Phillies

Phillies president Andy MacPhail weighs in on team’s rise to contention, cost of trades, attendance

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Phillies president Andy MacPhail weighs in on team’s rise to contention, cost of trades, attendance

MIAMI — Phillies president Andy MacPhail is surprised by the team’s success.

“I was hoping for and expected that we would have meaningful, measurable progress and I think what we’ve done to this point exceeds meaningful, measurable progress,” he said before Saturday’s game against the Miami Marlins. “Just the fact that we’re a game-and-a-half in first place exceeds my expectations.”

With the team’s window of contention opening a year before many expected, club officials are reacting.

“We’re in a different situation than we anticipated and we have to act accordingly,” MacPhail said. “I know (general manager) Matt Klentak and his group is doing exactly that. We’re in a position where we need to try to augment our current group to try to preserve our place in the standings for as long as we can.”

Klentak and his lieutenants are busy pursuing trade opportunities. The Phils would love to land slugging left-side infielder Manny Machado and lefty closer Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles (see story). Competition for the two players is intense. The Phillies have built some good depth of quality prospects in their minor-league system and are willing to part with some of it to land Machado and/or Britton. There are even indications that the Phils would do a deal for Machado without immediately signing the free-agent-to-be to a contract extension, though Machado’s contract status would certainly affect the price the Phillies were willing to pay.

It’s all a complicated balance of present vs. future because as much as the Phillies want to win this season they want to sustain the winning for a decade.

“It’s an inexact science,” MacPhail said. “You try to ascertain as best you can what is immovable and where you have areas where you are giving up talent but you have enough in the system to absorb that. It’s what you can afford to do and what you can’t because our stated goal and our directive from ownership is to be in a position where postseason potential isn’t just a one-and-out type of thing.”

John Middleton, the Phillies managing partner, is aggressive and eager to win. But he is also levelheaded. He has been portrayed in some media reports as looking to make a splash.

MacPhail scoffed at that.

“John wants to win,” MacPhail said. “John wants to sustain winning. But John is not an ‘excite the town at any cost’ guy. My view is that he’s smart and he’s realistic. I think I’ve done a good job of explaining the importance of an organization and progress and he’s seen that. He’s not willing to give up too much of that just to make a splash. Someone wrote the other day that ownership wants to make a splash. Let me tell you something about John Middleton. He’s not a ‘splash’ guy for something that doesn't make sense. I can promise you that.”

MacPhail is fond of saying that in the baseball business, the fans will let you know how you are doing with their choosing to buy tickets or not.

Despite their success, the Phils rank fourth from the bottom in the National League in average attendance at 26,740 per game.

MacPhail said he was not surprised by the attendance and he believes there are factors behind it. First, the team was not projected to be a top contender. Second, there is competition for the entertainment dollar.

“Philly is a good sports town and you have to make some allowances,” he said. “These are not excuses, but you have to make some allowances. There’s only so much disposable income that people have. Let’s be honest, the Eagles and the Sixers sucked some of that out before we even threw a pitch.

“I need to build an organization on the baseball and business side that is going to sustain success and make us a competitive product for years to come and an attractive place to come for years to come.”

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Phillies go hitless with runners in scoring position and lose both games of doubleheader to Braves

Phillies go hitless with runners in scoring position and lose both games of doubleheader to Braves

Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Braves spoiled the MLB debut of Phillies top prospect Spencer Howard on what was also a dismal day for the Phils' bats.

Freeman and Acuña each homered to the opposite field off of Howard, going 5 for 6 with those two jacks and a triple as the Braves won both games of Sunday's doubleheader by scores of 5-2 and 8-0.

The Phillies had just seven hits in 14 innings. They went 7 for 48 in the doubleheader, a .146 batting average.

Their best scoring chance in Game 2 came in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with two outs for Bryce Harper, who flied out to shallow center.

The Phillies are 4-6. The Braves are 11-6.

More specifics here on Howard's outing.

No knocks when it counts

The Phillies went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position in the two games Sunday. They have hit .194 with RISP this season.

Braves' best players woke up

To win this series, the Phillies needed Freeman and Acuña to stay cold for just a few more days. They entered Sunday hitting a combined .207. Freeman went 6 for 8 in the doubleheader with a double, triple and homer. Acuña went 5 for 8 with three homers. Combined, that's 11 for 16 with four homers, a double, triple and eight RBI. Good grief.

At least Hoskins built a little confidence

Rhys Hoskins, who entered the second game Sunday hitting .111 (3 for 27), went 2 for 2 with a double and an HBP. He's hitting .172, though with a .429 on-base percentage. Every little thing counts right now for Hoskins, who threw his arms up in the air to thank the Baseball Gods after he finally picked up that first hit Sunday. 

Up next

Aaron Nola (0-1, 3.97) starts the series finale Monday night at 6:05 against Braves lefty Sean Newcomb (0-1, 6.57).

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Spencer Howard gives up homers to Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. in Phillies debut

Spencer Howard gives up homers to Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. in Phillies debut

Spencer Howard's first major-league start is in the books. The Braves didn't make it easy on him.

In 4⅔ innings, Howard allowed four runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 81 pitches. The Phillies did not score with him in the game.

Howard threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 22 hitters he faced, and after a couple innings the Braves were going up to the plate ready to hack at the first pitch.

Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves' pair of superstars, did the most damage against Howard, going 5 for 6 with two homers and a triple.

Howard was close to getting through his first three innings unscathed but Dansby Swanson beat out a would-be double-play ball by inches. The third inning went on and Freeman took Howard opposite-field for a two-run shot on a 95 mph fastball. Two innings later, Acuña also took Howard oppo. Welcome to the bigs.

Howard allowed a fair amount of hard contact. Even in the scoreless first inning, Freeman lined out hard to right field and Travis d'Arnaud smoked a liner right at third baseman Jean Segura.

There were also some eye-popping pitches and moments from Howard, such as his second-inning strikeout of Adam Duvall. Howard spotted a fastball on the outside corner for a called strike one, threw a nasty hook for a swinging strike two, then pinpointed a fastball inside and at the knees for a called strike three.

His fastball averaged 93.5 mph and maxed out at 95.5. Surprisingly, Howard didn't get a single swing-and-miss on the 41 fastballs he threw. He did get seven swinging strikes with his slider and three with the changeup.

Bryce Harper, who had pined for Howard to join the Phillies' rotation, said this about his new teammate:

"I'm excited for him. This is where it starts. It's not minor-league ball anymore, it starts now. Excited to get him up here and get him acclimated to this team and how we go about it. He's a great competitor. He's got plus-plus stuff. Phillies fans should be very excited to see what Spence does. 

"He just needs to be Spence. That's the biggest thing when guys get up here, change this or change that, people want to see you do this or do that. But my biggest thing is when guys get up here, I want them to be able to enjoy themselves, take in the moment and really know they have the stuff to be here. I just want him to enjoy the moment."

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