Phillies

Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND — The Phillies began the final week of their season with an embarrassing 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians in a nationally televised game on Sunday night.

A series of self-inflicted wounds hurt the Phillies in the fifth inning and the Indians delivered a knockout blow with six runs in the seventh.

The Indians scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning — all on a home run by Oscar Mercado — to take control of the game.

Mercado’s homer came on an 0-2 pitch from Vince Velasquez with two outs in the inning. The frame began with two Indians reaching base on a pair of Phillies errors, one by Jean Segura, one by Velasquez.

The Phillies made three errors in the game. They have had multi-error games in three of the six games on this trip.

The loss dropped the Phillies to 79-75. They need three wins in their final eight games to have their first winning season since 2011.

The Phillies’ microscopic postseason hopes could be extinguished as soon as Tuesday. Their elimination number is two (see story).

The 92-win Indians are tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot.

A big problem

Phillies pitchers have allowed a club record 244 homers this season. That’s the second most in the NL. The old team record was 221.

Velasquez was one strike away from getting out of the fifth inning. Catcher J.T. Realmuto called for a fastball up in the zone but Velasquez did not get it up high enough and Mercado crushed it into the left-field seats for three runs and a Cleveland lead.

Phillies pitchers have been careless executing 0-2 pitches this season. They have allowed 16 homers in that count, the most in the majors.

Inspiring performance

Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who missed part of this season undergoing treatment for leukemia, came on in the top of the fifth and rolled a big double-play ball. He then put up a shutdown inning in the sixth and finished with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Carrasco was originally Phillies property. He was dealt to Cleveland in the package for Cliff Lee a decade ago. He led the American League with 18 wins in 2017.

The offense

The Phillies had just five hits. Scott Kingery had a pair of doubles. He entered the game hitting .159 (11 for 70) in September.

And another one

Realmuto threw out another runner trying to steal second base. It was his 38th of the season, most in the majors. He also doubled home the Phillies’ only run to give the club a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

Up next

The Phillies move on to Washington for a five-game series against the Nationals beginning Monday night. Zach Eflin (9-12, 4.00) will pitch the opener against Washington lefty Patrick Corbin (13-7, 3.10).

The teams will play a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Neither team has named a starter for the first game. Aaron Nola (12-6, 3.75) is scheduled to face Max Scherzer (10-7, 2.81) in the nightcap.

On Wednesday night, the Phils will send Drew Smyly (4-7, 6.44) to the mound against right-hander Anibal Sanchez (10-8, 3.91).

Lefty Jason Vargas (7-8, 4.40) will pitch Thursday afternoon against right-hander Stephen Strasburg (17-6, 3.37).

The Nationals are bidding to win the NL wild card.

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Phillies look to Red Sox for their new athletic trainer Paul Buchheit

Phillies look to Red Sox for their new athletic trainer Paul Buchheit

SAN DIEGO — Nothing official from the Phillies yet, but the team has apparently hired a new head athletic trainer.

According to multiple baseball sources, the Phils have hired Paul Buchheit for the position. Buchheit was most recently an assistant athletic trainer on the staff of the Boston Red Sox.

Buchheit replaces Scott Sheridan, who became the Phillies’ head athletic trainer in October 2006. Sheridan’s contract was not renewed after last season. General manager Matt Klentak declined to talk about specific reasons for the change last month.

Sheridan served on the National League’s athletic training staff for the All-Star Game in July. He was instrumental in helping Chase Utley continue his career after the second baseman developed serious knee issues earlier this decade (see story).

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Phillies officials head to winter meetings looking for an infield bat

Phillies officials head to winter meetings looking for an infield bat

SAN DIEGO — Baseball’s winter meetings are back in this seaside Southern California city for the first time in five years.

The San Diego meetings of 2014 were watershed times for the Phillies as the club traded its iconic shortstop and all-time hits leader, Jimmy Rollins, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The deal brought the Phillies a pair of young pitchers, including Zach Eflin, and signaled the start of a rebuild as club officials conceded that the window of contention that had brought the Phillies five NL East titles and a World Series championship from 2007-2011 had officially closed.

Now, Phillies officials find themselves back in San Diego at another important time in franchise history. The rebuild ended when the team started lavishing big money on Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper and giving up valuable prospects for J.T. Realmuto. Still missing, however, is a winning season. The Phils have not had one of those since 2011, the last year they made the playoffs. Ownership attached huge importance to the coming 2020 season when it pushed to have Gabe Kapler removed as manager after just two seasons in October and general manager Matt Klentak doubled down when he announced proven winner Joe Girardi as the new skipper and punctuated the announcement by saying, “No questions asked, it’s time to win right now.”

The urgency to win now showed last week when the club spent $118 million to sign starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. The hard-throwing right-hander has dealt with injury and inconsistency in his career, but his huge potential, coupled with the team’s acute need for pitching, made this a risk the Phils had to take. The Wheeler signing is expected to be announced as official as soon as Monday at the winter meetings.

So, what else will the team look to accomplish this week in San Diego?

Well, with Wheeler in the fold, the Phils have now prioritized adding an infield bat. That became imperative when the club cut ties with second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco last week.

The Phils’ ideal scenario would be to acquire a shortstop such as free agent Didi Gregorius. In that case, Jean Segura, whose dwindling range was a concern at shortstop last season, could move to second base and Scott Kingery could play third base. There could also be a scenario where Segura played third and Kingery second. The Phils had probed the market for third basemen and, according to sources, had seriously pursued Mike Moustakas before he signed with Cincinnati. The Phils are still monitoring the markets for free-agent third basemen Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon, but don’t get too excited because they appear to be more interested bystanders than active pursuers. Signing a shortstop like Gregorius, who just so happens to be a favorite of Girardi, would keep third base in play for the eventual arrival of prospect Alec Bohm, who will start the 2020 season in Triple A. Some rival evaluators do not believe that Bohm can survive defensively at third base in the majors — they see him as more of a first baseman — but Phillies officials remain convinced that he can do it. Time will tell.

There is competition for Gregorius. If the Phillies don't sign him, they look at Starlin Castro, Todd Frazier or Brock Holt as short-term fits at third base or other infield spots.

Even with Wheeler on board, the Phillies will continue to look for more pitching, though any further additions will probably come from the third and fourth tiers of the market. The Phils are speeding toward the $208 million luxury tax threshold and Wheeler, by all indications, will be their top wintertime expenditure. By most payroll estimates, the Phils are about $19 million under the tax, and that’s before adding an infielder, bullpen help and some rotation depth behind Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Arrieta and Eflin. Managing partner John Middleton is on record as saying he would not go over the tax for a marginal upgrade but would be open to it if the team was “fighting for a World Series,” and the upgrades were difference-makers like “Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.”

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