Phillies

Awkward landing ends game early for Phils reliever

us-rios.jpg
USA Today Images

Awkward landing ends game early for Phils reliever

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. — Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios exited Thursday’s game against the Yankees one out before its completion because of a sprained left ankle.

Rios, who appeared in 13 games with the big club last season, injured himself with an awkward landing on the mound. Manager Gabe Kapler called the injury mild.

“It’s nothing to be concerned about long term, but just sort of precautionary,” Kapler said. “We didn’t want him to have anything that would affect his delivery.”

Lefty Zac Curtis came in after Rios and registered a quick strikeout of Jake Cave to earn the save in a 7-6 win.

The Phillies scored four runs in the sixth and two in the eighth. Aaron Altherr (RBI) and Mitch Walding (two RBIs) both doubled in the sixth. Ryan Flaherty added a sacrifice fly. Danny Ortiz and Pedro Florimon knocked in the runs in the eighth.

Adam Morgan pitched two scoreless innings of relief and catcher Andrew Knapp continued to throw well. He caught Tyler Wade trying to steal second in the third inning. Knapp also doubled twice. Knapp is competing with Cameron Rupp for the second catcher’s job. Jorge Alfaro is the projected No. 1.

Jerad Eickhoff starts against the Pirates in Clearwater on Friday. Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta both pitched simulated games on Tuesday’s off day. They will return to Grapefruit League action for their next outings.

Odubel Herrera is making good on his 'bet on me' prophesy

Odubel Herrera is making good on his 'bet on me' prophesy

Odubel Herrera wasn’t messing around when he said, “Bet on me,” as he showed signs of breaking out of a lengthy slump last week.

Since Herrera uttered those words, the Phillies are 4-2 and Herrera has delivered 11 hits, including five homers, and seven RBIs. He had his fourth multi-hit game in the span Wednesday and provided the big blow — a booming, go-ahead homer off the scoreboard in right in the seventh inning — to key a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Herrera's bat is ablaze and if you did bet on him — as he urged — you’re cashing checks.

“When I told you that you should bet on me, I meant it, because I knew that I was getting close to being my regular self and I'm going to keep working to stay positive and stay doing what I'm doing,” Herrera said.

The slump took Herrera from an NL-best .361 batting average on May 17 to .283 in 23 games.

Wednesday’s single-double-homer performance left him at .299 and had people comparing him to Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers.

Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta compared Herrera to Vladimir Guerrero for the way he can square up any pitch.

Manager Gabe Kapler used Ichiro Suzuki as a comp.

“They’re different style hitters, but not that different, though,” Kapler said. “It doesn’t matter where the baseball is. They have unique bat-to-ball skills.”

Herrera’s eyes lit up when he heard Kapler’s Ichiro comp.

“It's amazing to hear that because Ichiro is a legend,” Herrera said. “To be compared to someone like him is an honor. It's great.”

Herrera is not a legend, but he's colorful and his confidence is well established.

“I’m coming,” he said with a laugh. “I’m coming.”

Herrera pounded a go-ahead homer to right off Sam Tuivailala in the seventh, a half-inning after the Cardinals had tied the game on Yadier Molina’s two-run homer against Arrieta. The bullpen made the lead stand up (see game recap).

Herrera crushed the ball. It left the park in the blink of an eye at 109 mph and was projected to travel 422 feet.

“Fresh,” said Herrera, describing the feel of the ball impacting his bat.

As Herrera’s ball climbed out of the yard, Kapler made eye contact with Scott Kingery in the dugout.

“We were standing on the steps, and we just kind of looked at each other in awe,” Kapler said. “It was one of those, ‘Wow!’ moments. He’s so hot, but he’s such an incredible athlete. What he’s doing, I don’t remember seeing. It’s really special. It’s really elite barrel accuracy. I really don’t know how to describe it. He just knows how to find the barrel, knows how to find the sweet spot and it’s really impressive.”

How did it turn for Herrera?

“I kept working in the cage and now things are working out for me,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an adjustment. I’m just making good contact again and trying not to think about it too much.”

Herrera has heated up just in time for one of the Phillies' most important series of the season. After Thursday's off day, they will play at NL East rival Washington on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Adam Morgan turns the boos to cheers, saves it for Phillies

Adam Morgan turns the boos to cheers, saves it for Phillies

BOX SCORE

There’s nowhere to hide when you’re a professional athlete and things aren’t going well on the field.

Particularly in Philadelphia.

Adam Morgan said he did not hear the boos when he trotted in from the bullpen with the game on the line in the ninth inning Wednesday afternoon. He was just focused on one thing — retiring Matt Carpenter, no easy task considering the St. Louis Cardinals’ leadoff man had almost personally beaten the Phillies the previous night.

Morgan was booed because the fans at Citizens Bank Park did not have much faith in him and his 15.75 ERA in the month of June. But manager Gabe Kapler had faith in Morgan and the pitcher had faith in himself. With the tying run standing on second base, Morgan retired the dangerous duo of Carpenter and Tommy Pham to wrap up a tense 4-3 win over the Cardinals (see first take).

The boos turned to cheers as Morgan became the seventh reliever to earn a save this season in Kapler’s be-ready-for-anything-boys bullpen.

After the game, Brother Gabe raved about Morgan’s perseverance and the job he did against “an incredible hitter” in Carpenter.

“Mo had a lot of poise and confidence and we went with our gut there and it worked out well for him,” Kapler said. “I’m so happy for him. He’s battled through a lot of struggles.”

The struggles included giving up a grand slam to lose a game in Wrigley Field and allowing a game-tying hit in the ninth inning of a game the Phillies eventually won Monday night.

Morgan is a humble Southern gentleman, a man of few words. Kapler is a loquacious Southern Californian. The manager put into words Morgan's escape from the abyss better than the pitcher.

“I think it’s a series of adjustments,” Kapler said. “It’s looking himself in the mirror. It’s having heart-to-heart talks with a lot of our staff and his teammates. It’s some trial and error. It’s getting through it by pitching and getting off the mound, and when I say that I mean practice on the mound, not just the game situations, finding himself through bullpen sessions, and a lot of hard work from (pitching coaches) Rick Kranitz and Chris Young. But ultimately the credit goes to Mo for what he did today.”

Morgan kept the ball from the final out as a souvenir of his first big-league save.

“It feels good,” he said. “It feels good to get a win. It feels good to go out there in any situation and get a win.

“I’ve struggled, but it’s never as bad as it is and it’s never as good as it is. You just have to keep going after it and working. You can’t quit. That’s not going to help anything.”

The Phillies got a big two-run homer from Cesar Hernandez in the fourth inning and a tie-breaking homer from smokin' Odubel Herrera in the seventh. With Seranthony Dominguez unavailable, Kapler used Austin Davis, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano and Morgan to navigate the final three innings after Jake Arrieta exited a 3-3 game.

Arano started the ninth with a one-run lead and exited after allowing a one-out double. In a lefty-on-lefty matchup, Morgan used a slider to get Carpenter to pop out to third baseman Maikel Franco for the second out. (Franco made a long run into foul territory to make the play.) Morgan then got Pham on a ground ball to end the game.

Would Kapler still have gone to Morgan if there were two outs and no one on base?

“It’s a possibility,” Kapler said. “We’re reading and reacting to what’s happening on the field, so because there’s not an alternate universe, I can’t tell you for sure.”

One thing that could be said for sure is that the Phillies have won three straight series. They hadn’t beaten the Cardinals in a series since 2014. They blew leads in all three games, but got the job done.

“This was an emotional series for us because there’s a roller-coaster ride happening out there and we were put in some tough spots,” Kapler said. “We had some leads go back and forth in this series. That lineup is super tough. To have our pitchers run through them today was really impressive.”

More on the Phillies