Tag Archives: Cole Irvin

Phillies owner John Middleton shows he is clearly not “a potted plant”

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Gabe Kapler was fired after two seasons as Phillies manager

 

On Friday, October 11, 2019, less than two weeks after their once promising season came to an end with a final disheartening defeat that left the club without a winning record for an eighth consecutive season, the Philadelphia Phillies held a press conference.

The purpose of the presser was ostensibly to address the firing of manager Gabe Kapler. However, as principal owner John Middleton sat down at the dais, flanked by general manager Matt Klentak to his right and Phillies president Andy MacPhail to his left, there was clearly an even broader agenda.

The goal of Friday’s session was undeniably to put out the fires now raging throughout the Phillies fan base. That flame sparked as the club slowly fell out of contention over the final two-thirds of the season, then completely collapsed over the final weeks for a second straight year.

But the flames are not out. In fact, judging by the response on both traditional and social media, those flames are only burning hotter today.

The bottom line appears to be that not only did the fan base want Kapler gone, but Phillies fans also wanted to see Middleton turn the page on what has thus far been a failed MacPhail-Klentak regime.

That will not be happening – at least not for now. Logic would appear to say that, now readying for the third manager during their term, both men are now squarely under the spotlight themselves, about to face increased scrutiny from the owner.

If the failures of the first four full years under MacPhail and Klentak continue next season, it would be absolutely negligent for Middleton to allow them continued management roles with the team.

The biggest takeaway from the show was that Middleton himself is clearly the man who will have the final say in every important matter as this organization attempts to reach its goal of becoming a long-term contender.

Middleton is involved. Not just in the way that an owner is usually in charge. He is going to not only be intimately involved in the biggest big-league talent acquisitions, but also have the final say in a new manager and other key personnel moves.

MacPhail opened the press conference with a statement in which he laid out Middleton’s decision-making process in releasing Kapler with one year to go on the manager’s contract.

The club president provided that, on the recommendation of he and Klentak, the owner had undertaken a wide-ranging, week-long process of evaluation which included receiving positive feedback on Kapler from a number of sources. However, MacPhail then stated the following:

What John didn’t hear was any explanation of why we were 20-36 over the last two Septembers. Or more importantly, what was gonna be in place to ensure that didn’t happen again.

What MacPhail never once addressed was his own role in the failures of those two September collapses. It is the job of he and his hand-picked GM Klentak to provide the players, in both minor league depth and big-league talent, for the manager to have as resources to compete and succeed at the highest level.

As the second questioner from the local media called upon, Howard Eskin of SportsRadio 94 WIP FM and sports director at WTXF-TV wasted no time in asking the question of Middleton that was on the minds of most fans:

John, when you fired (former Phillies GM) Ruben Amaro, you said it’s a results based business…Gabe Kapler took the hit. And I’m wondering why it was just Gabe Kapler? And I, among other people, are wondering why…those two gentlemen are sitting with you today?

Middleton then went on a minute and a half spiel in which he questioned Eskin back, then tossed out some statistics showing improvement in the bullpen over the last couple months of the season. Bottom line, the owner failed to address the pivotal question directly.

MacPhail then jumped in, attempting to justify his and Klentak’s low-rated minor league system. The club president made excuses regarding picks lost due to free agent signings and the selection of high school players, and hung his hat on two or three recent draftees ranked by many services as among the top 100 in the game.

The fact remains that it was MacPhail and Klentak’s decision to select those high school players, including Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, over talented older prospects who have already impacted the big-leagues for other organizations, players who came from those same drafts.

Alec Bohm (34), Spencer Howard (88), and Bryson Stott (89) rank among the current top 100 prospects in baseball per MLB Pipeline, while Baseball America ranks just Bohm and Howard on their top 100 prospects list.

The draft is an inexact science, and teams are going to have hits and misses, even near the top of the first round. But talent comes to a Major League Baseball organization from more than the draft.

Despite four years of those drafts and four years signing international and other free agents to the minor league system, the Phillies organization is ranked among the bottom one-third in depth of minor league talent by nearly every reliable evaluator.

Baseball America had them at #25 back in mid-August. Fangraphs currently ranks the Phillies at #23 overall among MLB organizations. While MLB didn’t provide a recent full ranking, the Phillies were not listed among the top half of organizations back in August of this year.

When MacPhail took over as club president and hired Klentak as his general manager in the fall of 2015, the Phillies were clearly in rebuilding mode. They also had one of the top-ranked farm systems in baseball. Today, after four years, the club has still not registered even a winning season, and the farm season has virtually collapsed.

Both MacPhail and Klentak mentioned that outfielder Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, and pitcher Cole Irvin, the club’s fifth rounder in 2016, have already impacted the Phillies big-league roster.

Haseley slashed just .266/.324/.396 over 242 plate appearances this season, but did play solid defense. Irvin had a 5.83 ERA and 5.06 FIP while surrendering 45 hits over 41.2 innings in which he struck out just 31 batters this season. That is hardly a duo to hang your hats on as you try to defend your record in talent evaluation.

In response to a question posed by Kevin Cooney of PhillyVoice and Forbes, Middleton made it clear that the search for the new manager would be conducted by Klentak. But that would happen only after the GM sat down with he and MacPhail and laid out a profile of what to look for in a candidate.

Middleton will then be presented with the final name for an interview and evaluation. Clearly, the owner will have the final say on who is hired as the next Philadelphia Phillies manager.

During the course of the press conference, it was pointed out that the Phillies front office was “allowed to play the long game” by making the decisions not to give up young talent at the trade deadline in order to help the 2019 team reach the postseason. Meanwhile, Kapler was forced in the shorter term to try and compete with a lesser roster.

To that, Middleton stepped in with a matter-of-fact response: “That’s the inherent nature of the business. And it’s been that way for a hundred years, and it will likely be that way a hundred years from now. That just goes with the territory. And if the manager doesn’t like it or can’t handle it, then the manager shouldn’t be the manager.

What the owner was saying is a baseball truth that was known well to Kapler: managers are hired to be fired. The list of big-league skippers who get the job and then remain in the same position with the same organization over the long haul, eventually leaving or retiring on their own terms, is extremely short.

As the press conference wound towards a conclusion, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com questioned Middleton directly regarding the owner’s assertiveness in getting intimately involved in matters over the last year.

Especially, Zolecki questioned Middleton regarding any concerns that the owner may have that, had he not gotten so involved, things would be even more troubling today under the MacPhail-Klentak management team.

I’d like to think I actually bring value to an organization. That I’m not a potted plant sitting in the corner…This is what CEO’s do. You wouldn’t have a need for a CEO if everybody in that organization made every decision correctly every time.

Middleton never addressed, at least not in any way that will be accepted by the fans, the status of MacPhail and Klentak. But that is a bit telling in itself. If the two men do not see themselves as now more on the hot seat with the owner than even the new manager will ever be, they are sorely mistaken.

There is one man in charge of the Philadelphia Phillies these days. That man decided that it was time to change managers – again. It will be that man, John Middleton, who will now have to answer to his fan base should his decision to keep this upper management team in place backfire.

Phillies get reliever Mike Morin from Twins for cash considerations

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Phillies swapped cash to Twins for reliever Mike Morin

The Philadelphia Phillies announced a trade this morning in which the club acquired right-handed relief pitcher Mike Morin from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for cash considerations. Morin had been DFA’d by Minnesota three days ago.

Morin is a 28-year-old Minnesota native who was the Los Angeles Angels 13th round selection in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of North Carolina.
He broke into the big-leagues just two years later with a strong 2014 rookie performance for the Halos in which he went 4-4 with a 2.90 ERA and 1.186 WHIP. Morin pitched in 60 games that year, allowing 51 hits over 59 innings with a 54/19 K:BB.
While he wasn’t awful over the next few years, Morin was never able to repeat that same level of performance, and he was released in the summer of 2017. The Kansas City Royals picked him up, but Morin was ineffective over a half-dozen September appearances with the Royals.
Waived by Kansas City, Morin was selected by the Seattle Mariners in December of 2017. He would make just three big-league appearances for Seattle in the 2018 season, though he pitched well over 41 appearances (including three starts) with the Mariners Triple-A affiliates at Tacoma in the Pacific Coast League.
Morin was granted free agency this past off-season and the Twins signed him to a $750k deal for the 2019 season. Prior to being designated for assignment earlier this week, Morin was enjoying a solid but unspectacular season as a deep arm in the first-place Minnesota bullpen.
Morin appeared in 23 games for the Twins this year, producing 3.18 ERA, 4.50 FIP and 0.971 WHIP marks. He allowed 20 hits, including three home runs, over 22.2 innings with an 11/2 K:BB ratio.
The righty normally brings his fastball in the 90-92 MPH range. However, he is not a strikeout pitcher by any measure. Morin primarily utilizes a sinker and an effective changeup to keep hitters off balance and induce ground balls, a repertoire that could actually play well at Citizens Bank Park.
Morin was a close friend of recently deceased Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, attending the wedding of his former teammate just last December. According to Betsy Helfand of TwinCities.com, Morin’s fiancee’ Amy Nece shared a suite with Skaggs’ wife, Carli, during the combined no-hitter last week in which Angels players draped their #45 jerseys across the mound as a tribute to the pitcher, who had died suddenly in his hotel room while on a recent road trip.
You just do life together,” Morin said per Helfand. “…Naturally, we all become close. We all become a family. And when you lose one of your family members, it’s pretty devastating.
Morin will become part of the bullpen mix with the Phillies as soon as he arrives. His pure numbers are better than a handful of relievers who have been pitching key innings of late, including Juan NicasioJ.D. Hammer and Cole Irvin. Fans should expect manager Gabe Kapler to use him liberally, especially if Morin pitches as he did with Minnesota.
In accompanying moves, the Phillies slid injured reliever Seranthony Dominguez over to the 60-day Injured List and optioned Hammer back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Dominguez is not expected to return to the club until mid-August at the earliest.

Jake Arrieta has bone spurs on his elbow, could be lost to surgery

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On Saturday night in Queens, Jake Arrieta was downright horrendous in his starting assignment at Citi Field against the New York Mets.
The Phillies 33-year-old right-hander was torched by the Mets batters for 11 hits which produced six runs, five of those earned, and he was almost constantly in trouble.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, a base running gaffe by Robinson Cano helped Arrieta escape having allowed just one run despite surrendering two hits and hitting a batter. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Mets had the bases loaded with one out. Again, Arrieta wriggled out of it, allowing just one run.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Todd Frazier led off with a single and came home on a double by the next batter, Dominic Smith. Arrieta again escaped with just one run allowed, thanks largely to Smith being thrown out trying to stretch that double into a triple.
In the 5th inning, the Mets finally kicked in the door, driving Arrieta from the game amidst controversy. With one out, he hit Frazier with a pitch, prompting Frazier to bark at Arrieta all the way down to first base.
When home plate umpire Tripp Gibson immediately warned both benches, Mets skipper Mickey Callaway came out to argue. Frazier then turned his barking to Gibson and was ejected. The Mets third baseman had to be restrained from going after Arrieta, and was fuming as he made his way to the dugout and locker room.
Smith then doubled again, moving pinch-runner Adeiny Hechavarria around to third base. Arrieta then hit another batsman, Amed Rosario. Despite the earlier warning, the Phillies pitcher was not ejected, but Callaway was when he argued that fact.
It might have been better for the Phillies had Arrieta been ejected, because the very next batter, catcher Tomas Nido, ripped a bases-clearing double to put the Mets on top by a 6-4 margin. That would prove the game-winner, as the hosts would go on to an eventual 6-5 victory.
Following the game, Arrieta made this controversial comment: “Frazier’s not happy about it, he can come see me. I’ll put a dent in his skull.

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Arrieta postgame: “Frazier’s not happy about it, he can come see me. I’ll put a dent in his skull.”

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Then in a report this morning by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic with contribution from Matt Gelb it was revealed that Arrieta has been battling an injury.
Arrieta has a bone spur in his right elbow, according to a source, and it likely will require surgery to remove it — surgery that those involved had hoped could wait until the end of the season. That delay is no longer certain.
Reporters repeatedly tried to question Arrieta following the game on the possibility of injury. He gave nothing but vague or evasive answers.
I labored physically,” Arrieta said per Rosenthal and Gelb. “I wasn’t able to put the ball where I wanted to. It’s been that way for a few weeks. Just physically not in a great spot.

Things have not gone as hoped for the Phillies when they signed former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta at spring training in 2018.
Arrieta has made 17 starts in this, his second season with the Phillies after signing a big free agent contract during 2018 spring training. He leads the Phillies staff with 108 innings pitched and 8 wins. But he also has a 4.67 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and .282 batting average against, surrendering 18 home runs.
Over his last seven starts, Arrieta has allowed 53 hits including nine home runs over 38 innings pitched. Amazingly, the Phillies have gone 4-3 in those outings, including last night’s defeat.
If Arrieta is lost now, or if that happens in the next week or so, the Phillies already emaciated starting rotation is going to be on life support. Aaron Nola has regained his form of a year ago and is pitching like an ace once again. But otherwise, none of the Phillies starting pitchers has been reliable.
Zach Eflin has allowed 26 hits over 14 innings across his last three starts with a 9.64 ERA and .400 batting average against in that span. Nick Pivetta has a 5.84 ERA and 1.476 WHIP over his 11 starts. Vince Velasquez has already been bounced from the rotation once, and has a 4.63 ERA and 1.402 WHIP over 20 games, 10 each in relief and as a starter.
The other options tried during the season have been equaling unimpressive. Jerad Eickhoff, currently on the IL, had a 5.71 ERA and 1.303 WHIP over a dozen outings, including 10 starts. Cole Irvin was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the southpaw produced a 7.82 ERA and 1.579 WHIP over his three shots in the rotation. Enyel De Los Santos was called up and in his lone start against Miami, the righty allowed four earned on seven hits over just four innings.
Injuries to the relief corps has decimated the Phillies bullpen as well, making the pitching staff nearly a complete disaster at this point. The Phillies pitching staff collectively ranks 12th of the 15 teams in the National League in ERA (4.66), and both their .266 batting average against and 802 OPS against are 14th of the 15 NL clubs.
The pressure is now on general manager Matt Klentak to find a deal or two to strengthen the rotation unless he is willing to throw in the towel on a run at a 2019 postseason run. It seems highly unlikely that such a thing would be acceptable to owner John Middleton. But with two spots to fill and a number of other teams in Major League Baseball going after the same available arms, the job may simply be too big for Klentak to successfully complete.

In the longer run, Arrieta has a player option at $20 million for the 2020 season. It seems hard to believe that he would not exercise that option for a season during which he would be 34 years of age, coming off a down, injury-marred campaign. That means the Phillies would be locked into his presence in their rotation for next season, at least to open the year.

Chase Utley retires as a Phillies player prior to Friday night series opener

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Chase Utley retires as a Phillie prior to Friday night’s game

For the Philadelphia Phillies (39-35) the hope has to be that a return to home cooking, sleeping in their own beds, the comforting presence of their families, and the home crowd cheering them on at Citizens Bank Park will help turn their season back around.

The club left South Philly just over a week ago after being shutout by the Arizona Diamondbacks, losing a series for the first time to a team not named the Los Angeles Dodgers in more than a month.
Heading out on the road for seven games against their two most talented division rivals, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, the Phillies floundered. They dropped six of the seven games, with one getting postponed by rain.
Over the last three weeks the Phillies have gone into a stunning free-fall, dropping out of the NL East Division lead. The club has lost four in a row, six of seven, and eight of their last 10 games. They are now also on the outside looking in where the National League Wildcard standings are concerned.
A month-long stretch against only NL East opponents continues this weekend. But instead of the top divisional opposition it will be the last-place Miami Marlins (27-46) paying a visit. The Fish have dropped 10 of their last 14, and only two teams in all of Major League Baseball have a worse record.
The two teams have met seven times already this season, with the Phillies capturing five of those games. In each of those two April series, a four-game set at Marlins Park and a three-gamer at Citizens Bank Park, the Marlins managed to win one game. The Phillies have outscored Miami 37-25 so far, and it’s only that close because of a big 10-3 win by the Marlins on April 13.
Right now, the Phillies cannot afford to take any opponent for granted after being outscored 46-21 over the last week in their games against Atlanta and Washington. While this is a less talented opponent, the fact is that the Phillies aren’t pitching or hitting well enough to intimidate anyone lately.
Injuries certainly have played a role in the Phillies downfall. They have lost left fielder and leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen for the season. Their bullpen has largely been in shambles, with seven relievers on the Injured List at one point. But every team suffers injuries.
Manager Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff need to find some answers quickly, because the fan base is getting increasingly restless. If the fortunes of this team, one those fans had begun taking for granted as an exciting contender this season, do not turn around fast, those fans are going to become downright mutinous and ugly.
On a positive note, the Phillies will celebrate the career of franchise icon Chase Utley prior to and during the game on Friday night. Utley, who spent 13 seasons as the Phillies second baseman and was a hero of the 2008 World Series champions, is officially retiring as a member of the Phillies organization. Perhaps his presence and the atmosphere it inspires will contribute to a positive change in the atmosphere surrounding the current ball club.

FRIDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES

  1. Bryce Harper RF
  2. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  3. Jay Bruce LF
  4. J.T. Realmuto C
  5. Jean Segura SS
  6. Scott Kingery 3B
  7. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  8. Aaron Nola P
  9. Roman Quinn CF
Gabe Kapler pulling the old pitcher-batting-eighth routine, and this may be the perfect situation with a hitter such as Quinn.

MARLINS

  1. Miguel Rojas SS
  2. Harold Ramirez LF
  3. Brian Anderson 3B
  4. Starlin Castro 2B
  5. Cesar Puello RF
  6. JT Riddle CF
  7. Bryan Holaday C
  8. Yadiel Rivera 1B
  9. Sandy Alcantara P

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

PHILLIES – Aaron Nola: 6-1, 4.89 ERA, 1.506 WHIP, 86 hits allowed over 81 IP across 15 starts with a 90/36 K:BB
MARLINS – Sandy Alcantara: 3-6, 3.73 ERA, 76 hits allowed over 82 IP across 14 starts with a 58/38 K:BB

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • It’s been a split-decision for Alcantara in his only two previous starts against the Phillies. On September 5 of last season in just his second-ever big-league start he shut them down on three hits over seven innings at Marlins Park. But then on April 12 of this year, the Phillies pounded him for 11 hits and six earned runs over five innings at Citizens Bank Park.
  • Nola has made 11 career starts against Miami over which he has a 3-4 record with a 3.48 ERA and 1.129 WHIP. The Phillies lost his only start this year against the Marlins, dropping a 3-1 decision that was in no way his fault. Nola allowed just one earned on seven hits over 6.2 innings, but Marlins starter Caleb Smith matched him and the Fish won in 10 innings.
  • The Phillies have not lost a season series to the Marlins since the eventual 2008 world champions dropped 10 of 18 to them. In fact, the 2009 NL champions split with the Marlins 9-9. The Phillies have won the season series now for nine straight seasons and have won five of the first seven meetings so far this year.
  • As much as the Phillies offense has struggled to score, with their 352 runs ranking just 9th in the National League, the Marlins have scored nearly 100 fewer runs. They rank at the bottom of the NL with 254 runs scored. The Marlins hitters are also collectively last in home runs and OPS. Their 23 stolen bases is tied with the Phillies and San Francisco Giants for next-to-last in the league.
  • This could be a low-scoring series, because a struggling Phillies offense will be up against the strength of the Marlins team, their pitching staff. Miami pitchers have produced the fourth-best batting average against mark in the NL, and are tied for seventh in ERA and OPS while allowing the third-fewest home runs.
  • Adam Morgan has returned, giving the Phillies a valuable lefty bullpen arm. Cole Irvin was sent to Triple-A.
  • Utley has been making the rounds in the area while back east for tonight’s big ceremony. He helped dedicate a refurbished field for RBI, middle school, and high school games in Allentown, PA. Utley was part of the committee working with MLB to select fields around the country for refurbishment, and held a clinic at the site.

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Phillies suffer humiliating Father’s Day defeat at hands of the Braves

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Braves mascot stole Harper’s money, players stole Phillies hearts

The host Atlanta Braves (42-30) completely dismantled the Philadelphia Phillies (39-32) by a 15-1 score, treating the fans at SunTrust Park to a real Father’s Day celebration.

With the win, the Braves open up a 2.5 game lead on the Phillies in the National League East Division standings. Atlanta has now won 12 of their last 15 games, and they are 24-10 since manager Brian Snitker installed 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. as his leadoff man.
The Phillies were never in this one. Manager Gabe Kapler decided to go with Vince Velasquez in an “Opener” role, and it completely backfired. Velasquez (2-4) surrendered three runs in the bottom of the 1st inning to put the club into a hole from which they were never able to climb out.
Velasquez was followed to the hill by Cole Irvin, and the lefty was even worse. Irvin would go 3.2 innings, allowing six earned runs and letting the Braves score in every inning in which he was on the mound.
Next up, Jerad Eickhoff, meaning that Kapler used three pitchers who were in his starting rotation at one point in this season. Eickhoff was even worse than Irvin, if you can believe that, surrendering five earned runs in just one inning on the bump.
The Phillies most effective “pitcher” in this game? Utility man Sean Rodriguez, who tossed a shutout frame in the bottom of the 8th inning that included a strikeout.

Rather than just tick off each of the runs and prolong the agony for you readers, let’s just take a look down the Braves lineup. Acuna had four hits including his 16th home run and scored four runs. Josh Donaldson produced three hits including his 12th homer. Freddie Freeman had two hits, a walk, two RBIs, and two runs scored. Ozzie Albies had three hits, two runs, and two RBIs. Nick Markakis and Austin Riley each had a pair of hits, combining to score two runs and drive in three.

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Here’s a look at Josh Donaldson’s third homer of the series, which pushed Braves lead out to 5-0 in bottom of 3rd inning.

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All-in-all, the Atlanta lineup went 19-40 on the afternoon. That makes for an incredible one-day batting average at the .475 mark. Again, against three pitchers who were in the Phillies starting rotation this season.
The lone Phillies run came in the top of the 5th inning with the club already down by a 7-0 score when an RBI single off the bat of Bryce Harper scored Andrew Knapp. Though Atlanta’s starting pitcher, Mike Foltynewicz (2-5) was wild, walking five and throwing one charged wild pitch (he threw another wild that didn’t hurt him), the Phillies simply couldn’t take advantage.
In his post-game presser, Kapler had little choice but to be matter-of-fact after this kind of defeat: “We’re gonna need to perform really well against teams like the Atlanta Braves. They’re a deep lineup. We’ve obviously played them well overall on the year, but today’s effort wasn’t good enough.
“We turn the page and move on to Washington very quickly. We don’t dwell on this one, we get right on to the next one.” ~ Gabe Kapler
The Phillies have no choice but to forget about this one. They played the red-hot Braves extremely tough over the first two games of the series, losing Friday night on a walkoff and then winning last night with their own 9th inning rally. They now move on to Washington for a four-game set with the Nationals beginning on Monday night in our nation’s capital.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

PHILLIES – Vince Velasquez: 2.1 IP, 4 hits, 4 earned runs, 0 walks, 4 strikeouts. Threw 38 pitches, 26 for strikes.
BRAVES – Mike Foltynewicz: 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts. Threw 100 pitches, 62 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: RONALD ACUNA JR

Hard to top a four-hit, four-run game in which you bash a home run. Acuna has been the Braves catalyst for the last 6-7 weeks, and he was that once again today.

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