Phillies

Another loss as Phillies continue to play their way out of NL wild-card picture

Another loss as Phillies continue to play their way out of NL wild-card picture

BOX SCORE

The Phillies continued to play their way out of National League wild-card picture on Sunday. They dropped a 6-3 decision to the Boston Red Sox, who completed a two-game interleague series sweep at Citizens Bank Park.

The loss dropped the Phillies to four games out of the second wild-card spot and they could be 4 ½ games out by the end of the day, depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs-Pittsburgh Pirates game in Chicago.

The Phils have just 14 games left.

Christian Vazquez paced Boston’s offense with a grand slam against starter Jason Vargas in the third inning.

The Phillies did not get much offense in the two-game series. They scored just four runs. (They lost Saturday night’s game, 2-1.) They had just 12 hits and only two of them were for extra bases. (Rhys Hoskins had them both, a double Saturday night and a homer Sunday.)

Phillies hitters also struck out 25 times in the two games.

Ouch.

Vargas’ day

For the second straight start, Vargas lasted just three innings. He hit a batter, gave up a single and a one-out walk before serving up the grand slam to Vazquez in the third. Vargas also made a throwing error that led to a run in the first inning.

The left-hander is not exactly providing a lift down the stretch. He has a 7.63 ERA in his last four starts and the Phillies have lost three of those games.

Booted

Bryce Harper was ejected in the fourth inning for giving home plate umpire Gabe Morales an earful from the dugout. Moments earlier, Morales had rung up Harper on a pitch outside the strike zone. He also missed a pitch in Harper’s first at-bat. Manager Gabe Kapler was also ejected after he came out of the dugout to protest Harper’s ejection. It was believed to be the first time in major-league history that a guy named Gabe ejected another guy named Gabe.

Harper’s second ejection of the season meant the Phillies were forced to play the remainder of the game without one of their top players, never a good thing with the season on the line — at least mathematically.

Harper was replaced in right field by September call-up Jose Pirela. Not long ago, the Phillies likely would have replaced Harper with Nick Williams. But Williams is hitting .157 and is buried so deeply on the bench it makes you wonder why he was added in September.

Dickerson still sore

Corey Dickerson was out of the starting lineup for a third straight game because of a sore left foot. Brad Miller got the start in left field. The Phillies have missed Dickerson’s bat. Added at the trade deadline, he drove in 34 runs in his first 33 games with the club.

A little too hospitable

The Phillies are just 11-21 all-time against the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park.

On the bright side, the Phils are 11-20 all-time at Fenway Park.

Wait a minute. There’s nothing bright about that.

Overall

The Phillies are 76-72. They need to win six of their final 14 games to have a winning season.

Up next

The Phillies are off on Monday. They open a three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves on Tuesday night.

Pitching matchups:

Tuesday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (6-7, 4.95) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-5, 3.35)

Wednesday night — RHP Zach Eflin (8-12, 4.20) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (10-9, 3.50)

Thursday afternoon — RHP Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.62) vs. RHP Mike Soroka (12-4, 2.47)

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Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

The calls for Astros players to get suspended have gotten louder and louder as players have descended upon Florida and Arizona for spring training this past week. From Cody Bellinger to Mike Trout to Trevor Bauer to Nick Markakis and everywhere in between, players have made clear how angry they are about Houston's cheating scandal. 

It's going to take a long time for Astros players to gain back the respect of their peers.

It's not some easy fix, though. Astros players were granted immunity from discipline in order for their cooperation in MLB's investigation. MLB cannot, after the fact, revoke that immunity and decide to suspend players knowing what it now knows. That would never fly, and it shouldn't. Whether immunity should have been granted in the first place is the big question, but that point has passed.

Joe Girardi was asked on ESPN's Golic and Wingo Show Wednesday whether he thought MLB's punishment was sufficient.

The Phillies' first-year skipper doesn't think the current punishment serves as much of a deterrent.

"There are some people that lost their jobs that really were the people that had to pay for it, but there were a lot more people involved," Girardi said. "The financial gain for the players is substantial if they have big seasons because of this, so if there's no punishment for them, I'm not sure that it stops. I'm really not sure. Because the financial gain, similar to the steroid era, is very similar. If you know it's coming and you have a big year and you're a free agent, there's a lot (of money) to be made there and players want to take care of their families.

"I'm not exactly sure what the right answer is, but I don't know how much of a deterrent it is for players right now. There's not a huge deterrent for the players and I think there has to be to make sure that it stops."

People made fun of commissioner Rob Manfred for saying this but it should be acknowledged that the public ridicule the Astros are feeling right now will actually serve as some sort of deterrent. That doesn't mean MLB made the right call, that their decision-making process has been sound or that Manfred has done himself any favors publicly. But the disrespect factor around the league and around the country is real. Guys like Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, even a Justin Verlander — will they ever again command the respect they did before this? This is a permanent stain.

MLB recognized how difficult an investigation would have been without cooperation from key figures and went the route of immunity. It's a decision that will be questioned for years.

"If you're not in the clubhouse and you don't admit yourself that you did it, how do you take the word from another player that he was doing it? That's the hard part," Girardi said. "Like, if you get caught with something on your body, that to me definitely should be a suspension and a huge fine. But to say that someone was using it, it's his word against his word, that's pretty tough to penalize a player."

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A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spencer Howard, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, returned to a bullpen mound Wednesday and threw 27 pitches.

Ordinarily, a bullpen session in spring training is not news, but Howard had temporarily stopped his bullpen work after sustaining a minor knee injury — manager Joe Girardi called it a "tweak" — 10 days earlier.

Howard threw all of his pitches during the bullpen session as a gaggle of fans watched at Carpenter Complex.

"I only saw two pitches," said Girardi, who was busy bouncing around four fields. "But he felt great. That's the important thing."

Girardi said there was no timetable for when Howard would pitch in a Grapefruit League game. The Phillies are on record as saying they will take things slowly with Howard in the early part of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander is on an innings/workload limit this season and the Phillies would like to get a good chunk of those innings in the big leagues.

"Spencer has an innings limit so we have to think about this because we believe at some point he's going to play a role for us," Girardi said earlier in camp. "We can't go wear him out by June so we have to think about that. We're not going to waste a lot of innings in spring training."

It's possible that the Phillies could hold Howard back in extended spring training in the month of April so they can maximize his innings later in the season.

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