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Madison Bumgarner nearly perfect against lifeless Phillies in series opener

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The Philadelphia Phillies (59-56) look for all the world like a defeated ball club following yet another loss in which they simply did not show up to play.

That would be Thursday’s series opening 5-0 defeat at the hands of the host San Francisco Giants (57-59) at Oracle Park.
The feeble Phillies offensive attack, such as it was, consisted of three base runners. Only a one-out, pinch-hit single off the bat of Cesar Hernandez kept them from getting no-hit by Madison Bumgarner.
In the end, the Giants starter combined with a pair of relievers to shut the Phillies out. It marked the seventh white-washing of the season for the Phillies batters. To call them “hitters” at his point would be to besmirch that term.
Phillies starter Aaron Nola was part of the no-show team effort. The club’s ace was chewed up by a team that came into the game statistically as the second-worst offensive club in the National League, one that had been averaging only 2.78 runs per game over their previous nine contests.
The Giants rapped out seven hits against Nola, who also walked two batters. They were also the beneficiaries of a pair of wild pitches thrown by Nick Pivetta in relief, and a throwing error on backup catcher Andrew Knapp.
Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of legendary Boston Red Sox left fielder and Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, was the offensive star for San Francisco. The new ‘Yaz’ ripped a two-run double in the bottom of the 3rd inning to push an early Giants lead out to 3-0. He then blasted a solo homer, his 11th of his rookie season, in the bottom of the 7th inning to provide the final score.

 

 

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This was a fourth loss in five games for the Phillies, who have now gone just 3-6 over their last nine. It dropped the club out of an NL Wildcard spot as well. They now sit in a three-way tie, a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the final National League postseason berth.
But playoffs should be the furthest thing from the mind of the Phillies players at this point. There is absolutely zero chance of this team reaching the postseason for the first time in eight years. A season that began with so much excitement and anticipation has devolved into a hellish nightmare of injuries, inconsistencies, and failures, both on the field and in the front office.
Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine that this level of play can continue for very much longer without someone losing their job over it.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

Phillies – Aaron Nola (L 10-3): 5 IP, 7 hits, 3 earned, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts. 93 pitches, 59 for strikes.
Giants – Madison Bumgarner (W 7-7): 7 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts. 85 pitches, 56 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: MADISON BUMGARNER

While Yastrzemski doubled, homered and knocked in three of the five Giants runs, this was Bumgarner’s game. He tossed a masterpiece, and very nearly one for the history books.
Bumgarner retired the first 10 Phillies batters in a row before losing Hoskins on a full count cutter. Then he left an 89 mph two-seam fastball a little out over the plate, and lost his no-hit bid to a Cesar Hernandez single with one out in the 7th inning.
If this is going to be the final seven weeks for MadBum in a Giants uniform after 11 mostly glorious campaigns, then the pending free agent is going out in style and showing that he still has plenty in the tank, having just turned age 30 a little more than a week ago.

TICKET IQ NEXT GAME

 

 

Hunter Pence, Ian Happ would be perfect fits for Phillies bench at trade deadline

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Hunter Pence has refreshed his career at home in Texas

The majority of chatter and rumor involving the Philadelphia Phillies as the 2019 trade deadline approaches has revolved around pitching, and for good reason. The Phillies are probably going to need to find a pair of new starting pitchers in order to remain in contention for a postseason spot this year, and that remains the case after the signing of lefty Drew Smyly.

However, there is no doubt that the club could also use better options coming off their bench. There are a pair of hitters rumored to be available who could help bolster those bench options for manager Gabe Kapler.
One of those is a name and face familiar to many Phillies fans, corner outfielder Hunter Pence. After completely reworking his swing and rededicating himself to a new training regimen, Pence stunned many across baseball by emerging as an AL All-Star this season at age 36.
Pence, who plays for the Texas Rangers, is now the subject of a new documentary “The Pence Method“, which will air for the first time tonight (Saturday) on FS1 at 9;00 PM.
Jeff Wilson for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram interviewed Pence recently, and quoted him on how it felt to know that teams were interested once they learned of the changes he was making.
There was a lot of doubt. I lost my job. I wasn’t playing every day, and it hits your confidence. I wasn’t necessarily doing great right away. It took a lot of failing to really learn the swing change. When you’re going through that process, and when I heard that at the winter meetings at lot of general managers were interested, it was tears of joy. I felt super grateful and honored. It was like a light at the end of the tunnel.
Pence, who has earned more than $120 million over a 12-year big-league career which included a stop in Philadelphia from July 2011 through July 2012, would eventually accept a $2 million dollar, one-year deal with the Rangers. He has far outperformed that contract.
Over 58 games and 228 plate appearances, Pence is slashing .291/.351/.587 with 15  home runs, 30 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and 45 runs scored. He has an outstanding .938 OPS, and while used mostly as a DH (30 games), Pence has also played 16 games in left field and five in right.
Coming back to Philly, Pence would become a right-handed bat off the bench as a pinch-hitter while also providing occasional innings as a corner outfielder.
Texas was in the AL Wildcard race throughout the season’s first half. But having lost 11 of their last 15, the Rangers now find themselves 5.5 games in back of the second Wildcard spot and nine games out in the AL West Division. At some point soon they are going to have to do the right thing and sell on what has basically been a rental player in Pence.
Getting a big price in return will not be easy, despite his production. But any contender could use a player with the energy, dedication and skills of a Hunter Pence. The Phillies especially so, if a trade match can be found.
Perhaps the Rangers would take a flyer on someone like Nick Pivetta, just bumped to the bullpen by the Phillies in favor of newcomer Drew Smyly, for their rotation?

MINOR LEAGUE UTILITY PLAYER COULD ALSO HELP

Ian Happ appeared as a utility player in each of the last two seasons with the Cubs, but has been at Triple-A all of this year. (Ian D’Andrea)
The other interesting available name is that of Ian Happ, currently playing at Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs system. Happ is a 24-year-old (he turns 25 next month) who appeared with the Cubs as a utility player in each of the last two seasons, but has not been called up yet in 2019.
Across the outfield, Happ appeared in 117 games in center, 88 in left and 38 in right field. On the infield he played in 46 games at second base, 24 at third base and saw action at first base for a pair of games.
This year at Iowa, Happ has split his time between center field (76) and second base (19) while also appearing twice in left field. He has produced 16 homers, 34 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and 63 runs scored while also stealing nine bags.
The Cubs might actually be a fit for someone like either Cesar Hernandez or Maikel Franco. A straight-up swap of Happ for Hernandez would allow the Phillies to put Scott Kingery at second base on an everyday basis, with Happ taking over the center field depth spot and spelling almost anyone at any other position as well.
This is a deal that could potentially expand to see the Phillies go after Cubs backup catcher Victor Caratini as their own new backup behind the plate to replace Andrew Knapp, who has appeared over-matched for the most part. With the Cubs recent signing of Martin Maldonado and the anticipated return next week of two-time NL All-Star Willson Contreras, general manager Jed Hoyer may be inclined to swap both Happ and Caratini if the right pieces can be found in return.
Sure, let’s keep the focus on the starting rotation, where it belongs. But if Phillies general manager Matt Klentak doesn’t also have his eye on making improvements to the club’s bench, it could eventually sink the team down the stretch. Pence and Happ would upgrade the Phillies depth for the 2019 playoff push.

Would Phillies be better with Kingery-Franco than Hernandez-Kingery at 2nd and 3rd?

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Maikel Franco should be playing third base every day

Things have been going pretty badly for the Philadelphia Phillies over the last three weeks. And it now appears that one former starting position player, third baseman Maikel Franco, may be in the proccess of being given up on by the manager.

Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler had two lineup cards to fill out on Wednesday as his club was set to play a day-night doubleheader against the Washington Nationals. In the first, Kapler named Scott Kingery as the starting third baseman. In the lineup announced for the nightcap, newcomer Brad Miller is scheduled to man the hot corner.
When Kapler needed bats off the bench to pinch-hit in that opening 6-2 defeat at the hands of the host Nationals, he went to Miller and the repeatedly ineffective Andrew Knapp.
Franco certainly hasn’t helped his case with the bat this season. the 26-year-old hasn’t produced a multi-hit game since May 13, and has just two home runs since April 26. However, Franco is also the third-best defensive third baseman in the National League, eighth-best in baseball, so far this season according to Fangraphs.

Is keeping Franco out of the lineup the best move to give the  Phillies a chance to win baseball games these days?
In Kingery, the Phillies have a player who won a minor league Gold Glove Award for his play at second base just two years ago. Over the last 14 games covering his own last 67 plate appearances entering today, second baseman Cesar Hernandez was slashing at just the .115/.179/.213 mark.
Would the Phillies be better off with Kingery at second and Franco at third on an everyday basis, rather than Hernandez at second and Kingery and others juggling the hot corner? Would the defense become more consistent? Better overall? Would that help win some ball games?
Franco has always been a streaky hitter. From Opening Day through April 27 covering the entire first month of this season, Franco was slashing .271/.360/.542 with seven homers among a dozen extra-base hits with 22 RBIs. Everyone was bestowing “the best #8 hitter in baseball” title on him. If he were playing every day, Franco would likely have another streak similar to that one at some point.
The question as to what to do with center field is a legitimate one. Roman Quinn is back from his latest stay on the Injured List. He is clearly the best defensive center fielder available to the team right now. But how long would Quinn remain healthy if playing every day, given his consistent injury history?
For me, defense matters. And also, you play your best team available at the time. You worry about injuries when (if) they occur. I play Kingery at second base, Franco at third base, and Quinn in center field every day. Meanwhile, I do my best to find a more veteran center field option.
I fully understand that Hernandez has his “fan club” among a certain segment of the fan base. That is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. This is mine.
The only opinions that matter belong to Kapler and Matt Klentak. We’re seeing their choices, and they simply aren’t working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Phillies position players: 2019 first trimester report cards

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Mixed grades for Phillies position players in first 2019 trimester

Each season in Major League Baseball is currently scheduled to last for 162 games. This means that the Philadelphia Phillies reached the 1/3 pole of the 2019 campaign this past Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park against the Saint Louis Cardinals.

I previously handed out report cards for the first “trimester” of the season for each of the starting pitchers on the Phillies 2019 roster, as well as outfielder Nick Williams and reliever Pat Neshek.
In an effort to wrap-up the process, this piece will include a letter grade, along with a brief description of each remaining key position players contributions, including their relevant statistics through Tuesday night, May 28.
I’ll be back with player grades for the second trimester and the season to that point when the Phillies reach the 108-game mark. That is scheduled to come on July 31, the same date as the MLB trade deadline.

STARTING LINEUP

Andrew McCutchen (B): ‘Cutch’ slashed .257/.375/.446 with eight homers, 26 RBIs, 38 runs scored, and 21 extra-base hits through the first one-third of the season. He provided strong left field defense, and was mostly solid when called upon to fill in at center field as well. For the forseeable future in this 2019 season, that could prove to be his regular position.
Jean Segura (A): Segura was perhaps the club’s most consistent hitter at that one-third mark, slashing .308/.354/.478 with five homers, 23 RBIs, 35 runs scored, and 19 extra-base hits. He has also provided stellar defense at shortstop. Segura missed ten games after suffering a mid-April injury.
Bryce Harper (B): For many fans, the first one-third of this Phillies season was a disappointment from Harper after he was signed to a massive free agent contract. True, he hit for just a .232 average. But he also got on base at a .357 clip, and provided nine homers, 36 RBIs, 31 runs scored, and 25 extra-base hits. While we expect more offensively, his grade also reflects his having played outstanding defense in right field and provided a hustling example on the field and base paths at all times.
Rhys Hoskins (A): Through the one-third pole of the season, Hoskins was the club’s most consistent run-producer. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, with his return to the more comfortable first base position and the improved offensive talent surrounding him in the batting order. He slashed .271/.396/.536 with 13 homers, 41 RBIs, 31 runs scored, and 24 extra-base hits.
J.T. Realmuto (A): It would be hard to argue that there is a better all-around catcher in the game of baseball today. Realmuto slashed .272/.325/.462 with eight homers, 32 RBIs, 33 runs scored, and 19 extra-base hits. More importantly, he started 46 starts of the club’s first 54 games behind the plate, throwing out some of the best base runners in the game on a consistent basis.
Odubel Herrera (F): His season and his career with the Phillies came to an end with his arrest on charges of domestic violence in an Atlantic City casino late last Sunday night. I don’t think it is too presumptuous or irrational to make that statement. Herrera was placed on paid disciplinary probation by MLB as they examine the incident. Prior to that, he was awful, slashing .222/.288/.341 with just one homer, 16 RBIs, and a dozen runs and extra-base hits. He also continued to mix fantastic plays with boneheaded blunders in center field. The only surprise is that, prior to the arrest, he still had many supporters among the fan base.
Cesar Hernandez (B): While his defense remains questionable at the Keystone and his baserunning leaves much to be desired, there is no doubt that Hernandez has provided much more with his bat than anyone could have predicted. He was slashing .303/.361/.482 with six homers, 25 RBIs and runs scored, and 21 extra-base hits at the one-third mark of the season. His all-around game is all that is keeping him from an ‘A’ grade.
Maikel Franco (C): Had the third baseman been judged on his first month alone, he would have received an A+ in all likelihood. But a deep May slump has seen his numbers plunge, and dropped his grade for the first 1/3 of the season commensurately. Franco slashed .219/.294/.388 with seven homers, 29 RBIs, 23 runs scored, and 17 extra-base hits. However, he hasn’t homered in more than a month, and slashed just .158/.190/.211 with four RBIs from May 2-28. He has played a solid third base, helping his grade some.

BENCH REGULARS

Scott Kingery (A): The primary bench weapon for manager Gabe Kapler so far this season, Kingery missed a month from mid-April to mid-May. However, when playing he slashed .339/.381/559 with seven RBIs and nine extra-base hits and runs scored in just 63 plate appearances. Having played five different positions already this season, Kingery is filling the super-utility role carved out for him at the outset of the season perfectly to this point.
Andrew Knapp (D): It is becoming increasingly evident that Knapp is not a big-league caliber player for a postseason contender, even as a backup catcher. Over the first 1/3 of the season he slashed just .167/.352/.286 with one solo homer, two doubles, and six runs scored across 54 plate appearances. The backup catcher is a tough role. You don’t play regularly, especially with a guy like Realmuto as the starter. That is revealed by the nine starts among 26 games played for Knapp. But the team simply must get more production from the position when that backup backstop is called upon.

THE REST

It simply wouldn’t be fair to give players such as Phil Gosselin or Sean Rodriguez a grade, since neither has received nearly enough playing time or been assigned any type of consistent role with the team. Both have had moments in which they have helped. Neither has lit the world on fire. Rodriguez in particular appears to be the type of veteran bench player who could continue to help the team as it contends over the summer.
Players such as Roman QuinnDylan CozensMitch Walding, and Aaron Altherr, who each appeared over the first 1/3 of the season, simply did not play enough as well. As a group, you would have to give this Phillies “deep bench” grouping no better than a ‘D’ cumulative grade. They inspired no fear in the opposition, nor confidence in the fan base.

Local product Phil Gosselin proving invaluable off Phillies bench

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Phil Gosselin grew up as a Phillies fan, now plays for the team

Though the Philadelphia Phillies hold a three-game lead (four in the loss column) in the National League East Division standings, there have been weak links in the squad keeping the club from extending their lead even wider.

One of those areas has been a less-than-imposing group of bench players who have collectively produced a mixed bag of results when called upon. Six players have received the bulk of the work in that reserve role, with a few of them seeing starting opportunities when injuries have struck.
The six players making up the Phillies bench for the majority of the season have been backup catcher Andrew Knapp, outfielders Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr (the latter recently DFA’d), and utility players Scott Kingery (currently injured), Sean Rodriguez, and Phil Gosselin.
Prior to suffering his injury the 25-year-old Kingery was on fire and pushing for increased playing time. However, he has been on the Injured List since April 20. The Phillies are hoping that he can begin a minor league rehab stint on Monday and return to the team in short order.
Also producing well has been the veteran Rodriguez, who was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley when starting shortstop Jean Segura was placed on the IL in late April.
Altherr was slashing just .180/.241/.280 prior to his release. Williams is slashing just .180/.241/.280 over 54 plate appearances across 32 games, just nine of those as a starter. Knapp is slashing .172/.333/.241 over 19 games, five of those as the starter behind the plate to give J.T. Realmuto a rest.
A feel-good story off the bench for the Phillies has been the 30-year-old veteran Gosselin, now in his seventh big-league season. The Phillies are Gosselin’s seventh team over the course of his career in Major League Baseball. He previously has seen action with the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, and Cincinnati Reds.
Part of what makes Gosselin’s story attractive to Phillies fans is that he is a local product. He was born Bryn Mawr, grew up in West Chester, and is a graduate of Malvern Prep High School for whom he played shortstop.
Gosselin went to the University of Virginia and enjoyed a highly successful collegiate career, setting the Cavaliers school record with 100 hits in the 2009 season. That helped earn him first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American honors. He was then selected by the Braves in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft.
He reached the big-leagues with Atlanta in 2013, and since then Gosselin has been used as either a bench player or a Triple-A reserve. His best season came during a 2015 campaign split between Atlanta and Arizona. He appeared in 44 games between the two stops and slashed .311/.373/.500 with career highs of three home runs and 15 RBIs that year.
The most action that he has seen came in the 2016 season with the Diamondbacks. That year, Gosselin received 240 plate appearances over 122 games, the vast majority as a pinch-hitter. He produced a career-high 15 extra-base hits as a valuable member of manager Chip Hale‘s bench group.
Gosselin signed with the Phillies back on December 21. At spring training in Florida he made the most of his opportunities, slashing .405/.444/714 with eight extra-base hits over 19 games and 42 at-bats.
Assigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to begin the season, Gosselin kept hitting with a .419/.538/.516 slash line over his first 10 games. That performance and some Phillies injury issues led to a mid-April promotion, and his production with the big club has kept him here since that time.
It’s exciting,” Gosselin said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia following his promotion. “I think all of us in here, guys that don’t play every day, want to play every day. We all want to get the chance, no matter if it’s catcher, right field. I’ll put in some work with (infield coach) Bobby Dickerson, keep working at it, and look to make all the routine plays out there so the pitchers have confidence in me.
Gosselin is hitting .300 over 30 plate appearances in 15 games. He started five games at shortstop when Segura was hurt, and has also appeared twice in left field, including once as a starter when Andrew McCutchen was playing in center.
Perhaps most importantly, Gosselin has been the lone player to produce as a pinch-hitter this season. He is batting .500 (4-8) in that role with a pair of RBIs.
On April 24 at Citi Field his 8th inning pinch-single off Robert Gsellman gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead. He would later score during a four-run outburst that broke open a 1-0 game to a 6-0 win.
At Citizens Bank Park on May 1, Gosselin was sent up to pinch-hit by manager Gabe Kapler with the Phillies leading the Detroit Tigers by 6-3. With two outs and two men on and facing Tigers righty reliever Zac Reininger, Gosselin delivered a double to score Cesar Hernandez.
Gosselin has played every position on the infield as well as numerous innings in left field during his career in Major League Baseball. That versatility and the experience gained over 609 big-league plate appearances could prove invaluable to these 2019 Phillies.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phil Gosselin has proven he belongs by producing off the Phillies bench