Phillies

Latest A.I., Pete Rose transgressions spoiling Philly sports fan's escape

Latest A.I., Pete Rose transgressions spoiling Philly sports fan's escape

The Wildwood Boardwalk is a veritable potpourri of indulgence and goofiness. It’s a wonderful, wacky place. You have roller coaster rides and water parks. Haunted houses. Sketchy hucksters trying to lure you to play their fixed games of chance. Feeling hungry? Nothing hits the spot like a slice of boardwalk pizza. And, of course, there is that beloved mode of transportation, the Tramcar.

It also has more T-shirt shops per capita than anywhere in the world (unofficial count). So last week, while on vacation down the shore, I happened upon one such place. There I spotted a throwback Charlie Hustle shirt with the image of baseball’s all-time hit king, sliding headfirst on the front. Being a huge Pete Rose fan as a kid, holding dear that memory of him being the final piece to put the perennially close Phillies clubs of the late 1970s over the top. And being a proponent of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was a no-brainer, I bought it. Little did I know, I would get exactly one wear out the garment.

When word surfaced early this week that Rose, during sworn testimony, admitted to engaging in a relationship with a girl either 16 years old or younger in the '70s, my first reaction after wanting to throw up and take a shower was to toss my new shirt.

No more.

No more can I defend the guy. No more can I separate Rose the epitome of what you would want as a player with Rose the train wreck of a human being. I shouldn’t have been surprised, none of us should. He bet on baseball and, perhaps worse, carried on a lie about for the ensuing 20-plus years. Not to mention that pesky jail sentence for tax evasion. But I was willing to forgive while looking forward to his induction into the Phillies' Wall of Fame next week. However, this latest news and Rose’s testimonial justification that she was of the consensual age of 16 when he was a 34-year-old married, father of two, drove me to the point of check out. 

I’m done.

Couple the Rose revelation with Allen Iverson’s latest Houdini act and subsequent one-game BIG3 League suspension by Ice Cube (you can’t make this stuff up), and it hasn’t been a banner couple of weeks for former Philadelphia sports icons.

One of the tenet’s of sports from a fan’s perspective is this: It should provide an escape from the real world. And when said reality creeps into our fantasy bubble, it’s a bummer. To deny die-hard, unconditional supporters a chance to see you play one more time on the Wells Fargo Center floor, even for a token cameo is wrong. Same with Phillies fans, who have been waiting for nearly 40 years to celebrate Rose. Those folks are the ones who get it in the end.

Iverson supporters, while bummed presently, will be more apt to forgive his transgressions. But in the case of Rose, the long-term, permanent damage for many like me has been done. It does make you appreciate players like Brian Dawkins, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley that much more. But ultimately, we don’t know what is going on with any of these guys. Either way, it’s no fun when reality creeps into our sporting cocoons.

And while we’re at it, watch the Tramcar, please.

Another series win for Phillies during unlikely June turnaround

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Another series win for Phillies during unlikely June turnaround

BOX SCORE 

Remember all that talk about the Phillies' grueling June schedule?

They're meeting the challenge.

After Saturday's 5-3 win over the Nationals, the Phillies are 9-3 in their last 12 games and have won four straight series over the Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals and Nats.

On May 28, the Phillies embarked upon a 32-game stretch during which the worst team they'd face was a game under .500. The Phils are 24 games into that stretch and have gone 12-12. 

They opened June by losing seven of eight games yet have worked their way to 10-10 on the month.

At 41-33, the Phillies are 1½ games behind the Braves and 1½ ahead of the Nationals.

Nola bounces back

After failing to complete five innings for the first time in 36 starts last Sunday in Milwaukee, Aaron Nola rebounded and held the Nationals in check over six strong innings.

Nola allowed a pair of runs with two outs in the first and a leadoff single to Wilmer Difo in the second, then the Nationals went 0 for 14 against him the rest of the way. 

Nola is 9-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 16 starts this season. In 12 of them, he's allowed two runs or less.

Franco's big day

Huge afternoon for Maikel Franco, who went 4 for 4 with three singles and a double.

Franco scored in the second to tie the game, scored in the seventh to put the Phillies ahead and drove in a run in the eighth to give them a three-run cushion.

Both times he crossed home plate, he barely scored after aggressive sends from third-base coach Dusty Wathan — one on an RBI single from Nola, the other on a sac fly from Jesmuel Valentin. On the game-winning, seventh-inning sac fly, Bryce Harper caught the ball with his momentum coming toward the plate and fired home but Franco narrowly eluded catcher Spencer Kieboom's tag. The Nationals challenged but the call was upheld.

Thievery

The Nationals went 1 for 2 stealing bases against Nola, who has been on the mound for more steals (14) and attempts (18) than any pitcher in the majors this season.

Wilmer Difo swiped second in the second, but Jorge Alfaro ended the fifth inning by nailing Harper. Alfaro has thrown out 14 base stealers to lead the majors.

Going away from Altherr

Nick Williams got another start at right field and went 1 for 3 with a double.

Since June 10, Nick Williams has started nine games and Aaron Altherr has started two.

Altherr has just 20 at-bats in the Phillies' last 11 games.

Hard to argue with how Gabe Kapler is divvying up the playing time. Altherr is still hitting just .180 through 211 plate appearances, while Williams has hit .263 with an .833 OPS since May 1.

It was also telling that with the game tied and a man on third with one out in the seventh inning, Kapler opted to use Valentin instead of Altherr to pinch-hit for Nola.

Up next

The Phillies are on Sunday Night Baseball for the first time since Aug. 4, 2013.

They face the Nationals on ESPN at 8:07 p.m. with Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08) opposing Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta allowed six runs while lasting just one inning when he last faced the Nats here on May 4. Without that game, his season ERA would be 3.45.

Rodriguez is making his second career start. He allowed five runs in five innings and was taken deep twice Tuesday vs. the Orioles.

So ... what do the Phillies do when Jerad Eickhoff's ready to go?

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So ... what do the Phillies do when Jerad Eickhoff's ready to go?

WASHINGTON — Saturday was an important step in the right direction for Jerad Eickhoff.

Eickhoff threw another bullpen session, this time using his curveball. He came away with no issues, which was big because his curveball had previously been causing numbness in his fingertips. Eickhoff had thrown all fastballs in his previous bullpen session Tuesday.

The 27-year-old right-hander has not pitched for the Phillies this season. He was placed on the DL with a lat strain in spring training, and when he was on the way back he again experienced that numbness in the fingers. He received an anti-inflammatory injection in his wrist and appears to be OK since.

It doesn't look like Eickhoff is ready yet to pitch live BP or begin a rehab assignment. Once he does begin a rehab assignment, the Phillies will have 30 days to decide what to do with him. If they deem him unready after the 30 days, they could activate him from the DL and option him to Triple A Lehigh Valley. Eickhoff does have an option remaining.

The reason that's even a possibility for a man who made 57 starts for the Phillies the last two seasons is the success of the current five-man rotation. 

Zach Eflin isn't going anywhere. Eflin is 5-2 with a 3.44 ERA in nine starts and has shown genuine progress with his four-seam fastball and rising strikeout rate. After punching out just 4.7 batters per nine innings in 2016 and 2017, Eflin has struck out 9.2 per nine this season.

The Phillies obviously wouldn't be pushing 2018 revelation Nick Pivetta out of the rotation either. And Vince Velasquez, as inconsistent as he can be, has allowed three runs or less in 10 of 15 starts. From a pure stuff standpoint, there's not much of a comparison between Velasquez and Eickhoff.

These situations have a way of working themselves out. If this one doesn't and the entire rotation remains healthy, the Phils' two most realistic options would be to try to get Eickhoff into a groove starting games at Triple A, or use him as a long reliever on the major-league roster.

The Phillies carried Drew Hutchison as the long man for the first two months of the season before designating him for assignment in early June. Since then, they've run through Mark Leiter Jr. and Jake Thompson but neither has stuck in the big leagues. 

It's unclear how Eickhoff would perform in that role coming out of the bullpen with the Phillies trailing or leading by a lot. Unlike 90 percent of bullpen arms these days, Eickhoff is not a hard thrower. His fastball sits around 91 mph, and when he's going well it's because he's spotting it on the corners and freezing hitters with his 12-6 curveball.

There's still a ways to go for Eickhoff, but if there's no other rotation injury by the time he's ready to go, he'll need to earn his old job back.

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