*** Phillies hold off Cubs in wild 9-7 affair on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field *** Phillies are 29-21 and lead NL East by 1.5 games, two in loss column *** Visit PHILLIESNATION.com and follow @PhilliesNation on Twitter and Facebook for updates on the Philadelphia Phillies all year long ***

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Odubel Herrera's time as Phillies center fielder may be coming to an end

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Odubel Herrera has manned center field for five years in Philly

Despite losses in their last two games, the Philadelphia Phillies remain atop the standings in the National League East Division, a post they have occupied now for all but seven days this season.
But the team has some significant roster and lineup holes which are keeping them from really establishing themselves as clear favorites.
One such hole, by far the biggest where the everyday lineup is concerned, has developed out in center field. Incumbent Odubel Herrera, who has filled the position for the better part of the last five years, is just not getting the job done.
Herrera is slashing just .219/.280/.342 over his first 35 games and 125 plate appearances. This is not some aberration, but the continuation of a career trend. Herrera’s batting average has dropped every season of his big-league career.
From hitting .297 as a rookie in 2015, he has dropped to .286, .281, .255 to his current low point. Over the last four years his on-base percentage has also plummeted from .361 to .325 to .310 and now today’s poor level. His slugging has fallen off for a third straight year from .452 to .420 to its now .342 mark.
From August 1 onwards last season, Herrera slashed just .189/.242/.287 over 45 games and 153 plate appearances. His was not the only poor performance leading to the club’s collapse from first to third place over the final seven weeks of 2018, but it was a major piece to that puzzle.
Searching for a better option, manager Gabe Kapler turned in desperation to Scott Kingery to man the position during the second and third games of the current four-game series against the host Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Cubs walkoff the Phillies with rally in bottom of the 9th

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Kris Bryant led the Cubs past the Phillies on Tuesday night at Wrigley

The host Chicago Cubs (28-18) rallied to a 3-2 walkoff victory over the Philadelphia Phillies (28-20) by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the 9th inning on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field on Chicago’s North Side.
The Cubs got on the board first thanks to the aggressiveness of Kris Bryant. The Cubs third baseman singled with one out in the bottom of the 1st inning and moved to second when Anthony Rizzo followed by drawing a walk.
Both runners were moving as Willson Contreras grounded to short, keeping them out of the doubleplay. The move paid off doubly as Bryant never stopped running while Jean Segura threw to first. Bryant slid in to home plate just ahead of the throw from Rhys Hoskins to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs nearly put another on the board in the home 4th inning. With two outs, Kyle Schwarber drew a walk. Bryant followed with a double down the left field line as Schwarber raced home and crossed the plate.
However, a challenge from Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler went the Phillies way thanks to a “stadium ground rules boundary” ruling that changed the play to a ground rule double. Schwarber was put back at third base, and Eflin then retired Rizzo on a fly out to center to escape trouble.


After making the final out in right field in the sixth inning, Bryce Harper trolls Cubs fans and LAUNCHED the ball out of Wrigley Field and on to the rooftop. 😂

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Big four-game series between Phillies and Cubs continues at Wrigley Field

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Wrigley Field is the site of a four-game series between Phillies and Cubs

The Philadelphia Phillies (28-19) woke up this morning in the Windy City with the club sitting at nine games over the .500 mark for the first time since last September 2.
On Tuesday night at Wrigley Field the Phillies will try to clinch at least a tie from this four-game series with the host Chicago Cubs (27-18) as the two first-place teams continue their battle. In last night’s wild series opener, the Phillies captured a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
The Phillies have now won four straight close affairs to fashion their first four-game winning streak since capturing the first four of the 2019 season. During this stretch, the Phillies have won three times by a single run and won by two runs in the other game.
From July 31 through August 5 of last season the Phillies won five in a row. That pushed the club to 15 games over the .500 mark for the first time since the 2011 season. It was also the last time that the team won five straight games. They won six in a row twice during last season. On Tuesday night they will try to get five straight for the first time in the 2019 season.

TUESDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES LINEUP

  1. Andrew McCutchen LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  7. Scott Kingery CF
  8. Maikel Franco 3B
  9. Zach Eflin P

Dylan Cozens to have foot surgery that will jeopardize his 2019 season

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Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens career sidelined by foot surgery

The Philadelphia Phillies organization has lost an outfield prospect with big-league experience. It was announced today that Dylan Cozens, who has appeared in 27 games with the Phillies, will have foot surgery and miss the rest of the 2019 season.
Cozens, who turns 25-year-old on May 31, played in 26 games with the Phillies during the 2018 season. He slashed just .158/.273/.289 over 44 plate appearances, making eight starts. Half of those came over the final week of the regular season, after the Phillies had been eliminated from postseason contention.
On June 6 in just his third big-league game, Cozens blasted his lone home run to this point in Major League Baseball. That night at Wrigley Field against the host Chicago Cubs, Cozens drilled a two-run homer off closer Brandon Morrow in the top of the 9th inning to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead.
Cozens was called up briefly this season and appeared in one game on April 26. He grounded out weakly to second base as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 7th inning of a Phillies 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
OF Dylan Cozens (foot surgery) done for the season

Slashed .167/.333/.462 with 6 HRs, 20 BBs, 42 Ks in 23 games with @IronPigs

The Phillies second round pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in his native Arizona, Cozens became a sensation in the 2016 season at Double-A Reading. That year he blasted 40 home runs and stole 21 bases, teaming with current Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (38 homers) to form the most powerful combo of hitters in all of Minor League Baseball.

Phillies search for a closer is over as Hector Neris seizes the role

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Hector Neris has seized the Phillies bullpen closer role

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler began the 2019 season without a named closer at the back-end of his pitching staff. There were a number of options who appeared to be reasonably attractive. The skipper chose to simply use whichever option appeared best at an important moment over the late innings based on specific match-ups.
What began as a group of a half-dozen arms who Kapler hoped would fill those end-game roles has gradually shrunk to dangerously low levels.
David Robertson started slowly, producing a 5.40 ERA and 2.100 WHIP over seven games. The veteran free agent signee allowed eight hits over his first 6.2 innings with a 6/6 K:BB ratio before going down with a flexor strain in mid-April. It had been assumed by many that he would ultimately see the bulk of any “closer” opportunities.
Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano have also wound up on the Injured List. Youngsters Seranthony Dominguez and Edgar Garcia, the former who many believe has the pure stuff to one day serve as a closer, have been inconsistent at best. Pat Neshek has mostly succeeded despite not having dominant stuff and getting hit hard at times.
But one arm has emerged to save the day. That would be the big right arm of 29-year-old Hector Neris.
Neris had been the Phillies closer entering the 2018 season. But he began the year blowing a series of games, and by the end of June his ERA had skyrocketed to the 6.90 mark. Mercifully, he was demoted to Triple-A in order to rediscover his mojo.
Over 19 games with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Neris regained his confidence. He dominated minor league hitters, allowing just nine hits over 18.2 innings, striking out 31 batters while walking just seven in that time.
In mid-August, the righty was called back to Philadelphia. He immediately carried over that minor league success to the big-leagues, becoming the National League’s Reliever of the Month even though he didn’t appear in a single game with the Phillies until the 15th of the month.

Cesar Hernandez is holding off critics with a hot start to the 2019 season

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Cesar Hernandez has been hitting well for over a month

This piece has to begin with a disclaimer. Few writers who cover the Philadelphia Phillies on a regular basis have been more critical of second baseman Cesar Hernandez over the last couple of years than yours truly.
If I’ve called for the Phillies to jettison Hernandez and install Scott Kingery as the starting second baseman once, I’ve done it a hundred times since the winter prior to the 2018 campaign.
Hernandez registered career highs of 15 homers, 60 RBIs, and 91 runs scored. He led the Phillies with 19 stolen bases, tying his career high mark.
However, Hernandez slashed just .220/.321/.332 over the 2018 season’s final two full months. The Phillies were in first place and 11 games over the .500 mark when his poor hitting began in earnest on July 29. By the time it all officially came to an end on September 29, the club had finished in third place. They were 10 games out, and produced a sixth consecutive losing season.
Hernandez wasn’t the only reason for that 2018 collapse. Not by a long shot. But he was consistently unproductive. Many of the other players who made up the bulk of the losing during the previous few seasons were gone already. Freddy Galvis, Dom Brown, Cody AscheJohn Mayberry Jr, Cameron RuppTommy Joseph. All either released or traded away.
The 24-year-old Kingery had struggled in his first taste of the big-leagues last season, but also had been forced out of position to shortstop for most of the year, a position he had never previously played. Kingery had been a star in the minor leagues during the 2017 season, after which he was signed to a club-friendly long-term contract.
The Phillies looked to make wholesale changes to their lineup entering the 2019 campaign. Trades brought in a new shortstop in Jean Segura and a new catcher in J.T. Realmuto. Both Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper were signed to take over the corner outfield spots. Rhys Hoskins was moved back to his more natural first base position.
The idea that the Phillies could upgrade the second base position as well was a natural for those of us in the anti-Cesar camp. Find a taker for a player who would turn 29-years-old this year. Turn the Keystone over to Kingery at his own natural position, where he had won a 2017 minor league Gold Glove.
The calls got even louder as the first few weeks of 2019 unfolded. Kingery came out blazing hot, slashing .406/.457/.719 over his first 14 games. Meanwhile, Hernandez was slashing just .246/.329/.391 with just five extra-base hits over his own first 18 games.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Defending NL East champion Braves stay right on Phillies heels in mid-May

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Ronald Acuna Jr and the Braves are defending NL East champs

One week ago today, the Philadelphia Phillies (27-19) were seven games over the .500 mark in first place in the National League East Division standings. They led the second place Atlanta Braves by three games, and were four up in the loss column over both Atlanta and the New York Mets.
Following a week in which they went 4-3, the Phillies are now eight over that .500 mark. But the Braves also fared well, cutting into that lead. Atlanta now trails by 2.5 games, three in the loss column. Meanwhile, the Mets have fallen six back in the loss column, with the Washington Nationals even further in the rear view mirror at eight games out.
After dropping three of four games to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies rebounded to sweep out the Colorado Rockies in three games over the weekend at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are now 4-3 during what was a tough 23-game stretch of their schedule.
Now comes the most difficult part of that rough stretch, with 13 of the next 16 games on the road. It all starts with a seven-game road trip this week. Four games at Wrigley Field against the NL Central Division-leading Chicago Cubs followed by a three-game series next weekend with the Brewers at Miller Park.
During this series against the Cubs, fans of the Phillies will experience a first. On Wednesday night, Chicago will send lefty Cole Hamels to the mound. It will mark the first-ever career start for Hamels against the team for whom he broke into the big-leagues, won 114 games over 10 seasons, and captured both the World Series and NLCS MVP awards during the 2008 postseason championship run.
As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of the Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS


EAST DIVISION

    East Division
    TeamWLW-L%GB
    Philadelphia Phillies2719.587--
    Atlanta Braves2522.5322.5
    New York Mets2025.4446.5
    Washington Nationals1927.4138.0
    Miami Marlins1331.29513.0

    Sunday, May 19, 2019

    Scott Kingery returns, Nick Williams shipped out to Triple-A

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    Nick Williams will get regular playing time at Triple-A

    Prior to their Sunday series finale with the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park, the Philadelphia Phillies made an interesting roster move.
    Scott Kingery, the club’s best bench player over the first few weeks of the season and their second baseman of the future, returns to the team this afternoon. Kingery has been out since straining his right hamstring back on April 19 against these same Rockies out at Coors Field.
    “I am 100 percent,” Kingery said per Marc Narducci of Philly.com after last night’s rehab game in Reading. “I was looking to test (the hamstring) in every area of the game.”
    Kingery hit just .143 over 15 plate appearances split between Low-A Lakewood and Double-A Reading. But more importantly he played the field at multiple positions and ran the bases with no issues.
    In a corresponding move the club shipped outfielder Nick Williams out to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This should prove to be a good move for both Williams as a player and the organization as a whole. Just 25-years-old, Williams needs to play everyday in order to be ready to help the Phillies as either a player should injuries strike or as trade bait.


    So far this season, Williams has received just 61 plate appearances over the first two months. He is slashing just .180/.231/.262 with three extra-base hits. With veteran Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper manning the outfield corners on an everyday basis, Williams has made just 10 starts over the team’s first 45 games.
    I think the important thing for him right now is to get a lot of reps,” Phillies assistant general manager Ned Rice said about Williams per Martin Frank at DelawareOnline.

    Saturday, May 18, 2019

    For a second straight series a top opposition prospect bat debuts against the Phillies

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    Brendan Rodgers was the third overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft

    For the second straight series, Citizens Bank Park has been part of the introductory process to Major League Baseball for the top prospect of the Philadelphia Phillies opposition.
    Earlier in the week, top Milwaukee Brewers prospect Keston Hiura made his big-league debut. The 22-year-old second baseman was the Brewers’ first round selection at ninth overall in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of California-Irvine.
    Hiura went just 2-12 over his first three games, with both hits coming in his first start on Tuesday night. But all the California native has ever done is hit, wherever he has played. He was tearing up the Triple-A Pacific Coast League to the tune of a .333/.408/.698 slash line with 11 homers, 24 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs, and 23 runs scored prior to his promotion.
    Last night in South Philly it was the visiting Colorado Rockies turn to break in their top prospect. Like Hiura, Brendan Rodgers is also an infielder who was their first round choice, going at third overall in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft out of a Florida high school.
    Also like Hiura, Rodgers had been tearing his way through the Pacific Coast League when he got the call. He was slashing .356/.421/.644 at Albuquerque with 20 extra-base hits, nine homers, 21 RBIs, and 34 runs scored.

    Rodgers made his big-league debut with the Rockies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. (David B. King)
    A natural shortstop, Rodgers is expected to play mostly second base in Colorado, the position at which he debuted last night. That is due to the presence of All-Star shortstop Trevor Story already in the lineup for manager Bud Black.
    Watching talented young hitters such as this make their entry into the big-leagues, Phillies fans have begun to wonder, where is ours? When will a legitimate top young hitter again come out of the Phillies minor league system and establish himself as a force in Major League Baseball?