surrendered a tie-breaking, solo home run to St. Louis Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter in the top of the ninth inning as the Phillies blew a late two-run lead in what ended up a 7-6 loss (see first take).

Dominguez, brought in after Rhys Hoskins tied the game with a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth, struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Carpenter, looking like a man who knew what was coming, unloaded on an 0-2 fastball and sent it over the wall in right. Dominguez didn’t want to climb the ladder on Carpenter. He didn’t want to throw his slider. He wanted to get him out with a fastball on the inside part of the plate. He missed his spot and allowed his first homer in 22 1/3 innings as a big-leaguer.

Dominguez might have been guilty of being a little too proud of his fastball, thinking he could get it by Carpenter.

“I don’t think it was a rookie mistake at all,” manager Gabe Kapler said of the 0-2 fastball. “I think it was not a perfectly located pitch. But you can find those from veterans and you can find them from rookies. It’s just imperfect. If you can rewind time, maybe you throw that pitch a little more in off the plate and maybe then it’s foul. This is a game of inches and we’ve seen that over the last couple of days.”

Indeed, the Phillies won Monday night’s game in extra innings when Aaron Altherr’s go-ahead double fell just in front of a diving Marcell Ozuna in left.

Earlier Tuesday night, Carpenter tagged a 1-0 curveball from Tommy Hunter for a game-tying, two-run double with two outs in the seventh. That hit was the first of three straight against Hunter as the Cards rallied for four runs in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.

Hunter, in the first year of a two-year, $18 million contract, picked up Vince Velasquez in the inning after Velasquez had given up a single and hit a batter. Hunter got the first out before Carpenter tagged an 0-1 curveball for a game-tying hit.

“I had a lot of confidence in Tommy to get us out of that jam and their hitters did a really good job tonight,” Kapler said. “We just got beat by some good hitters tonight.”

It seems every night brings a new bullpen drama for this team. But management remains confident in the group. General manager Matt Klentak said so before the game (see story). He even singled out Hunter, who entered with a 4.05 ERA in 24 games, as possibly having the best year of his career. Even after the game, Kapler remained steadfastly confident in the bullpen. In recent days, he has been asked about possible upgrades. He believes the Phillies can solve their problems with the relievers that are currently here. 

“Roughly six days ago, the questions that we were addressing were: Are you concerned about this offense and I said very comfortably that I had a lot of confidence in this offense and the reason I said I had a lot of confidence in this offense is because I know that we have a talented group of individuals, guys that have a track record of success,” Kapler said. “I’m very confident in our bullpen, too, for the same reason. We have a lot of athletic arms out there, guys that are prepared to play every single night, guys with a track record of success. Seranthony has been dominant through the beginning of his career. Tommy Hunter has years of success under his belt. That’s why we went out and got him. Do I have confidence in our bullpen? Absolutely. Just like I have confidence in our offense.”

Odubel Herrera and Carlos Santana homered to help the Phils build a 4-2 lead for Velasquez. He allowed those two base runners with one out in the seventh to make Hunter’s job a little more difficult.

“Vince threw his tail off,” Hunter said. “But you know, it's just unfortunate that I wasn't able to get that done right there. It was a big part of the game, and I didn't come through. That's pretty much the whole gist of it.”

The loss left the Phillies at 38-33 and the bullpen licking its wounds.

The Phils also lost J.P. Crawford to a broken left hand (see story).

“Frustrating game to lose, obviously,” Kapler said.

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