Phillies continue to 'get dirty with the opposition' in a 4th straight win

Phillies continue to 'get dirty with the opposition' in a 4th straight win


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Rick Kranitz noticed it early. Vince Velasquez wasn’t just complementing his power fastball with a good changeup. He was throwing the changeup down in the zone.

“It’s a great pitch for him because it gets his delivery intact,” the Phillies pitching coach said. “He really has to finish his delivery if he’s going to keep it down and be effective with it. So if his changeup is down in the zone, I know it’s going to be a good day for him because his delivery is right.”

It was a good day — make that night — for Velasquez and the Phillies on Friday. They prevailed, 2-1, over the Tampa Bays Rays for their fourth straight win and sixth in the last seven games to improve to 7-5 (see first take).

Manager Gabe Kapler pulled a lot of strings and his charges made him look good with some timely execution. Four relievers got seven outs after Velasquez pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball as they kept the game close then eventually protected a one-run lead in the ninth. Kapler went with Scott Kingery over disappointed Maikel Franco (see story) at third and Kingery delivered a huge hit in the top of the ninth. The manager did not pinch-hit for frequent strikeout victim Jorge Alfaro and the rookie catcher delivered the go-ahead hit in the ninth. There was also a nifty bit of defensive positioning with Odubel Herrera in center field.

After a 1-4 start against the Braves and Mets, the Phillies have cleaned up on the lowly Marlins, Reds and Rays. But, hey, you can only beat the team that the schedule-maker sends your way — and Brother Gabe was pumped after his team’s fourth one-run win of the young season.

“If we’re going to be a good team, we’re going to win ballgames like this,” he said. “We’re going to kind of stick our nose in it and get dirty with the opposition. These are the games you have to grind out. Your starting pitching has to take you deep in the game and your bullpen has to come in and do the job, which they did. We executed on all fronts.”

Kingery struck out in the fifth and seventh innings. That convinced him to ease up on his swing against hard-throwing Alex Colome in a tie game in the ninth. Kingery swung at a high, 95-mph heater and clubbed it for a one-out double.

“Earlier in the game, I probably would have swung under that ball because I was too big,” Kingery said. “The easier swing allowed me to get the barrel on it.”

Two batters later, Alfaro, twice previously a strikeout victim, delivered a two-out single to left on a 1-2 pitch to score Kingery with the go-ahead run. Kapler said he had confidence in Alfaro and did not consider pinch-hitting. In the bottom of the inning, Alfaro made a nice catch at the backstop for a big out that helped Hector Neris notch the save.

Velasquez took a no-decision, but his second straight strong outing was key to the win. He walked just one and struck out seven.

“All winter and in spring training we talked about how if everybody takes a step forward, we can be a good baseball team,” Kapler said. “This was a big step forward for Vinny. He was efficient and got stronger as the game went on, his velocity held up, he landed his secondary pitches for strikes. Excellent performance.”

Bad news for Phillies’ J.P. Crawford; Jerad Eickhoff set for big test

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Bad news for Phillies’ J.P. Crawford; Jerad Eickhoff set for big test

J.P. Crawford stood in front of his locker with a soft cast on his left hand and a sad look on his face.

A few lockers away, Jerad Eickhoff struck a more optimistic tone.

As Eickhoff gets ready to ramp up his recovery from a condition that has caused numbness in the fingers on his right hand, Crawford was officially placed on the disabled list Wednesday morning with a broken bone in his left hand. He suffered the break when he was hit by a pitch in Tuesday night’s game. The Phillies recalled corner infielder Mitch Walding from Triple A to take Crawford’s roster spot.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Crawford would be down four to six weeks.

“Plain and simple, it sucks,” Crawford said.

The fracture is on the top of Crawford's hand, on the bone that extends from the middle knuckle. He said it would not require surgery.

Crawford, 23, is hitting just .194 with a .312 on-base percentage this season. He missed five weeks with a forearm strain earlier this season and returned to the lineup in early June. He had been getting reps at third base and was due for more. With Crawford out, and missing more development time, Maikel Franco, who had lost time at third, will get regular playing time again.

Eickhoff, who was projected to be a mainstay in the Phillies’ rotation, has not pitched all season, first because of a lat strain and lately because of numbness in the fingers on his pitching hand. A series of tests ruled out a serious problem. He was treated with an anti-inflammatory injection in his wrist and passed a test when he threw a problem-free, 20-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.

“It was good, 20 pitches, all fastballs,” Eickhoff said. “It felt good. No numbness. The shot seems to be working.”

Eickhoff felt the numbness mostly when he torqued his curveball. He did not throw that pitch in Tuesday's bullpen session. He said he would mix in that pitch during his next bullpen session, Saturday in Washington.

“That’s a big test,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic that I won’t feel anything.”

Eickhoff believes he will need a couple of more bullpens before he moves to competitive work in minor-league rehab games. He is confident he will pitch for the Phillies again this season.

“One step at a time,” he said. “We checked one box yesterday. We’ll check another one Saturday.”

In other health matters, Nick Williams, who suffered a broken nose Monday night, passed concussion protocol and was in the lineup for Wednesday afternoon’s game.

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J.P. Crawford suffers broken left hand, out 4-6 weeks

J.P. Crawford suffers broken left hand, out 4-6 weeks

Update: Crawford was placed on the 10-day DL Wednesday morning; Mitch Walding was recalled from Triple A. 

J.P. Crawford is headed back to the disabled list. The 23-year-old infielder suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch Tuesday night by St. Louis right-hander Luke Weaver. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Crawford would be out four to six weeks.

Crawford already missed five weeks earlier this season with a forearm strain. He came off the disabled list on June 6 and had been getting an extended look at third base.

Crawford’s latest injury means Maikel Franco will likely get another full-time chance at third base. Franco had lost reps to Crawford recently.

The Phillies did not immediately announce a replacement for Crawford on the roster. Outfielder Dylan Cozens could be a possibility. He is on the DL with a quadriceps injury.

Crawford was hit in the fourth inning. He was not available for comment after the game. He is hitting .194 in 34 games.

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