Carlos Carrasco

Indians' Shane Bieber pushes Phillies one step closer to the end

Indians' Shane Bieber pushes Phillies one step closer to the end

CLEVELAND — Time continues to run out for the Phillies.

They suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the Brewers hammered the Pittsburgh Pirates, 10-1.

These two outcomes dropped the Phillies five games back in the NL wild-card race with just 10 games to play. The math is against the Phillies. Their elimination number is down to five. If Milwaukee plays just .500 ball over its last eight games, the Phillies would have to go 10-0 just to tie. For a team that hasn’t won more than four games in a row all season, that’s bad news.

“We’ve got to win. Period,” Jay Bruce said. “Can’t worry about anything else. You listen. You read. You concern yourself too much about it and it doesn’t do any good. So we have to win and see what happens. There are no promises. But we know we can’t go where we want to go if we don’t win.”

The Phillies didn’t win Friday night because they did not get a good start from Drew Smyly and they did not hit Cleveland starter Shane Bieber.

The loss was the Phillies’ second in a row and it came with J.T. Realmuto, arguably the team’s MVP, getting the night off. Jean Segura also did not play because of a sore ankle.

Realmuto has carried the heaviest load of any catcher in baseball and manager Gabe Kapler decided to give him a recovery day on the opener of a crucial series. Kapler explained his reasons before the game (see story). Realmuto was not available before the game and he refused to speak with reporters after the game. He is expected to start behind the plate on Saturday night when Jason Vargas looks to stop the losing skid. Vargas has lasted just three innings in each of his last two starts.

Smyly allowed seven base runners and gave up four runs in the first two innings Friday night. He was gone after walking the first batter in the bottom of the third. The lefty appeared perturbed upon leaving the game, but it wasn’t with Kapler’s decision to pull him. The bullpen allowed just one run the rest of the way to keep the Phils in the game.

“I wasn’t upset,” Smyly said. “I was just upset with how the game went. I just wasn’t very good tonight at all. I wasn’t very good with my command and put the team in a hole.”

The Phillies got a two-run double from Maikel Franco, a late add to the starting lineup after Segura was scratched, in the fifth inning and that was the extent of their offense.

Bieber, a 24-year-old right-hander, scattered seven hits, walked none and struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings of work. He looked very much like the guy who was the MVP of the All-Star Game in July.

“He showed why he’s one of the best young pitchers in baseball,” Kapler said. “He brought his A-game tonight. He was able to execute all of his pitches, threw strikes, attacked the zone, and had some wipeout stuff below the zone.”

“He’s the true definition of a pitcher,” Bruce added. “He’s got good stuff, commands both sides of the plate and doesn’t give in. He’s very confident in every pitch he has. He did what he wanted tonight. He hit his spots, he got ahead, he finished guys with different pitches.”

Bieber, who is 15-7 with a 3.23 ERA this season, was a product of the 2016 draft. He went in the fourth round, which means there are 29 clubs out there kicking themselves for passing on him. The Phillies made four picks in that draft, including Mickey Moniak at No. 1 overall, before the Indians selected Bieber out of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Phils selected pitcher Kevin Gowdy, infielder Cole Stobbe and pitcher Jo Jo Romero with their next three picks. Moniak played at Double A this season and Romero pitched at Double A and Triple A. Gowdy missed time recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitched at Lakewood this season. Stobbe also played there. Moniak, Stobbe and Gowdy were all chosen out of high school.

A familiar name closed the door for the Indians. Carlos Carrasco, the former Phillies prospect who was traded for Cliff Lee a decade ago, got the final four outs for the save. Carrasco is one of the game’s best inspirational stories. He was treated for leukemia this summer and is back helping the Indians in a playoff chase.

The 91-win Indians are tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot.

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More on the Phillies

Phillies and Indians match up very well for a big trade

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Phillies and Indians match up very well for a big trade

There have been plenty of starting pitchers connected to the Phillies this offseason. There was James Paxton, before the Yankees trade. Robbie Ray. Madison Bumgarner. Zack Greinke.

Patrick Corbin, of course. The top free-agent lefty was in Philly on Tuesday.

Keep an eye on the Cleveland Indians. The Phillies and Indians match up as well for a big trade as any two clubs in baseball. 

Why? Because the Phillies need starting pitching and the Indians need outfielders. Those just so happen to be areas of depth for the other team.

The three Indians pitchers potentially available for a trade are Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. 

First, their contract situations

Corey Kluber (entering age 33 season)
2019: $13M*
2020: $13.5M
2021: $14M club option

Carlos Carrasco (age 32 season)
2019: $9M
2020: $9.5M club option

Trevor Bauer (age 28 season)
2019: 3rd year of arbitration ($11.6M projection)
2020: 4th and final year of arbitration ($15-17M)
2021: Free agent

There's a lot to analyze here. Kluber has been the best of the three, Bauer is the youngest, Carrasco is the cheapest. It's hard to gauge who Cleveland will be most willing to deal. Bauer's production isn't far behind Kluber's at this point after his major strides in 2018. Bauer was 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA, had the lowest home run rate in the AL, and struck out 221 in 175 innings.

Yet Bauer might be the one the Indians decide to deal. It would be selling high, and they'd avoid the rising cost of his services. Bauer's personality is also ... out there. He's not necessarily a distraction, but he's very opinionated, tweets crazy stuff at times, and his disagreements with the Diamondbacks' front office played a role in his being traded to Cleveland.

Carrasco the best bet

Of the three, I'd go after Carrasco, who the Phillies traded for Cliff Lee way back in 2009. Carrasco is so good, so consistent, so underrated. 

His ERA the last five seasons: 3.38, 3.29, 3.32, 3.63, 2.55.

His WHIP: 1.13, 1.10, 1.15, 1.07, 0.99.

His strikeouts per nine innings: 10.8, 10.2, 9.2, 10.6, 9.4.

His walks per nine: 2.0, 2.1, 2.1, 2.1, 1.9.

Carrasco is a model of consistency, and he's performed like this in the tougher league. He misses so many bats. He can dominate one game with his fastball, the next with his changeup and the next with his slider and curveball. His arsenal is vast and his ability to adjust is what should make talent evaluators confident he can remain successful into his mid-30s. Watching him dominate the lowly White Sox, Royals and Twins in recent years, one envisions Carrasco blowing through the Marlins' and Mets' lineups with regularity.

What would it cost?

The Indians have a giant hole in the outfield. If the season opened tomorrow, their starters would be Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen and Leonys Martin as they await the return of Bradley Zimmer, who so far hasn't met expectations. That legitimately might be the worst outfield in baseball.

Fortunately for the Phillies, they have some young and talented outfielders and a real shot to replace one of them with Bryce Harper. 

The Phillies could pique the Indians' interest with a package including Odubel Herrera or Nick Williams. It would likely cost more — perhaps a package of Williams, Vince Velasquez, a prospect, and either Aaron Altherr or Jerad Eickhoff for Carrasco. Such a trade would be beneficial to both sides — the cost-conscious Indians get a young, cheap outfielder who's better than what they have. They'd also add some upside and create more depth either in the outfield or rotation.

Even if the Phillies don't get Harper, there are more solid outfielders available in free agency than there are pitchers like Carrasco. 

The biggest roadblock will be what other teams can offer. Carrasco's talent and contract make him the kind of pitcher every team should be after, big market or small, legit contender or not. 

The Phils are just in a unique position with regards to these trade talks because they could part with two outfielders for Carrasco (if that's what it takes) and still be a vastly better team in 2019.

Best of MLB: Carlos Carrasco throws 'immaculate inning' in Indians' win

Best of MLB: Carlos Carrasco throws 'immaculate inning' in Indians' win

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco handled Detroit's lineup for the second time in a week -- striking out a season-high 11 and pulling off a rare nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning -- and Lonnie Chisenhall hit a two-run homer, leading the Cleveland Indians to an 11-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.

Carrasco (10-3) allowed two runs in seven innings to win his fifth straight decision. He limited the Tigers to one run in seven innings on July 1.

The right-hander also recorded an "immaculate inning" by striking out the side in the fifth on nine pitches. Carrasco is just the second pitcher in Cleveland history to do it, joining Justin Masterson (2014).

Chisenhall connected in Cleveland's five-run third off Jordan Zimmerman (5-7), who remains winless since June 3.

Michael Brantley had four RBIs, Francisco Lindor drove in three and rookie Bradley Zimmer homered for the Indians, who played their fourth straight game without manager Terry Francona. He remains in the Cleveland Clinic following a heart procedure (see full recap).

Murphy hits walk-off single to give Nationals victory
WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's one-out RBI single in the 10th inning capped the Washington Nationals' 5-4 comeback victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Adrian Sanchez led off the 10th against Ian Krol (1-2) with his first major league hit and two batters later moved to third on Ryan Zimmerman's single. Murphy then lofted an opposite-field single over left fielder Matt Kemp's head to win it for Washington.

Matt Albers (5-1) induced Kemp's double play grounder to end the 10th to help the Nationals escape a two-on jam.

Washington extended its lead in the NL East to 9 1/2 games over Atlanta (see full recap).

Springer's 2 homers spark Astros’ win
TORONTO -- George Springer homered twice and tied a career high with five RBIs as Houston rocked Aaron Sanchez in his return from the disabled list, propelling the Astros to a 12-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.

Springer hit his 26th and 27th homers of the season, including a two-run shot off Sanchez (0-2) in the second inning. The All-Star outfielder had four hits, and the Astros improved their major league-leading record to 59-28.

Making his first appearance since May because of blisters, Sanchez allowed eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Houston's Carlos Correa extended the longest active hitting streak in the majors to a career-high 15 with his 18th homer in the first inning. Evan Gattis added his seventh homer in the seventh.

The support eased Charlie Morton's (6-3) return to action. The right-hander, sidelined since May 24 with a right lat strain, gave Houston one-run ball over six innings, surrendering four hits to tie his season low (see full recap).