Phillies

Four of Braves' in-season pickups stop maddeningly inconsistent Phillies

Four of Braves' in-season pickups stop maddeningly inconsistent Phillies

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One night after blasting five home runs in a winning effort, the maddeningly inconsistent Phillies were held to just five singles in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

The Braves have won two of three in the four-game series that ends Thursday night.

The loss meant the Phillies could potentially lose ground in the NL wild-card race. They entered the day two games back but could slip to three games back depending on the outcome of the Cubs-Padres game in San Diego. Milwaukee, which entered Wednesday a game back in the race, won its game at Miami. The Mets also won their game to pull even with the Phillies in the crowded wild-card race.

The Phillies have 17 games left.

The Phillies got excellent work from their bullpen after starter Zach Eflin did not make it through the fourth inning. Eflin gave up all three of the Braves’ runs and they were all unearned.

No pop

The Phillies had just three singles through the first eight innings. They had a pair of infield hits in the ninth, but could not push any runs across.

Sparse crowd

It appears as if much of sporting Philadelphia has inoculated itself against wild-card fever. The announced attendance was just 23,243, smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park. Capacity is 42,792.

Attendance was 25,071 and 24,220 in the first two games of the series.

Eflin’s night

The right-hander entered the game riding a streak of three strong starts in which he had success featuring his two-seam fastball. Eflin continued to use the pitch, though he leaned on his slider and four-seam fastball significantly, as well. Command was a problem for Eflin. He ran a high pitch count and lasted just 3 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs, all on a three-run homer by Tyler Flowers with two outs in the top of the fourth inning. Flowers hit a 2-2 four-seam fastball. All of the runs were unearned after an error by shortstop Jean Segura.

Keuchel’s night

Veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel pitched very well for the second time in two starts this season against the Phillies. He allowed just three hits and a run over six innings.

Keuchel remained a free agent until June. The Phillies considered the idea of signing him, but in the end weren’t all that interested. He signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Braves and is now 8-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for them. In other words, he’s been a very nice pickup.

One of the knocks against Keuchel as he lingered on the free-agent market last winter was that his strikeout totals had come down while his hits per nine innings had swelled. Keuchel’s stuff played well in this one. He got 10 swings and misses, mostly on his slider and changeup, and struck out eight.

After Keuchel left, the Braves got three scoreless innings from the trio of Chris Martin, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon. All three joined the Braves in trades at the July deadline.

Big missed chance

Down by two runs, the Phillies had Keuchel on the ropes in the fifth inning. He allowed a one-out single to pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin then walked Jean Segura and hit J.T. Realmuto with a pitch to load the bases for Bryce Harper. The Phils had the man they wanted at the plate, but Keuchel was up to the challenge. He got Harper to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play for the game’s biggest out.

The Phils had another threat with two outs in the bottom of the eighth but it ended when Rhys Hoskins stroked a soft liner to shortstop.

Hot bat down

Corey Dickerson, who came into the game with 34 RBIs in his first 33 games with the Phillies, left the game in the sixth inning with left foot soreness. Losing him for any amount of time would hurt.

Up next

The series concludes on Thursday night with Drew Smyly (3-6, 6.65) taking on Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran (10-8, 3.31).

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Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

The Phillies are about to sign a player with a resume chock-full of impressive — and important — accomplishments.

According to sources, Matt Szczur, the 30-year-old outfielder from South Jersey, has agreed to sign a minor-league contract with the Phils. The deal will include an invite to major-league spring training camp.

Szczur — pronounced SEE-zur — has spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. He is a product of Lower Cape May Regional High School and Villanova University. He was a two-sport star at Villanova.

On the football field, Szczur was a dynamic receiver and return specialist for Villanova’s 2009 NCAA FCS national championship team. He racked up 270 all-purpose yards in the title game win over Montana and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

On the baseball field, Szczur was an all-Big East player and a fifth-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2010. He played in 107 games for the Cubs team that won the World Series in 2016.

Szczur’s accomplishments extend beyond the playing field.

Off the field, he did something extraordinary when he took time off from his junior year baseball season at Villanova in 2010 to donate bone marrow that ultimately helped save the life of a young girl from Ukraine who had battled leukemia. Szczur’s life-saving gift started with his involvement in the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. Talley was Szczur’s football coach at Villanova. Szczur has subsequently started his own charitable enterprise, the Szcz The Day Foundation.

Szczur hit .259 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 185 at-bats for the World Series champion Cubs in 2016. He was traded to San Diego in 2017. He spent parts of that season and the 2018 season in the majors with that club. He signed a minor-league deal with Arizona last season and hit .322 with eight homers, 28 RBIs and a .967 OPS in 44 games at Triple A Reno. His season was shortened by a quad injury.

The Phillies are set at the corner outfield spots with Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper and Adam Haseley is going to get a chance to hold down the center field spot with Roman Quinn in the picture as well. Szczur will give the Phillies some outfield depth and his ability to play center field is a plus. He is an excellent defender at all three outfield positions and could push for a spot on the big club as active rosters will expand from 25 to 26 men in 2020.

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Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

SAN DIEGO — A year ago, Phillies officials left the winter meetings with much of their offseason work still in front of them.
 
Manny Machado was still a front-burner free-agent item. Bryce Harper was still in the background and J.T. Realmuto was headed to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York … anywhere but Philadelphia.
 
You know the rest of the story.
 
Spring training had already begun by the time the Phillies settled their offseason last year. A year later, Phillies officials departed the winter meetings on Thursday with their heavy offseason lifting complete.

The Phils signed free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract last week and free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal at the meetings this week. The signings left the Phils about $5 million under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for the coming season and the club will be mindful of that. It’s likely — though not certain — that any further moves the Phillies make will qualify as tweaks.
 
Here are a few things to keep an eye on over the remainder of the offseason.

The starting rotation

Aaron Nola and Wheeler give the Phillies a “1 and a 1-A,” as manager Joe Girardi said.

Jake Arrieta is healthy and will be ready to go Day 1 of camp and Zach Eflin will hold down a job. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are slated to battle for the fifth job, though it would not be surprising to see the Phils bring back Drew Smyly on a minor-league deal to join the fight. The Phils were keeping an eye on Rick Porcello to see where his market was headed, but he signed for one year and $10 million with the Mets. Lefty Wade Miley could be someone to keep an eye on, depending where his market goes. The Phils are committed to having top prospect Spencer Howard start the season in Triple A, but he could have a major impact as the season goes on. The Phils will watch Howard’s workload — because of injury, he pitched under 100 innings last year — so adding bargain depth is a must.

The bullpen

At the moment, it looks like a fairly unchanged unit. The Phils are banking on Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez being healthy again and Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez and Ranger Suarez carrying a heavy load again. Pivetta, Velasquez or both could be used in the ‘pen, depending on the depth that is added in the rotation. If the Phils want to push the tax, they could make a play for former Yankee Dellin Betances. Someone from the system like Garrett Cleavinger or Connor Brogdon could surprise in spring training. How about Tommy Hunter? The Phils put a lot of time into his rehab after elbow surgery last year. Could he be a fit on a bargain deal? Ditto for Jared Hughes and Mike Morin.

The bench

Former All-Star and .300 hitter Josh Harrison has been signed on a minor-league deal. He can play anywhere and figures to have a good chance to make the club. Phil Gosselin, another jack of all trades, is coming back on a minor-league deal and the team has shown some interest in free agent Matt Szczur. Brad Miller remains a free agent and a potentially good fit. Jay Bruce will add power off the bench. Andrew Knapp returns as backup catcher but it would not be surprising to see the Phils sign one or two more veteran catchers to push for work and add depth. Remember, Girardi has said he’d like to keep Realmuto to between 120 and 130 games so he is fresh in October. “That’s where the prize is,” Girardi said. Austin Romine would have been a nice fit, but he signed with Detroit. 

Trades

While it appears as if most of the team’s major moves are done, general manager Matt Klentak and his group will continue to stay engaged on the trade front and you never know if one could materialize. Nick Williams could be dealt. Miami has long liked him. Velasquez could be dealt for some salary relief, particularly if the Phils are able to add starting pitching depth. The Phils would surely listen on Jean Segura, but he has three years and $45 million left on his deal so that would not be easy.
 
Could the Phils make a major trade?
 
After seeing the Realmuto deal come together so quickly last February, it can’t be ruled out. Even something crazy is possible. By crazy we mean Kris Bryant. Yes, he’d be a nice fit as the Phils make a quick push at a title before he becomes a free agent. But it’s a real long shot and it would probably cost top prospect Alec Bohm, and it would definitely push the Phillies over the luxury tax threshold, though managing partner John Middleton has said he would go over it for the right championship-caliber opportunity. Maybe that’s Bryant. There will continue to be buzz about him and the Phillies will continue to be connected to him as long as there is.
 
J.A. Happ could be another guy to watch on the trade front. The Phils made him an offer last winter and he signed with the Yankees. The Yanks are now eager to move his $17 million salary and might attach a good prospect to the package to help make the deal. Happ would put the Phillies over the tax, but, given the Phils’ need for more pitching, it might it be worth rolling the dice on the left-hander having a bounce-back year if and only if the Yanks attach a good prospect or two to the deal. 

What about Herrera?

The end of the winter meetings begins to put spring training in focus and the Phillies have a big decision to make before then: Do they bring Odubel Herrera to camp? Do they release him? The Phils would eat most of his salary to trade him, but there has been no interest.
 
We dealt with the Herrera situation more deeply in this story.

Realmuto's extension

Sometime before spring training, the Phils are expected to pursue a contract extension with Realmuto.

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