Phillies' offense goes from just enough to microscopic in San Francisco

Phillies' offense goes from just enough to microscopic in San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO — The Phillies are one of baseball’s surprise teams because they have gotten consistently strong pitching and just enough offense to win games.

The calendar has turned to June and the pitching remains strong. The offense, however, has gone from just enough to microscopic.

The Phillies suffered their second straight shutout defeat Saturday night, wasting a strong start from Vince Velasquez in a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park (see first take). The Phillies had just three hits and one was an infield hit. Twenty-four hours earlier, the Phils were shut out, 4-0, by the Giants. Over their last four games, the Phillies’ offense has produced just four runs and one was a phantom run (see story).

“Obviously, at the end of the day, you have to score runs to win baseball games,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

“I think we're pressing a little bit. I think we're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the big hit. We're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to drive the baseball. Sometimes it's happening, sometimes it's not. It's a little bit less patient right now. It's certainly not a lack of talent. I believe strongly in the guys in the lineup tonight. I believe strongly in the guys in that room to score a bunch of runs. And I believe in our hitting leader, John Mallee, to lead them in the right direction. So everything is in place. It's more just we're going through a tough stretch. We have to weather this storm.”

The Phillies were sky-high coming out of Los Angeles with a split of a four-game series three days ago. Now, they need a win Sunday to avoid being swept by Giants, a team they took four games from last month in Philadelphia.

Over the last 15 games, the Phillies are 6-9. After briefly poking their head into first place in the NL East, they are now two games back at 31-25.

Over that 15-game span, the Phillies have hit .205 and averaged 2.9 runs per game. Odubel Herrera is 10 for 61 over that span and has gone from a league-best .361 to .306.

“Right now, we’re going through a tough moment but we’re going to find a way to turn it around,” Herrera said. “We’re not being as patient as we were before and that’s really a key. You know if you look for your pitches and you’re patient, things are going to work, but we’re too desperate and we’re trying to look for something too early.”

As for Herrera himself …

“I don’t really know what it is,” he said. “One thing I can tell you is, I’ve been putting in the work in the cage. Maybe it’s something mental, maybe it’s bad luck.”

Velasquez gave up just five hits, walked one and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. He was tagged for a leadoff double by Joe Panik in the sixth and it led to the only run the Giants would need. Panik moved up on a groundout and scored on a contact-play ground ball by Andrew McCutchen to shortstop Scott Kingery. The infield was in on the play. Kingery had to make a quick throw home and it was high, allowing Panik to sneak in before Jorge Alfaro's tag.

“You don’t really have time to re-grip and aim there,” Kingery said. “It’s just catch it and get rid of it as quickly as possible.”

Giants rookie Andrew Suarez held the Phillies to three hits over seven innings and got a huge assist from rightfielder McCutchen, who stole extra bases from Cesar Hernandez with a great running catch to end the top of the third. Alfaro, who had tripled, died on third.

“Man, I thought the ball was absolutely murdered,” Kapler said. “That was a tremendous play — great break, full speed, perfect route, never broke stride. Good job by him by making that play. Cesar absolutely leaned on that ball. It was disappointing for the dugout. But a really good play by the other guy.”

The Phillies, who have not scored in 20 innings, will turn to Jake Arrieta to salvage a game in the series Sunday. He will face rookie Dereck Rodriguez. The son of Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez will be making his first big-league start.

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

AP Images

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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