Milwaukee Brewers

Who would've guessed Erik Kratz would be October's best ex-Phillie?

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Who would've guessed Erik Kratz would be October's best ex-Phillie?

Baseball has a way of turning the most anonymous player into a star in October.

On Sept. 3, the Cubs were five games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. Cole Hamels took the mound that night in Milwaukee and pitched well, allowing two runs in six innings to lower his ERA to an even 1.00 in seven starts with the Cubs.

At that time, who would have ever guessed that a month later, Erik Kratz would be the former Phillie making the biggest playoff impact?

Kratz, the journeyman catcher who spent 2011 through 2013 in the Phils' system and came back for a second stint in 2015, was key for the Brewers in their NLDS sweep over the Rockies. He went 5 for 8, breaking open Game 2 with a two-run single in the eighth inning and going 3 for 4 in the Game 3 clincher. 

He also caught two shutouts.

At 38, Kratz became the oldest position player to make his postseason debut since 1905. He had three more hits in the NLDS than he had in the majors in all of 2017. 

"If you told me 16 years ago that I'd be here today I wouldn't have changed the path that I took," Kratz told MLB.com after Game 3. "I never gave up. I've been blessed every day to be in this situation."

Kratz's story is one of perseverance. He was a 29th-round pick. He didn't make his MLB debut until the age of 30. He has never had a multi-year contract. 

And yet here he is, playing an integral role for a Brewers team that is hotter than any in baseball. 

Kratz has always been an extremely likable guy. And although he's just a .211 lifetime hitter with a .258 OBP, he does have 30 home runs and 32 doubles in 868 plate appearances. There aren't many above-average offensive catchers in starting roles, let alone backup roles. Out of a backup catcher, most teams typically seek power and defense. 

Kratz has both. He's also regarded as a very good pitch-framer, something this current Phillies regime is obsessed with.

In a Chase Utley-less postseason devoid of rooting interests for Phillies fans, Kratz is definitely a guy to cheer for.

#TurkeyBacon


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Cole Hamels uses Phillies fans as reference to roast Brewers fans

Cole Hamels uses Phillies fans as reference to roast Brewers fans

Cole Hamels threw 95 pitches during the Chicago Cubs’ 4-3 road loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. However, the lefty saved his best fastball for after the game.

That’s when Hamels buzzed Brewers fans for allowing the Cubs’ faithful to take over Miller Park in what is supposed to be a heated “rivalry.”

“I mean, that's kinda tough. I know the rivalries I've had in the past — you can definitely feel it,” Hamels said to reporters after he allowed two runs during six innings of work. “When you have majority Cubs fans in the stands, I don't know if that's a rivalry yet. I've been in rivalries. They're not gonna like me for the comment, but you can look at the ticket sales.

“I think when they start getting a little bit closer and their fans sell out, then I think that's kind of the understanding. But the Cubs fans travel well. They were representing us pretty well. I think it's just a matter of us going out there and playing hard.

“It's no [knock] on who they have in their dugout — they have great players and I know those guys wanna win. But in this game of baseball, you want to be able to see the fans in the stands. And obviously that's where you feel it the most. So to be able to have the Cubs fans travel in the masses that they do, it's great to see.”

How does Hamels know so much about real rivalries and what it means to have your supporters with you on the road? From his days donning red pinstripes, of course. 

The former Phillies ace credited fans here with showing him how to take over an opponent’s stadium.

“I was able to see that in Philly when we would come down and play in Washington,” Hamels said. “The Phillies fans would come down in droves. And it would be predominantly Phillies fans in Washington's stadium. That's just kinda the nature of where it is. That's probably not gonna sit too well with them, but I think they probably observed it just as well as I did.”

When you’re as hot as Hamels, you can say what you want. Despite the Cubs’ loss, he is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA since joining the club.

As for the Brewers’ fans, they’ll have some work to do if they hope to change the 34-year-old’s mind. After all, he is used to dealing with some of the best fans on the planet.

“As much appreciation as I have for the city, it's mutual,” Hamels said about Philadelphia this past weekend during a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park (see story). “This is a tremendous place to play. To win here was absolutely amazing. There aren't enough words to describe that sort of experience.”

Apparently, there are plenty of words to describe Brewers fans.

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Phillies trade Jake Thompson, call up Hector Neris, and monitor Wilson Ramos' progress

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Phillies trade Jake Thompson, call up Hector Neris, and monitor Wilson Ramos' progress

The Phillies made several transactions before Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

In a move that could have an immediate impact Tuesday night, the club recalled reliever Hector Neris from Triple A Lehigh Valley. To make room for Neris, the Phillies sent infielder J.P. Crawford to Lehigh Valley.

The move left the Phils with a four-man bench and gave them an unusual nine-man bullpen — three lefties and six righties.

Also on Monday, the team traded pitcher Jake Thompson to the Milwaukee Brewers in a cash deal. Thompson had been designated for assignment when the Phillies acquired left-handed slugger Justin Bour from Miami on Friday.

Thompson, 24, joined the Phillies organization from Texas in the July 2015 trade that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers. He pitched in 30 games for the Phillies over three seasons and shuttled back and forth to Triple A this season while working out of the bullpen.

Thompson was one of six players acquired from the Rangers for Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman. The others were pitchers Matt Harrison, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher, catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams. Harrison never pitched for the Phillies because of a back injury. The Phillies essentially took on his remaining contract as part of the deal. Asher was designated for assignment at the end of spring training 2017 and eventually dealt to Baltimore. Ironically, he landed with Milwaukee and was designated for assignment Monday to make room for Thompson.

Eickhoff, Alfaro and Williams remain with the Phillies. Eickhoff has been on the disabled list all season but is pitching on minor-league rehab. Alfaro and Williams are regulars with the big club.

Crawford sent down

Manager Gabe Kapler said the Phils decided to send Crawford down for more at-bats because Bour would be the first left-handed hitter off the bench and that would reduce some need for Crawford.

Also, the Phils like the idea of a super-deep bullpen against Boston and its majors-best offense.

“The Red Sox don’t have many holes,” Kapler said. “They do everything really well. We felt like if we could stay in games these next couple of games — even if we don’t have the lead, if we’re within striking distance, we felt like it was advantageous to stay in games even if it was two, three or four runs away from going for the jugular. So in that case, it’s nice to have an additional reliever for sure.”

Neris returns

Neris was sent to the minors in early July to repair his splitter and his confidence. He has been very good recently, giving up just three earned runs in 16⅔ innings over his last 17 games. He has allowed just nine hits and six walks over that span while striking out 29.

Wilson Ramos ready?

One final note: Catcher Wilson Ramos appears to be making speedy progress in his recovery from a hamstring strain. He was 4 for 9 with three doubles in three games for Clearwater from Saturday through Monday. Ramos is expected to be evaluated in Philadelphia on Tuesday and could be in the Phillies’ lineup sooner rather than later. The Phils acquired Ramos from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline knowing he’d need some time to recover from the injury suffered in early July.

“With Wilson, we're discussing what his next steps are going to be,” Kapler said. “Nothing is set in stone and nothing is off the table.”

Ramos' three rehab games have been “really, really good,” Kapler said. “He's come out feeling especially healthy. He's been productive at the plate. Last report from his game Monday night — nine innings, he was much more mobile behind the plate, no health issues, looking very good.”

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