Phillies

In a series loss for Phillies, rookie Dylan Cozens opens some eyes at Wrigley

In a series loss for Phillies, rookie Dylan Cozens opens some eyes at Wrigley

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — Lots of frustration during the Phillies' 3-7 road trip. Blown leads. Harmful infield shifts. A questionable interpretation of a ridiculous rule.

The series in San Francisco was ugly and the series at Wrigley was wildly disappointing after beginning with a Phillies win.

There's going to be a lot of negativity until the Phillies win a series again, which will be difficult with the next 22 games all coming against teams with winning records. It's natural and deserved right now.

But it's also worth looking at the positives we saw in Chicago. Aaron Nola turned in a quality start despite not having his best stuff. Zach Eflin dominated. Scott Kingery hit the ball hard all series, even though his results were mixed. Aaron Altherr cranked a three-run homer.

The most eye-opening development, though, was the pair of games Dylan Cozens had at Wrigley.

Called up from Triple A last week, Cozens made plays Wednesday and Thursday that could have won both games for the Phillies had things been ever-so-slightly different.

On Wednesday, his two-run, opposite-field home run off a 97-mph fastball from established reliever Brandon Morrow gave the Phillies a two-run lead in the ninth inning. He was all set to be the hero before Jason Heyward's walk-off salami.

On Thursday, Cozens made probably the best throw from a Phillies outfielder all season, nailing Albert Almora Jr. at the plate from 278 feet away on a 93-mph throw. It didn't end up counting because the umpires ruled that Andrew Knapp had blocked the plate.

Even though neither play resulted in a win for the Phils, it was a glimpse of what this uber-talented but imperfect outfielder is capable of.

"Definitely one of the better feelings I've ever had in my entire life," Cozens said of Wednesday's jack.

"Just a great feeling to put a good swing on a ball off a guy who has pretty good stuff. I feel comfortable out there for sure."

There is massive power in both Cozens' bat and his left arm. That has never been in question. The three big questions are whether he can get on base enough, cut down on the whiffs and hold his own against lefties. Those are three things that, to a lesser extent, hampered Nick Williams in the minors but Williams has been able to improve upon them at the major-league level.

Cozens might not be up here for good. He could be the odd man out and sent back to Triple A when Rhys Hoskins returns from the DL. To avoid that, he'll need to keep producing the way he did in these two games. The Phillies will live with the strikeouts if they're accompanied by a homer per week.

"He's incredibly talented," Gabe Kapler said after the series finale, a 4-3 loss to the Cubs (see first take). "We were talking on the bench about how good of an outfielder he is. And he had some good at-bats today, some really good at-bats. He battled and drew [two] walks and did a good job for us."

Cozens is a walking embodiment of baseball's three true outcomes. Each of his last seven plate appearances has resulted in a walk, strikeout or homer.

"An exciting moment for all of us to witness," Kapler said of the homer off Morrow. "I'm really happy for him to get the bat-head out like that. We were all really surprised he was able to go oppo on that ball. Impressive stroke off a very difficult pitcher to square up."

The Phillies haven't gotten nearly enough impressive strokes lately. They went 5 for 24 with runners in scoring position in Chicago, and they have the worst batting average, OBP and slugging percentage in the majors since May 20.

On the flip side, Phillies starting pitchers have MLB's second-lowest ERA (2.66) in the last 29 games.

If the losses mount during this difficult month of June, just keep in mind that the Phillies were not expected to make the playoffs this season. Their over-under win total in Vegas was 73.5. Even after this rough stretch, they are still on an 86-76 pace, which would be one win shy of last year's second wild-card winner.

"This was not our best road trip, obviously," Kapler said. "We've proven that we can go toe to toe with the best teams in the National League. That felt like a playoff atmosphere out there, and I think our guys fought to the very end and the way we played against the Cubs, although we didn't come out on the winning end of the series, I thought we played our butts off in a lot of ways."

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

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

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.

More on the Phillies

Phillies stand by bullpen after another meltdown in loss to Cardinals

Phillies stand by bullpen after another meltdown in loss to Cardinals

BOX SCORE

It was another bad night for the Phillies’ bullpen Tuesday. Three more runs allowed, another blown lead, another home run. For the month of June, Phillies relievers have a 6.17 ERA and they have given up 64 hits, including a majors-high 13 home runs, in 54 innings.

Things have turned so badly for the bullpen that now even dashing debutant Seranthony Dominguez is giving up killer hits.

The hard-throwing rookie right-hander surrendered a tie-breaking, solo home run to St. Louis Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter in the top of the ninth inning as the Phillies blew a late two-run lead in what ended up a 7-6 loss (see first take).

Dominguez, brought in after Rhys Hoskins tied the game with a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth, struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Carpenter, looking like a man who knew what was coming, unloaded on an 0-2 fastball and sent it over the wall in right. Dominguez didn’t want to climb the ladder on Carpenter. He didn’t want to throw his slider. He wanted to get him out with a fastball on the inside part of the plate. He missed his spot and allowed his first homer in 22 1/3 innings as a big-leaguer.

Dominguez might have been guilty of being a little too proud of his fastball, thinking he could get it by Carpenter.

“I don’t think it was a rookie mistake at all,” manager Gabe Kapler said of the 0-2 fastball. “I think it was not a perfectly located pitch. But you can find those from veterans and you can find them from rookies. It’s just imperfect. If you can rewind time, maybe you throw that pitch a little more in off the plate and maybe then it’s foul. This is a game of inches and we’ve seen that over the last couple of days.”

Indeed, the Phillies won Monday night’s game in extra innings when Aaron Altherr’s go-ahead double fell just in front of a diving Marcell Ozuna in left.

Earlier Tuesday night, Carpenter tagged a 1-0 curveball from Tommy Hunter for a game-tying, two-run double with two outs in the seventh. That hit was the first of three straight against Hunter as the Cards rallied for four runs in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.

Hunter, in the first year of a two-year, $18 million contract, picked up Vince Velasquez in the inning after Velasquez had given up a single and hit a batter. Hunter got the first out before giving up a pair of two-run doubles, including Carpenter's.

“I had a lot of confidence in Tommy to get us out of that jam and their hitters did a really good job tonight,” Kapler said. “We just got beat by some good hitters tonight.”

It seems every night brings a new bullpen drama for this team. But management remains confident in the group. General manager Matt Klentak said so before the game (see story). He even singled out Hunter, who entered with a 4.05 ERA in 24 games, as possibly having the best year of his career. Even after the game, Kapler remained steadfastly confident in the bullpen. In recent days, he has been asked about possible upgrades. He believes the Phillies can solve their problems with the relievers that are currently here. 

“Roughly six days ago, the questions that we were addressing were: Are you concerned about this offense and I said very comfortably that I had a lot of confidence in this offense and the reason I said I had a lot of confidence in this offense is because I know that we have a talented group of individuals, guys that have a track record of success,” Kapler said. “I’m very confident in our bullpen, too, for the same reason. We have a lot of athletic arms out there, guys that are prepared to play every single night, guys with a track record of success. Seranthony has been dominant through the beginning of his career. Tommy Hunter has years of success under his belt. That’s why we went out and got him. Do I have confidence in our bullpen? Absolutely. Just like I have confidence in our offense.”

Odubel Herrera and Carlos Santana homered to help the Phils build a 4-2 lead for Velasquez. He allowed those two base runners with one out in the seventh to make Hunter’s job a little more difficult.

“Vince threw his tail off,” Hunter said. “But you know, it's just unfortunate that I wasn't able to get that done right there. It was a big part of the game, and I didn't come through. That's pretty much the whole gist of it.”

The loss left the Phillies at 38-33 and the bullpen licking its wounds.

The Phils also lost J.P. Crawford to a broken left hand (see story).

“Frustrating game to lose, obviously,” Kapler said.

More on the Phillies