Phillies

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

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The Phillies continue to make baseball fun as they head toward the finish line of their fifth straight losing season.
 
They rallied for their eighth win in the last 11 games in beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-5, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.
 
The Phillies have taken the first three games of the series against the team with baseball's best record. All three wins have been come-from-behind efforts.
 
Aaron Altherr, the hero of Monday night's win against three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, was a key contributor again in this one. He drove in four runs late in the game with a two-run homer in the seventh and a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning.
 
• The Phillies' bullpen, which had been so good lately, blew leads of 2-1 and 5-4, but the offense overcame those issues.
 
• Despite having the second-worst record in the majors, the Phillies are 32-33 since the All-Star break.
 
• The game ended with Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera making a tremendous leaping catch at the wall on a bullet by Yasiel Puig. Herrera struck out three times at the plate, but showed maturity in not taking his struggles into the field.
 
• Cesar Hernandez started the Phillies' eighth-inning rally by working a walk against Luis Avilan. Avilan then made an errant throw to help set up Altherr's big single.
 
• Hector Neris pitched for the third night in a row and earned his second save of the series.
 
• The Dodgers rallied for three runs against the Phillies' bullpen to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh. The Phillies got the runs back quickly in the bottom of the inning. Rhys Hoskins continued to do things to help the team win when he led off with a walk against right-hander Ross Stripling. Stripling then threw two hanging curveballs and Altherr and Tommy Joseph deposited them in the left-field seats to give the Phillies the lead. Joseph, pushed into the background by Hoskins' emergence, had a two-RBI night.
 
• Phillies starter Jake Thompson gave up just one run but was not economical enough with his pitches to get past the fifth inning. Thompson allowed six base runners on three hits and three walks and got outs on several long fly balls. He walked two batters in the fifth, got a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure then got the final two outs on a pair of groundballs. He hung a full-count slider to Justin Turner with two outs, but Turner grounded it to short for the third out. Thompson survived and exited the game with a 2-1 lead.
 
• Chase Utley did not start for the Dodgers, but he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh with the Dodgers behind, 2-1. Facing rookie right-hander Victor Arano, Utley showed that famous short, chop swing in lacing a triple off the center-field wall.
 
• Arano was originally Dodgers' property. He came over to the Phillies late in the 2014 season in a trade for pitcher Roberto Hernandez. After Utley tripled, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent up left-handed hitting Andre Ethier to bat in the pitcher's spot. Pete Mackanin responded by waving lefty Hoby Milner into the game. Roberts went back to his bench and replaced Ethier with Kike Hernandez, a right-handed bat. Milner is a side-armer who struggles against right-handed bats (they were 19 for 46 against him while lefty hitters were 9 for 54). The results were predictable; Hernandez doubled home Ultey with the tying run. Milner did get to face a lefty hitter later in the inning and NL Rookie of the Year slam dunk Cody Bellinger broke the tie with a two-run double. Despite the difficult inning, Milner has made a nice showing and put himself on the map this season. He had not allowed a run in 21 straight appearances before being charged with two.
 
• The series concludes with a Thursday matinee. Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93) pitches for the Phillies against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.91).

Phillies' chances of re-signing Wilson Ramos increased this week

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AP Images

Phillies' chances of re-signing Wilson Ramos increased this week

Overshadowed by the James Paxton trade was the Nationals' signing Monday of catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year, $10 million contract — his second stint in Washington.

Suzuki leaves Atlanta, where he had the two best seasons of his career, hitting .276/.341/.485 with averages of 16 homers and 50 RBI in just 348 plate appearances. In 2017, four of his 19 homers came in 10 games against the Phillies.

Aside from the NL East change of scenery, what does this have to do with the Phillies?

It helps the cause in re-signing Wilson Ramos, if the Phils are indeed as interested as they should be. 

Ramos spent seven seasons with the Nationals, and the Nats tried in 2018 to reacquire him before the Phillies did. Had they not inked Suzuki, they likely would have again explored a reunion with Ramos.

Yasmani Grandal, because he is a year younger than Ramos and has less of an injury history, is viewed as the top free-agent catcher, even after the ugly postseason. However, Grandal declined the $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers, meaning the team that signs him will forfeit a high draft pick — either a pick preceding or following the second round, based on the signing team's revenues and market size.

That is meaningful. It could make a catching-needy team think twice about prioritizing Grandal over Ramos.

The teams that stick out in the race for catching — i.e. Grandal or Ramos — are the Phillies, Braves, Mets, Rockies, Red Sox, Astros, Angels and Twins. Removing the Nationals from the equation helps. 

The Phillies could, perhaps unrealistically, talk themselves into thinking they don't need Ramos in 2019, that they're seeing enough improvement from Jorge Alfaro. Many inside the Phils' organization remain high on Alfaro because of things like exit velocity, arm strength and pitch-framing. But there is obviously so much more that goes into being a productive major-league catcher. Alfaro in 2018 struggled in all phases of receiving other than framing. He struggled to block balls, and in some befuddling moments struggled to catch strikes. He also has struck out nine times more than he's walked as a major-leaguer.

Could Alfaro be a productive catcher if he fixes a few major deficiencies? Sure. Will that happen in 2019, which figures to be a win-now year for the Phillies? Tough to bank on.

If the Phillies feel comfortable with where Ramos is physically, they should bring him back on a two- or three-year deal. They may have to slightly overpay to get a deal done quickly, but it's worth it at a position that offers as little offense leaguewide as catcher. It probably makes more sense for Ramos to go to the AL, where he can be preserved as a designated hitter at times, but 31-year-olds eying their last big payday tend to follow the money.

When Ramos was actually able to bat in the middle of the Phillies' order in the second half of 2018, he was awesome. He hit .337/.396/.483 with 10 extra-base hits and 10 walks and 101 plate appearances. 

Even if the Phillies make the big Bryce Harper splash, it would still be nice to have Ramos in the five- or six-hole.

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Phillies add Adonis Medina and 2 others to 40-man roster, avoid losing them in Rule 5 draft

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USA Today Images

Phillies add Adonis Medina and 2 others to 40-man roster, avoid losing them in Rule 5 draft

The Phillies on Tuesday added three minor-league prospects to their 40-man roster, thus protecting them from being selected by another club in next month’s Rule 5 draft.

The team added right-handed pitchers Edgar Garcia and Adonis Medina as well as middle infielder Arquimides Gamboa.

Garcia, a 22-year-old reliever, split the 2018 season between Double A and Triple A and recorded a 3.64 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 52 games. He struck out 72 batters and walked 27 in 64⅓ innings and held opposing hitters to a .206 batting average. He could push for work in the Phillies' bullpen sometime in 2019.

Medina, 21, is one of the organization’s top starting pitching prospects. He went 10-4 with a 4.12 ERA in 22 games (21 starts) for Single A Clearwater in 2018. He struck out 123 and walked 36 in 111⅓ innings. He projects to pitch at Double A in 2019.

Gamboa, 21, is a talented defensive shortstop who could eventually be pushed to second base as top prospect Luis Garcia rises. A switch-hitter, Gamboa batted just .214 with a .304 on-base percentage in 114 games at Clearwater in 2018. He struck out 111 times.

Among those left unprotected were outfielder Jose Pujols and catcher Deivi Grullon.

Pujols, who turned 23 in September, was the Florida State League player of the year in 2018. He hit .301 with 18 homers, 58 RBIs and a .887 OPS in 95 games at Clearwater. He struck out 127 times in 352 at-bats.

Grullon, a rugged 22-year-old, hit .273 with 21 homers, 59 RBIs and a .825 OPS in 90 games at Double A Reading.

The additions left the Phillies’ 40-man roster at 38. Justin Bour remains on the roster even though multiple sources say he has cleared waivers. The next important roster date arrives on Nov. 30, which is the deadline for offering a contract to a salary arbitration-eligible player.

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