Phillies

Aaron Nola gets no support from the offense or the bullpen as Phillies take step in wrong direction

Aaron Nola gets no support from the offense or the bullpen as Phillies take step in wrong direction

The Phillies have made a commitment to pitching Aaron Nola every fifth day for the rest of the season as long as they are in playoff contention.

It would be nice if the offense would commit to getting Nola some runs.

It would also be nice if the bullpen doesn’t give up 10 runs after he exits.

That was pretty much the long and short of the Phillies’ damaging 11-5 loss to the New York Mets on Friday night.

Not enough run support for Nola early in the game.

Ten runs allowed by the bullpen in the final two innings.

Ouch.

The defeat left the Phillies 3 ½ games off the pace for the second NL wild-card spot. They entered play on Tuesday just one game back.

Check the GPS. The Phils are headed in the wrong direction and there are just 29 games remaining.

“Anything can happen,” Nola said. “I’ll keep saying that. We just have to keep battling and competing game by game and take care of business tomorrow.”

Nola’s ability to remain upbeat after this one was admirable. He pitched seven strong innings Sunday in Miami and lost, 3-2, under the weight of one bad inning and little run support.

In this one, he pitched shutout ball for six innings, then got in trouble in the seventh, but kept the damage to one run thanks to some help from reliever Jose Alvarez.

Three Phillies relievers, second-half pickups Mike Morin and Jared Hughes, and rookie Edgar Garcia combined to give up three homers and 10 runs in the final two innings.

Morin, picked up in July after being designated for assignment by Minnesota, had pitched pretty well this month, but it got away from him in this one. He came into a 1-1 game in the eighth, faced five batters and retired just one while being charged with four runs. Hughes, waived by Cincinnati earlier this month, then came in with two runners on base and gave up a three-run homer to Todd Frazier. Hughes has faced 27 batters with the Phillies and been tagged for four homers. He clearly has not had the positive impact that the front office projected when it picked him up.

Frazier hit a second three-run homer in the ninth. The Phillies scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth, but they were just window dressing.

This was a bad loss. The Mets had lost six straight coming in and the Phillies can’t afford to lose games whenever Nola takes the mound — and especially when he pitches as well as he did in this one.

“Aaron Nola is a stud,” Morin said. “He’s a star. So where we’re at in the season, anytime he takes the ball you want to win that game, of course. So anytime you give it up, you don’t want to give it up. Tonight it kind of hurt a little worse for sure.”

Two nights after scoring a dozen runs against the Pirates, the Phillies were held to a run over six innings by Zack Wheeler.

“Every game is so valuable right now, especially the games when Nola is on the mound,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We have to find a way to win these games. We have to find a way to support him with runs early. I think that could be really useful. Wheeler did a pretty good job of keeping us off-balance and executing with his heater. We weren't able to catch up to it. 

“It's very disappointing. When Nola pitches for us, we expect to win that day. To not have that win under our belt to start off the series is tough. We'll come back tomorrow and fight again.”

Nola described the loss as “frustrating.”

“Especially nights like tonight where I felt like I had most of my stuff, all my pitches,” he said. “It is frustrating.”

He pointed the finger at himself for issuing a leadoff walk with a one-run lead in the seventh. Nola faced five batters in that inning and four of them reached base. He said he was not fatigued in that inning, that he just did not execute pitches.

He doesn’t have the luxury of doing that when his team is not scoring behind him.

What Kapler said is worth repeating:

“We have to find a way to support (Nola) with runs early. I think that could be really useful.”

Nola’s next start lines up to be Wednesday in Cincinnati. The Phillies can’t afford another loss with him on the mound. They can’t afford another one in the four games in between, either.



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Larry Bowa recalls two special seasons with (almost unanimous) Hall of Famer Derek Jeter

Larry Bowa recalls two special seasons with (almost unanimous) Hall of Famer Derek Jeter

Larry Bowa asked a question Tuesday afternoon.

“You think he’ll be unanimous?”

Derek Jeter was a 14-time All-Star and a five-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees. He won a Rookie of the Year award, was a World Series MVP and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting eight times. He won five Gold Gloves at shortstop and finished his career with 3,465 hits. Only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker had more.

We’re talking rare air here, folks.

We’re talking icon.

So, six hours before the official Hall of Fame announcement was to come down early Tuesday night, the question that Bowa posed wasn’t whether Jeter would make it through the doors of Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility – that was a slam-dunk, take-it-to-the-bank, lead-pipe cinch – it was would he be just the second player ever to be elected unanimously.

“He should be,” Bowa said.

The answer to Bowa’s question came soon enough.

No, Jeter did not make it into the Hall unanimously, as his great Yankee teammate Mariano Rivera did the year before. But he still received historic support as he sailed into Hardball Heaven on his first try.

Jeter appeared on 396 of the 397 ballots cast by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Voters are encouraged but not required to make their ballots public. The identity of the one writer who did not vote for Jeter was not immediately known. That person will likely come forward at some point, not that it will matter a whole lot in the final analysis. The 99.7 percent of the vote that Jeter did receive is the highest ever for a position player.

Hard-hitting outfielder Larry Walker, an MVP and three-time National League batting champ, was also elected. He made it by six votes in his 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot.

Former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling missed by 20 votes, but his 70 percent bodes well for future election. He needs to get to 75 percent of the vote in his final two years on the ballot.

Another former Phillie, third baseman Scott Rolen, received 35.3 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot.

Bowa, the great former Phillies shortstop and manager, played 2,222 games at shortstop, seventh-most all time. Jimmy Rollins played 2,227 games at short, sixth-most all-time. Omar Vizquel ranks first on the list at 2,709 and Jeter is second at 2,674.

Bowa enjoyed an up-close look at Jeter’s greatness during the 2006 and 2007 seasons when he was third-base coach for the Yankees. Jeter still had another seven seasons to go in his career, but even at that point, Bowa knew he was looking at a Hall of Famer.

“He just had an aura about him that said, ‘If you want to be a big-leaguer, watch me,’ “ Bowa recalled. “It was that way in everything he did. He never sulked if he didn’t get any hits.

“In my two years there, I don’t think I ever saw him make a mental mistake. He was always well prepared. He was very coachable and open to advice. He never jogged. He always played the right way. In big situations with the game on the line, he wanted to be at the plate. And he produced.”

Bowa compared Jeter to a couple of players he managed with the Phillies, one a Hall of Famer, one a potential Hall of Famer.

“He reminded me of Jim Thome, the way he handled himself,” Bowa said. “Very humble guys. Both team-first. If it was the eighth inning and a guy led off with a double, you didn’t have to tell Jeter to get the ball to the right side and get him over to third.

“He was a little bit like Chase Utley. You wind him up in April, say good luck and have a good year, and at the end of year he’d have a great season. He could have played without any leader or manager. Incredible work ethic.”

Like any other player, Jeter could have an off day, though not often. Bowa recalled a time in 2007 when the Yankees played an awful game. 

“I think it was a Sunday game,” Bowa said. “It might have been the worst game I’d ever seen the Yankees play.”

The performance left manager Joe Torre quietly seething. He called the team together after the game.

“I’d never seen Joe angry before,” Bowa said. “He usually got with guys one-on-one in his office if he wasn’t happy and no one knew about it. But this time, we played so bad that he felt like he had to get everyone together.”

Torre didn’t go after the 25th man.

He went right for the heart – Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

“He was all over them,” Bowa said. “It was the only time I ever saw Joe get on a guy like that. There was no swearing or anything like that, but he literally pointed them out and told them they were better than that and he expected more.”

The next day, Jeter was getting ready to do some early work with Bowa in the infield. Bowa asked him about what had gone down the day before.

“Jeter was completely accountable,” Bowa said. “He said he deserved it. That really showed me something. Here was a guy putting together a Hall of Fame career and he just got it. He didn’t take it personally.”

And he won’t take not being a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame personally, either.

Ninety-nine-point-seven percent.

We’re still talking rare air here, folks.

“The guy was just solid, man,” Larry Bowa said. “So professional. Just a pleasure to watch. I’m really happy for him.” 

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Make that 2 buy-low bullpen moves for the Phillies

Make that 2 buy-low bullpen moves for the Phillies


Drew Storen wasn't the only reliever the Phillies added early this week.

The Phils also agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran right-hander Bud Norris, according to Robert Murray.

The Phillies worked out Norris late last season but did not sign him.

Norris last pitched in 2018 with the Cardinals. He was pretty effective, posting a 3.59 ERA in 57⅔ innings with 67 strikeouts. He saved 28 games.

Relievers are so volatile from year to year that it stands to reason one of Storen or Norris will recapture some success in 2020. The Phillies have seen quite clearly over the last two seasons that big relief contracts are a gamble. They paid David Robertson, Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek a combined $57 million and all three dealt with long-term injuries.

The big wild-card in the Phils' bullpen is Seranthony Dominguez, who missed most of last season with arm injuries but could be a much-needed and useful weapon if he can revert to his 2018 form.

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