Phillies

Luis Garcia dominates heart of Nationals' order in Phillies' win

usa-luis-garcia.jpg
USA Today Images

Luis Garcia dominates heart of Nationals' order in Phillies' win

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON -- Admit it, there have been times over the last couple of seasons when you've looked at Luis Garcia said, "OK, enough of this. It's time to move on."
 
Some folks in the Phillies organization have even felt this way. The power-armed reliever has had a lot of chances, but never completely put it together because of an inability to throw strikes consistently.
 
But every time the Phillies seriously think of giving up on Garcia they take another look at that tantalizing arm and decide to give him just a little more time.
 
The Phils' patience with Garcia might pay off, after all. It sure did Saturday night when he mowed down the heart of the Washington Nationals' batting order in the bottom of the eighth inning to help preserve a 5-4 Phillies' win at Nationals Park (see observations).
 
The 30-year-old right-hander struck out Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon — three studs who carried .300 or better batting averages into the game — with a mix of splitters, sliders and fastballs. One of the fastballs to Rendon registered 100 mph on the stadium gun.
 
"I showed him a little mechanical thing to add a little extra," manager Pete Mackanin said jokingly after the game. "He just cut through the middle of their lineup. Outstanding performance."
 
Mark Leiter Jr. got the pitching victory with six gutsy innings of four-run ball and Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco hit home runs. Hoskins also walked three times, including once with the bases loaded in the fourth inning to plate the Phillies' fifth run.

"He's just a smart hitter," Mackanin said. 
 
But this game was won with the bullpen. Edubray Ramos protected a one-run lead in the seventh. Garcia did the same in the eighth and Hector Neris survived some ninth-inning turbulence — with a big assist from Freddy Galvis and his game-ending fielding gem — to close it out and earn his 20th save.
 
"Ramos and Garcia were huge," Mackanin said.
 
"They came in and did their jobs," Leiter said. "We don't win the game if they don't. It was a great job by them."
 
Garcia, 30, knows every mile marker on the Northeast Extension as he's gone back and forth between Triple A Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia numerous times in 2014, 2016 and this season, as well. But since June 14, he's been outstanding — in the big leagues. He's pitched 39 innings in 37 games since then and allowed just eight earned runs for an ERA of 1.85. Opposing batters have hit just .200 (28 for 140) over that span.
 
"I think it's just part of the process of getting more confident and mature," Garcia said.
 
Mackanin agreed.
 
"He's getting ahead with strike one more often," Mackanin said. "And his pitch count is under 15 most innings. He's been efficient with his pitches rather than getting behind 1-0, 2-0, and with that comes confidence. He's built himself some confidence."
 
If Garcia can continue to pitch with confidence and handle his nerves, he could one day be a candidate to close. He certainly has the stuff to do it and adding a splitter to his fastball-slider repertoire has only helped. It wasn't that long ago that Garcia's stuff was compared to Ken Giles'. Giles simply combined his stuff with a fearless assassin's mentality. If Garcia ever gets that, well, the Phillies' patience with him will really pay off.
 
The bullpen's work preserved a one-run win one night after the Phillies lost their major-league-high 34th one-run game. Six of those defeats have come against the Nationals. For the season, the Phils are 6-9 against the Nationals.
 
"Those guys across the field have to be thinking, 'How come these guys don't have a better record than that?' because we always play them so tough," Mackanin said. "It's always a close game, it seems."
 
Regardless of how close the games have been, the Phillies will still be going home in a few weeks, quite possibly with the worst record in the majors, while the Nationals head to the postseason. The Nats' magic number for winning the NL East is two.
 
But in the rubble of this losing season, the Phils may have found a hitter in Hoskins, and maybe another in Nick Williams. And after all these years of waiting for it to click with Luis Garcia, that might be happening, too.

Phillies-Padres postponed, rescheduled as part of doubleheader Sunday

usa-nick-pivetta.jpg
USA Today Images

Phillies-Padres postponed, rescheduled as part of doubleheader Sunday

Saturday night’s Phillies-San Diego Padres game has been postponed because of rain.

The game will be made up Sunday as part of a separate admission doubleheader.

The start of Sunday’s regularly scheduled game (game 50 ticket) will be moved from 1:30 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. Gates will open at 11:05 a.m.

The makeup game (game 49 ticket) will start at 6:05 p.m. According to the team, fans holding tickets for Saturday night's game may use them for Sunday night’s 6:05 p.m. game. Fans unable to attend that game may exchange them for any remaining home game this season.

Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta will be the Phillies’ starting pitchers in Sunday’s doubleheader. Pivetta will start Game 1 and Velasquez will take the mound for Game 2.

The Phillies returned from the All-Star break and posted an 11-5 win over the Padres on Friday night. That game began a stretch of 19 of 29 games against non-contending teams for the Phillies.

More on the Phillies

It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis' defense to wow the Padres

usa_freddy_galvis_padres.jpg
USA Today Images

It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis' defense to wow the Padres

It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis to open the eyes of his new teammates.

"I can think of maybe two balls all year long where he did not make a play," Padres manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune at the end of June.

"It's the most accurate arm I've ever seen from a shortstop," first baseman Eric Hosmer said in the same piece.

The Phils obviously didn't move on from Galvis because of his defense. They moved on from him because he never reached a higher level with his bat and because they had two young infielders — Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford — they were ready to move forward with.

The Galvis trade was a good one for the Phillies. In exchange for one year of his services, they got a solid young pitcher with upside in Enyel De Los Santos.

It was a move they had to make because Galvis will be a free agent after the season and this gave them the extended look they needed at Kingery and Crawford.

There's no question, though, that the 2018 Phils have missed Galvis' defense. Phillies shortstops have committed 13 errors, seventh most in baseball. Padres shortstops have committed five errors, fewest in the National League and second fewest in the majors.

At the beginning of Galvis' major-league career, his flashy plays stood out but he wasn't as effective with routine plays as Jimmy Rollins was. That changed after Galvis made 17 errors in 2015. In the three seasons since, he's committed just 20 errors combined.

Galvis can make the flashy play, but he also makes almost every single routine play. He knows where to position himself for every hitter, how quickly to release the ball to throw out a speedy runner. 

Over the years, more than a few teammates have commended Galvis' baseball instincts as some of the best they've ever seen. You can't quantify baseball instincts the way you can quantify offensive stats, so there's a portion of fans that will always scoff when Galvis' value is brought up.

"His internal clock, as far when he releases the ball, how much times he has, he just knows all that stuff beforehand," Hosmer told the Union-Tribune. "He's about as fundamentally sound as any infielder I've ever seen."

The Phillies have not gotten the look at Crawford they wanted in 2018. Injuries have limited him to just 34 games, 112 plate appearances and 93 defensive chances at shortstop.

As for Kingery, he should benefit from the everyday playing at shortstop. He's improved defensively as the season has worn on. In a few years, he'll likely be even better with the glove — and, equally important, a more selective hitter.

Galvis has hit .234/.294/.331 this season. Phillies shortstops have hit .238/.286/.352 and played worse defense. 

If this ends up being the worst offensive year of Kingery's career, then his worst numbers would fall in line with Galvis' career averages (.244/.288/.367).

It will be interesting to see where Galvis ends up this offseason. A team with a powerful and deep lineup — the Brewers, the Diamondbacks — can win with Galvis and effectively hide him in the 8-spot. If the Phillies had better offenses all those years, the weak aspects of his game wouldn't have been as pronounced.

More on the Phillies