Phillies

Phillies safe from 100 losses after taking down Nationals

Phillies safe from 100 losses after taking down Nationals

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The 1961 Phillies are safe.

They remain the last Phillies team to reach triple-digit losses.

The 2017 Phillies avoided the ignominy of 100 losses as they rode a pair of big hits by Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp and the excellent bullpen work of Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris to a 4-1 win over the National League East champion Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night (see observations).

Manager Pete Mackanin had recently downplayed avoiding 100 losses as a goal. His focus has been simply on seeing improvement from his young, rebuilding club.

But win No. 63 made Mackanin pretty happy.

"When I said 100 losses didn't matter — I lied," Mackanin said with a laugh. "I admit it. Great win."

The 1961 Phillies, under second-year skipper Gene Mauch, went 47-107.

Rupp had the game's biggest hit, a bullet of a two-run double over the centerfielder's head in the bottom of the third inning. It gave the Phillies and starter Jake Thompson a 3-1 lead. Rhys Hoskins padded the lead with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and the aforementioned quartet of relievers registered nine of 12 outs via the strikeout to close it out.

Rupp was around two years ago when the 2015 Phillies lost 99 games. With four more games left before it's time to go home for the winter, Rupp hopes Tuesday night's win is not this team's last.

"I've already lost 99 one time," said the catcher, who turns 29 on Thursday. "Let's win a couple more."

Not long ago, the Phillies were on a clear path to triple-digit losses. An influx of young talent, led by Hoskins and Nick Williams, and much improved bullpen work have helped the Phillies go 34-37 after the All-Star break, a major improvement after they were 29 games under .500 before the break.

"It's one of those things we know," Rupp said of the specter of 100 losses. "But we come out every day and try to let the results show. There's been a lot of games that we've been right in and the ball hasn't rolled our way, a lot of one-run and two-run losses. One big hit here and there and we flip our record in one-run games. It's not that we’re far away. We've got the players here. We just have to get that big hit."

The Phillies are 21-36 in one-run games.

Rupp's double in the third inning came against Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, who did not pitch up to his 2.68 ERA, which was third best in the NL entering the game. Mackanin said he started Rupp because he had good numbers against the lefty Gonzalez — five hits, including two doubles, in 14 career at-bats.

The Phillies played good defense in this game, particularly J.P. Crawford at third base. He started a big double play behind Thompson in the first inning and later made a diving snare of a 108-mph liner off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. But nothing made Mackanin happier than seeing Joseph and Rupp get their big hits in the third inning.

Joseph and Rupp have lost playing time in recent weeks as management looks at young players. It's unclear where both players fit into the team's future. It's possible both could be with other clubs next season.

But right now, they are Phillies, and their heads are high.

"I was very happy for both of those guys," Mackanin said. "The way they've handled the whole situation — it's a testament to their professionalism."

Rupp has lost time to rookie Jorge Alfaro in recent weeks. Joseph has lost it to Hoskins.

"It's one of those things where when I get my chance, I've got to perform," Rupp said. "It doesn't matter the situation. It doesn't matter who's in there. You get your chance, you need to show them what you can do. It's the situation that we're in. It's no secret when we get our chance, we have to perform."

Rupp and Joseph got their chance Tuesday night.

They performed.

The 1961 Phillies are safe for at least another year.

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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AP Images

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Three weeks before the start of spring training, the Phillies were busy Wednesday finalizing minor-league contracts with three pitchers and a utility infielder.

The team announced the signings of veteran relievers Drew Storen, Bud Norris and Francisco Liriano, as well as veteran infielder Neil Walker.

Of the group, Liriano, 36, might have the best chance to impact the 2020 Phillies. The left-hander, a starter for the bulk of his major-league career, was used exclusively as a reliever with Pittsburgh last season. He pitched in 69 games and recorded an ERA of 3.47 over 70 innings. Liriano was particularly effective against lefty hitters, holding them to a .194 batting average (14 for 72.)

Storen, 32, and Norris, 34, are both right-handers with significant big-league time. Neither pitched in the majors last season because of health reasons. Storen was recovering from Tommy John surgery and Norris had a forearm injury. There are opportunities in the Phillies’ bullpen and both will be given a look in spring training.

Walker, 34, is an 11-year veteran who has spent much of his career as a regular second baseman, mostly with Pittsburgh. He has bounced around the diamond in recent seasons, particularly with the New York Yankees in 2018, where he played first base, second base, third base and both corner outfield spots. He played first, second and third with the Miami Marlins last season and hit .261 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 337 at-bats.

Walker, a switch-hitter, will vie for a spot as a reserve with the Phillies. Rosters expand from 25 to 26 men this season and that will allow the Phillies to carry an extra player on their bench. There are plenty of candidates for that job. Earlier this winter, the Phillies signed veteran infielders Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin and Ronald Torreyes to minor-league deals. The team is also bringing veteran outfielders Matt Szczur and Mikie Mahtook to big-league camp on minor-league deals. The competition for a spot as a reserve outfielder will also include Nick Williams and Nick Martini, both of whom are on the 40-man roster.

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