Phillies

With Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto out of the lineup, Phillies pound Noah Syndergaard again en route to series win over Mets

With Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto out of the lineup, Phillies pound Noah Syndergaard again en route to series win over Mets

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NEW YORK — The Phillies need to figure out a way to convince Maikel Franco that he's playing the Mets every day. Brainwashing, hypnosis, whatever it takes.

Franco continued his savagery over the Mets with a two-run shot to the second deck in left field in Sunday's 10-7 win. The Phillies had just taken a one-run lead in the sixth inning of a back-and-forth affair when Franco delivered the decisive blow against former teammate Luis Avilan.

Franco later banged a double off the wall in left-center. In 15 games against the Mets this season, Franco has hit .345 with 7 homers and 19 RBI. He has 9 homers and 32 RBI in his 92 other games.

The Phillies fell behind 3-0 in the first inning but came back to win the game and the series. It is only their second series win against a team with a winning record since the All-Star break. The other came Aug. 13-15 at Wrigley Field.

It was a miserably slow September game that lasted 4 hours and 29 minutes. It fell one minute short of setting the record for the longest nine-inning game in Phillies history. That record is 4 hours and 30 minutes, set last July against the Pirates. 

At 74-68, the Phillies trail the Cubs by two games for the NL's second wild-card spot. The Phils also trail the Diamondbacks by a half-game and are tied with the Brewers.

1. Harper returns

Bryce Harper was out of the lineup for a second straight game with a right-hand contusion suffered Friday night on a hit by pitch. Harper did more muscle testing Sunday morning but was still deemed unable to start.

He did, however, pinch-hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning. Harper fouled off several two-strike pitches in a lengthy plate appearance before walking in a run for his 101st RBI. Obviously a good sign that he's able to grip a bat again.

Manager Gabe Kapler expressed optimism Sunday morning that Harper could start Monday's series opener against the Braves.

J.T. Realmuto also had the day off, which made the win a bit more impressive.

2. Another big hit from Dickerson

On an 0-2 count, Corey Dickerson put the Phillies ahead in the middle innings with a two-run single. He has hit .381 with runners in scoring position as a Phillie with 23 RBI in 42 at-bats.

Kapler last week referenced Dickerson's strong two-strike approach. Dickerson chokes up, spreads out and spoils two-strike offerings as well as any hitter in the National League. It has allowed him to produce even when he hasn't gotten good pitches to hit early in counts.

Dickerson did the same thing in his fourth at-bat, fouling off six pitches with two strikes before finally punching out on pitch No. 10.

3. Opposite-field approach

The Phillies effectively used the opposite field against Syndergaard, with Rhys Hoskins doubling to the wall in right and Adam Haseley homering to left-center. With a hard thrower, that's often the most logical and successful approach to take.

The Phillies have not been fooled at all by Syndergaard this season. In three games against him, they've hit .355 and Syndergaard has a 7.80 ERA.

As always, the running game was working against the big right-hander who is slow to the plate and has trouble making pickoff throws. The Phillies were 3 for 3 swiping bags against Syndergaard and catcher Wilson Ramos, which has to be one of the worst batteries in the game at holding on runners. 

Cesar Hernandez had two of the steals and Scott Kingery had the other. Jean Segura later added one of his own.

4. Up next

The Phillies come home for four against the Braves Monday-Thursday, before an off-day Friday and a quick two-gamer against the Red Sox Saturday and Sunday.

Aaron Nola will start twice this week: Monday against Atlanta and Saturday against Boston.

Monday night at 7:05 — Aaron Nola (12-4, 3.63) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (5-5, 5.28)

Tuesday night at 7:05 — LHP Jason Vargas (6-7, 4.27) vs. LHP Max Fried (16-4, 3.86)

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Zach Eflin (8-11, 4.31) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (7-5, 3.47)

Thursday night at 7:15 — LHP Drew Smyly (3-6, 6.65) vs. Julio Teheran (10-8, 3.31)

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This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

Everyone is disappointed that the 2020 MLB season didn't start on time — owners, executives, managers and coaches, players and of course the fans who have been longing for baseball's return. There are so many intriguing storylines surrounding the Phillies. We were all so excited to watch this season play out.

The players themselves are all undoubtedly bummed. But this indefinite delay has to be especially frustrating for these five Phillies.

Rhys Hoskins

I can't imagine anyone was more anxious to get back to work in 2020 than Hoskins. The second half of his 2019 season was brutal. He hit .180 with just nine HR and 26 RBI in 71 games following the All-Star break. You could see that prolonged slump taking its toll on Hoskins. He wore the frustration outwardly on a nightly basis. For a guy who has experienced success at every stop of his baseball career, his struggles last season had to be confusing. What am I doing wrong? How can I get this fixed? Will I ever break out of this slump?

Hoskins spent a lot of time in the offseason adjusting his mental and physical approach at the plate. He admitted he was thinking too much last year. He worked with new hitting coach Joe Dillon, lowering his hands and opening his stance. He was eager to get back to being a force in the middle of the Phillies batting order, eager to prove that the second half of 2019 was a fluke. He wanted to get back to being one of the premiere sluggers in the National League.

But now Hoskins waits just like the rest of us to find out when (or if) he'll get that opportunity.

Jake Arrieta

This is the final year of the three-year, $75 million contract that Arrieta signed with the Phillies prior to the 2018 season. He'd be the first one to tell you that the Phillies haven't gotten their money's worth on that deal. Arrieta battled injuries and inconsistency in his first two seasons in Philadelphia. He pitched through a knee injury that required surgery in 2018, finishing that season with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts. His 2019 season was cut short due to surgery in August to clean out a bone spur in his right elbow. He posted a 4.64 ERA in 24 starts before he was shut down.

The 34-year old Arrieta has hardly resembled the guy who won a World Series and Cy Young Award with the Cubs. But this spring he said he's 100 percent healthy and ready to make the type of impact the Phillies bargained for when they signed him to that big contract. Arrieta looked sharp in spring training. He was going to slot into the third spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. A big year from Arrieta would do wonders for the Phillies' playoff chances. It would also put him in a great position as he ventures back into free agency following the 2020 season.

Bryce Harper

A lot of signs pointed to Harper having a monster 2020 season. He had a full offseason and spring training to focus solely on baseball as opposed to a year ago when he didn't know which team he'd be playing for or where his family would be living until the end of February. He was settled in playing with his new team and living in his new city. And perhaps maybe most telling, he was tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. Harper hit .500 with three doubles, three HR and 11 RBI in eight exhibition games. He was locked and loaded for the regular season.

But now Harper's potential MVP caliber season has been put on hold. If there is a 2020 season, it almost certainly won't be 162 games. Which means we won't find out what numbers he was capable of putting up in his second season with the Phillies. At 27 years old, Harper still has plenty of his prime years ahead of him. But this one could have been special. Hopefully it still can be.

Zach Eflin

Of all the Phillies starting pitchers, Eflin may be best positioned to make 'the leap' in 2020. The righthander is coming off an uneven 2019 season, posting a 10-13 record with a 4.13 ERA. It was a year full of ups (a pair of complete games) and downs (a July demotion to the bullpen). Eflin's skill set didn't mesh with how former pitching coach Chris Young wanted pitchers to attack hitters. Young stressed the importance of throwing fastballs up in the zone. Eflin is most effective when he relies on his sinker.

New pitching coach Bryan Price wants Eflin and the rest of the Phillies starters to pitch to their strengths. Price preaches efficiency, he wants Eflin to use his sinker early in the count to get ground ball outs. This appears to be a perfect union of coach and player. Eflin turns 26 on Wednesday, he enters his fifth big league season with 74 career starts under his belt. A lot of evidence suggests he may be poised for a career year.

Scott Kingery

After bouncing all over the diamond during his first two seasons with the Phillies, it looks like Kingery will finally get the chance to settle in at his natural position of second base this year. He played mostly shortstop, center field and third base in his first two major league seasons with cameos at second base, left field and right field. He's been valuable in that super utility role but he's mentioned his desire to play second base regularly. With Didi Gregorius at shortstop and Jean Segura playing third base during spring training, Kingery appears to be penciled in as the starter at second base.

Kingery's offensive numbers improved significantly from 2018 to 2019. He hit .258 last season with 34 doubles and 19 home runs, up from .226 with 23 doubles and eight HR in 2018. Being more comfortable at his natural position in the field should only enhance his production at the plate. Kingery bulked up in the offseason in hopes of taking his game to the next level. Time will tell if he gets the chance to do so.

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How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

There’s few things Phillies fans enjoy more than a comeback, walk-off win against the Mets. So make sure to give yourself a smile by watching just that on NBC Sports Philadelphia today. 

Specifically, we’re bringing you a 5-4 win from June of last season that ended with a Jay Bruce RBI double in the bottom of the 10th. But it was the play of Jean Segura that night that got the Phillies into a position to win it. The then-Phillies shortstop hit a solo home run off future and past teammate Jason Vargas (what a Phillies career he had) in the bottom of the 6th to cut the deficit to 4-1. In the 7th, Segura connected off Seth Lugo for a game-tying 2-run single.

That game proved to be a positive moment in a below-average season for the veteran infielder. In his 1st campaign with the Phillies, the walk and strikeout averse Segura hit .280. That’s 24 points lower than he batted with the Mariners the year before. His home runs only improved from 10 to 12, despite moving from cavernous T-Mobile Park to the much more long-ball conducive Citizens Bank Park.
    
All signs point to Segura moving from shortstop to 2nd base when regular season baseball takes place with Didi Gregorius signed in the offseason to play shortstop. While the returns on the infield realignment remain to be seen, Segura’s impact needs to be most felt at the plate and in the Phillies lineup.
    
So was last season the beginning of a decline for the recently-turned 30-year old Segura? Or just a slight dip for a player that hit .300 or better in each of the previous three seasons? 
    
A reason for optimism is Segura’s assertion that he entered spring training in February in much better shape than the previous season. That said, we don’t definitively know how this current hiatus will impact that physical conditioning. Pessimists will point out that history (not including the late 80s to the early 2000s) suggests players don’t get better as they enter their 30s.
    
Ultimately, it will add to the degree of difficulty for the Phillies to get where they want to go this season if Segura is not a .300 hitter that sets the table for the heart of the lineup.

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