jesmuel valentin

Trevor Plouffe hits walk-off homer to give Phillies 16-inning win over Dodgers

Trevor Plouffe hits walk-off homer to give Phillies 16-inning win over Dodgers


The Phillies rallied from three runs down in the seventh inning then needed what seemed like an eternity to post a wild, 7-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

The Phillies won it on a three-run home run by Trevor Plouffe with one out in the bottom of the 16th inning.

The homer came against Kike Hernandez, a Dodgers infielder who had taken over on the mound. Hernandez walked two before Plouffe’s big hit.

Vince Velasquez, who is scheduled to start on Saturday, was pressed into duty and got the win with a scoreless inning of work in the top of the 16th.

The game took five hours and 55 minutes to play. It ended at 1:14 a.m.

The win improved the NL East-leading Phillies to 56-44. They lead Atlanta by a game. The Braves lost at Miami.

The Phillies will look for a series win over the Dodgers on Wednesday with Jake Arrieta on the mound.

The Phillies’ bullpen delivered 11 innings of one-run ball — including 10 scoreless innings in a row — after Aaron Nola departed. Victor Arano, who was originally signed by the Dodgers and acquired by the Phillies for Roberto Hernandez in August 2014, pitched scoreless ball in the eighth and ninth after the Phillies rallied to tie the game with three runs against starter Kenta Maeda in the bottom of the seventh. Two of those runs came on a booming, game-tying, two-out homer by Jorge Alfaro with two outs.

Luis Garcia and Austin Davis both pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

Nola lasted just five innings in his shortest outing since April 4. He allowed five hits, including a solo homer, and walked two on his way to giving up three runs. However, two of the runs would not have scored had the Phillies’ defense not made another poor showing.

Centerfielder Odubel Herrera and second baseman Jesmuel Valentin combined to botch a pop up to shallow center field that would have ended the first inning. The inning stayed alive and Nola threw a wild pitch to score a run from third. Alfaro, the catcher, could have saved Nola, but he was unable to block a ball that appeared quite blockable. It was the second night in a row that happened with Alfaro behind the plate and both times it cost the Phillies a run.

In the fifth inning, leftfielder Rhys Hoskins could not make a play on a catchable ball to the wall by Joc Pederson. It went for an RBI double, giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.

The Phillies got a run back in the bottom of the fifth on a solo homer by Nick Williams, but the Dodgers went right back up by three runs on a homer by Yasmani Grandal against Adam Morgan in the sixth. Grandal had homered against Nola earlier in the game.

Maeda did not allow a hit until there were two outs in the fourth inning. Williams’ homer got the Phils on the board in the fifth and the bats fully awakened against Maeda in the bottom of the seventh.

Carlos Santana started the uprising with a single. He scored on a double by the resurgent Maikel Franco to make it a 4-2 game. Two batters later, Alfaro unloaded on a 1-0 fastball and sent it far over the center-field wall to tie the game at 4-4. Alfaro crushed the ball. It came off the bat at 114 mph and traveled 446 feet. Alfaro knew he hit it well and he admired the shot for a second or two before breaking into his home-run trot.

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Game 1 Monday shows why Phillies need help on the bench

Game 1 Monday shows why Phillies need help on the bench

NEW YORK — The Phillies need at least one more bat.

Monday's extra-inning loss in Game 1 of the Phils' doubleheader vs. the Mets can be attributed to several things (see first take), but the lack of punch off the bench was what stuck out most.

Aaron Altherr pinch-hit for Zach Eflin in the sixth inning and grounded into a double play. The Phils have just a four-man bench and were not about to use Jorge Alfaro in a pinch-hitting spot in Game 1 of a doubleheader, so that effectively left Gabe Kapler with just Jesmuel Valentin and Dylan Cozens.

Both failed to come through in a high-leverage spot. Valentin pinch-hit with one out after the Phillies loaded the bases on walks in the eighth inning. After working a full count, he struck out.

Two innings later, the Phillies put the first two men on base before Cozens ultimately pinch-hit with two outs. He struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch.

All the Phils needed in the eighth inning was a medium-deep fly ball. All they needed in the 10th was a bloop hit. Valentin isn't exactly the type to drive the ball consistently, at least not yet at the major-league level. Cozens' penchant for swinging and missing is well-documented.

A month or two from now, the Phillies will likely have better bench options because they should be able to add a piece or two ahead of either the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline or both.

Kapler reaffirmed his confidence in his bench players after the Game 1 loss, making note of Valentin's clutchness earlier this season. 

"I believe in all of our players," the manager said. "I will continue to believe in our players. We've had some big at-bats from Val and some big hits. He's actually won us some games with some big clutch hitting."

Indeed, Valentin helped the Phillies win a game on June 23 when he untied things against the Nationals with a seventh-inning sac fly. It's not that he's an incapable player, he's just not the ideal second man off the bench for a contending team.

The Franco factor
The Phillies have been connected to several hitters on the trade market. Acquiring someone like Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas or Adrian Beltre could push Maikel Franco to the bench if he's not also moved. That would be one way to upgrade the bench.

Franco, by the way, is up to .273/.320/.458 on the season after a hot few weeks. As crazy as this sounds, he's three points behind Odubel Herrera for the team lead in batting average.

Franco has thrived since moving to the eight-hole. In six games since Kapler moved him down, Franco has gone 9 for 19 with a double, a homer and three walks. It's prompted some to call for Franco to move back up in the order, but Kapler likes the current setup.

"I really like him in that spot," Kapler said. "I like that he's kind of forced to be patient with the pitcher behind him. He's not always going to get something to hit early in the count. Sometimes, they are going to be considering the fact that the pitcher is behind him. And so, therefore, they are going to force him to see the ball a little bit longer. And I'm not saying one thing has led to the other. I just kind of like him there and we'll see how this works going forward."

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Gabe Kapler plays utility man at third base as he waits for Maikel Franco to make 'fixes' in his game

Gabe Kapler plays utility man at third base as he waits for Maikel Franco to make 'fixes' in his game

WASHINGTON — When J.P. Crawford went down with a broken hand on Tuesday, it ostensibly meant more playing time for Maikel Franco after he’d played himself out of the Phillies' regular third baseman’s job.

But Franco did not start Friday night’s game against the Nationals. Utility man Jesmuel Valentin got the nod at third.

Manager Gabe Kapler talked up Valentin saying, “There’s a lot of people in our organization who believe Val is a prospect and by prospect I mean a guy who can contribute on the major-league level either as a utility guy or a guy who plays a little more regularly, so we want to see that.”

But Kapler made it clear that Franco needs to make some “fixes.” In particular, Kapler wants to see the slow-footed Franco drive the ball in the air more and get on base more. Phillies management has made these observations before. Many times. Franco’s inability to improve in these areas is the reason he lost playing time to Crawford in the first place. It was the reason the Phillies seem to be phasing him out their plans, the reason they are likely to seek a trade-deadline upgrade at third base — if they can stay in contention.

Kapler said he wasn’t sending any messages in holding Franco out of Friday night’s lineup.

“The only message tonight is let’s win the baseball game and give Maikel a chance to work on his craft,” Kapler said.

Indeed, Franco spent significant time before the game working in the cage with hitting coaches John Mallee and Pedro Guerrero.

“The profile on Maikel is who he is — a guy who hits home runs and sometimes in bunches and has a lot of power, hasn’t been able to consistently get on base over a long period of time and that feels like what makes a major-league third baseman is a guy who gets on base and hits homers and plays good D,” Kapler said. “So if you have all three, you’re a regular at third base for a really long time. If you have two of the three, it’s a challenge. And right now, Maikel is dealing with working on his D and making that better and he’s also dealing with adding one more offensive tool to the third-base mix. The home runs are going to be there. If you gave him 500 plate appearances, he’s going to hit you 25 homers. But that doesn’t make a third baseman at the major-league level long term, just that in isolation.”

Entering Friday, Franco had just a .284 on-base percentage and he had hit the ball on the ground 52 percent of the time, the 13th-highest rate among 162 qualifying hitters in the majors, according to FanGraphs data.

Kapler said he remains confident that Franco can make the fixes he’s looking for.

“He’s a young player. He’s 25. He’s still developing,” Kapler said. “I still have a ton of confidence that he can put it all together and we can roll with Maikel Franco, and we’re doing everything in our power to access that player. He’s very talented. That confidence has not let up at all.”