Phillies Notes: Hoby Milner likely to get more late-inning relief opportunities

Phillies Notes: Hoby Milner likely to get more late-inning relief opportunities

ATLANTA -- Left-hander Hoby Milner will likely get more late-inning relief opportunities over the final seven weeks of the season, manager Pete Mackanin said on Wednesday.

Milner pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Tuesday in the Phillies’ 5-2 win over the Braves. Milner allowed one hit, but retired all three left-handed batters he faced, including Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman.

“I wanted to see how he does against lefties,” Mackanin said. “It was a three-run game in the eighth inning. My job, as I see it, is to find out if he’s going to be a part of it, if he can do that.”

Left-handed batters are hitting .214 against Milner and right-handers are batting .429 against him. In 13 relief appearances, he’s posted a 3.65 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. He has made three consecutive scoreless appearances.

On Tuesday, Milner allowed a one-out single to right-handed Brandon Phillips, but retired Freeman on a grounder that was nearly turned for a double play. He got cleanup hitter Nick Markakis to ground softly to shortstop to end the inning.

“His command wasn’t exceptional, but he got them out,” Mackanin said. “He got the job done. To me, that’s a good step forward.”

The Phillies are encouraging Milner to start throwing his two-seam fastball against right-handers, an approach he had abandoned.

“He’s got a good two-seam fastball, but he hasn’t been throwing it to right-handers. We can’t figure it out,” Mackanin said. “(Pitching coach Bob) McClure just noticed when he was warming up, that he’s throwing all four-seamers. He threw some [two-seamers Tuesday]. His sinker sinks this much and he wasn’t using it. Maybe that’s going to be a real bonus for him.”

No set plans for Hoskins
The Phillies still haven’t made a decision about if or when to recall slugger Rhys Hoskins, but Mackanin is eager to see what he can do.

“I liked his approach in spring training,” Mackanin said. “I must say that I’m anxious to see him at this level. If the at-bats in the spring were any indication of what he can do, it looks like he can handle it here. But Matt (Klentak, GM) will make that decision and I defer to the people who’ve seen him more than I have.”

Hoskins began playing left field with Triple A Lehigh Valley to help speed his promotion to the major leagues. He’s hitting .280 with 28 homers and 86 RBIs in 114 games.

About that Herrera homer
There was still conversation about Odubel Herrera’s golf-shot homer on Tuesday. According to Statcast, the ball was 0.73 feet off the ground and is the lowest pitch hit for a homer since they began keeping the statistic in 2015.

Mackanin said, “I saw Shawon Dunston hit a ball that bounced for a base hit. He said he was looking for a slider in the dirt. I swear that’s what he said. And he hit it.”

Analyzing the roads ahead for Phillies and Braves

Analyzing the roads ahead for Phillies and Braves

Exactly a month from today, the Phillies and Braves will meet for the first time since May 23.

The Phillies have 27 games between now and then; the Braves have 29.

The Phils missed a golden chance to pick up ground in the NL East race this weekend by losing the final two games of the Mets series while the Braves were swept at home in a four-game series against the Rockies.

As a result, the Phillies are a half-game back in the division with the regular season 75 percent complete. The wild-card picture is crowded, with the Phillies currently tied with the Rockies and Brewers.

What's been going on with the Braves?

Prior to being swept by the Rockies, the Braves had gone nearly three weeks without losing two in a row. They've been carried lately by rookie Ronald Acuña Jr., who on Sunday did not reach base to begin the game. It was notable because he had reached base to lead off nine games in a row, the longest streak in 18 years.

The Braves have some challenging series ahead but will be a threat down to the final days of the season because of their dynamic top-of-the-order and the consistently solid, clutch production from Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. Whether or not you believe in "clutch," the icy, contained, contact-heavy approach Freeman and Markakis have in pressure situations sets them up for more success than most with runners in scoring position.

In the rotation, lefty Sean Newcomb has allowed five-plus runs in four of his last eight starts. Kevin Gausman has been a valuable addition so far, allowing two runs in six innings, one in eight and three in five since the trade from Baltimore.

The Braves' bullpen has been shaky. With closer Arodys Vizcaino on the DL, second-year lefty A.J. Minter has been closing games. He had an ugly meltdown Saturday night with two outs, nobody on and the Braves ahead 3-0. He's blown two of his last six games.

The upcoming schedules

The Braves have just one off day between Aug. 20 and Sept. 13. 

They begin a seven-game road trip tonight — three in Pittsburgh, four in Miami. 

The Pirates have faded from contention but are a pesky team that makes a lot of contact and has a very good bullpen combination with Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela. These should be low-scoring games.

The Braves are 7-1 against the Marlins since the All-Star break. Miami can't be relied on for much spoiling at this juncture.

Following that for the Braves is a nine-game homestand against the Rays (2), Cubs (1), Pirates (3) and Red Sox (3).

Hopefully, the Red Sox still care about wins and losses two weeks from now. Their lead is so big. 

After that comes a real test for the Braves, a late-season, seven-game West Coast road trip to Arizona and San Francisco. The Diamondbacks are in the thick of the race and the Giants are on the periphery but still far from a doormat. 

The Phillies, meanwhile, have just one series left all season outside the Eastern Time Zone.

After that West Coast trip, the Braves have three with the Nationals, three with the Cardinals, then come the Phillies.

Just to review, the Braves' schedule leading up to Phillies series:

• 3 at Pirates
• 4 at Marlins
• 2 vs. Rays
• 1 vs. Cubs
• 3 vs. Pirates
• 3 vs. Red Sox
• 4 at Diamondbacks
• 3 at Giants
• 3 vs. Nationals
• 3 vs. Cardinals

And the Phillies' schedule leading up to that point:

• 3 at Nationals
• 3 at Blue Jays
• 3 vs. Nationals
• 3 vs. Cubs
• 3 at Marlins
• 3 at Mets
• 3 vs. Nationals
• 3 vs. Marlins
• 3 vs. Mets

More on the Phillies

Krukcast: Memories from Little League

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Krukcast: Memories from Little League

On this edition of Krukcast, Gregg Murphy and John Kruk share memories of Little League Baseball. Kruk on what it was like covering the Little League World Series. Also, the guys discuss what they hope today's kids experience playing in Little League.

1:00 - Kruk was a dominant Little Leaguer.
5:00 - What made Little League so enjoyable.
9:00 - Lessons Kruk learned growing up in Little League.
14:00 - Covering the LLWS.

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