*** Cubs rally to walkoff Phillies by 3-2 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night *** Phillies are 28-20 and lead NL East by 2.5 games, three in loss column *** Visit PHILLIESNATION.com and follow @PhilliesNation on Twitter and Facebook for updates on the Philadelphia Phillies all year long ***

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Bryce Harper's first Phillies home run paces victory over Braves

Bryce Harper's first homer leads Phillies to victory
The Phillies (2-0) powered up for the second game in a row to open the 2019 campaign, rolling past the Atlanta Braves (0-2) by an 8-6 score on Saturday afternoon at raucous Citizens Bank Park.
For the second straight game it was the club’s new-found long ball power that led the way. The team used Maikel Franco‘s second no-doubt homer of the season and the first-ever blasts from both J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper in a Phillies uniform to supply the difference.
For Harper, who agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies just one month ago, the first home run was also his first hit with the team. The second-deck shot to right-center field was one of the longest in Citizens Bank Park history and elicited a deafening roar from the home crowd, which demanded a curtain-call from their new hero.
Harper was happy to oblige, pumping both arms into the air as he faced the crowd behind the Phillies dugout and roared back at them with as much energy and excitement as they were washing over him.
“It was awesome. One of my favorite homers that I’ve ever had, definitely,” said the Phillies right fielder to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Gregg Murphy following the game.
The game didn’t begin well for the home side. The Braves broke out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of a 1st inning RBI single from Freddie Freeman and a 2nd inning two-run homer from Dansby Swanson. For Freeman it was the first of four hits on the day as he almost single-handedly kept the visitors in this one.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

2019 Philadelphia Phillies preview and predictions

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Shortstop Jean Segura part of dynamic new Phillies lineup

The Philadelphia Phillies opened the 137th season in franchise history on Thursday with a big 10-4 victory over the defending National League champion Atlanta Braves. The victory came thanks to some stellar pitching from ace Aaron Nola and a power display from the new, deep lineup.
However, as all true fans of the game know, Opening Day is just one of 162 on the regular season schedule. While it’s always nice to get off on the right foot, a win in your first game does not always portend a season of success. A loss would not condemn your team to a losing campaign.
You might be interested in taking a few moments to go back and view both my 2017 Phillies preview and 2018 Phillies preview. Both were pretty solid looks at where the team would go and how they would finish.
Two years ago when some thought the Phillies were already a .500 team, I called it a 72-90 season. The club finished 66-96. Last year, I had them improving to 82-80. Thanks to a stumbling finish they were just 80-82. Still pretty close. I guarantee you that, barring major injuries, I’ll be close again this year.



EVERYDAY LINEUP IMPROVEMENT

The biggest single factor in the Phillies improving their record from last year to this 2019 season will be the overall power and depth coming from the everyday lineup.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 28: Philadelphia Phillies Outfield Andrew McCutchen (22) is congratulated by Philadelphia Phillies Outfield Bryce Harper (3) after his lead off home run during the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies on March 28, 2019 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA.(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)
Principal owner John Middleton pushed the ball over the finish line with his work to nail down superstar right fielder Bryce Harper. Earlier in the off-season, general manager Matt Klentak did some fantastic work in signing free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and adding Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto via the trade route.
Manager Gabe Kapler chose to feature three of those newcomers as the first three hitters in his Opening Day lineup on Thursday. McCutchen led off, followed by Segura and Harper. Rhys Hoskins, returning to first base, was the cleanup hitter. He was followed by Realmuto in the five spot.

Game Preview and Notes: Braves at Phillies 3/30/2019

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Nick Pivetta takes the mound for the Phillies 

It would be hard to top the performance put on by the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day. And yet, incredibly, there still remains room for improvement with this team as they prepare to welcome fans back to South Philly for game two of 162 on Saturday afternoon.
The Phillies (1-0) crushed the defending National League Eastern Division champion Atlanta Braves (0-1) by a 10-4 score on Thursday afternoon. The sellout crowd of 44,469 watched their heroes power their way to victory by driving three home runs, one each from Andrew McCutchen (in his first official Phillies plate appearance), Maikel Franco and Rhys Hoskins.
Those 10 runs marked the most scored by the club on Opening Day since the 2014 team out-slugged the Texas Rangers by 14-10 at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Phillies had never treated a home opener crowd at Citizens Bank Park to a double-digit display such as that in the prior 15-year history of the ballpark.
To find the last Phillies double-digit scoring spree in a home opener you would have to go all the way back to April 12, 1991 at Veteran’s Stadium when Lenny DykstraDarren Daulton and John Kruk powered the Phillies to an 11-4 victory over the Saint Louis Cardinals. On that Friday night they knocked the Cards lefty starter out after two innings, touching him for five runs and seven hits. That pitcher’s name? Jamie Moyer.
So, how can the Phillies improve on that performance? For one, despite the power display they only managed seven total hits, taking advantage of six walks from the Braves hurlers. Newcomers Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto each went hitless at 0-3 in their debut with the team.
On the mound, while Aaron Nola was dominant at times he also walked five batters himself. He was followed to the mound by Hector Neris and David Robertson, who each threw an inning and combined to allow three earned runs on four hits and a walk while striking out no one.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

2019 MLB preview and predictions

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Paul Goldschmidt powers up the Saint Louis Cardinals for 2019

With the 2019 Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules drawing to a close this week, all eyes are now squarely focused on Opening Day. All 30 teams in Major League Baseball will be playing in the regular season on Thursday.
How will superstars such as Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies, Manny Machado with the San Diego Padres, and Paul Goldschmidt with the Saint Louis Cardinals fare in their new homes? Which teams will become surprise contenders? Which major injuries will derail a team’s postseason hopes?
Each new MLB campaign comes with its own unique storylines. This year will be no different. Over the coming six months there will be excitement, drama, heartbreak, and controversy as each club plays out its 162-game schedule.
For years now I’ve been looking into my own personal crystal ball to make predictions for MLB’s division winners and individual award winners as well as my picks for the postseason.
A year ago in my 2018 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I got four of the six divisions correct. I missed out on the Milwaukee Brewers edging my Chicago Cubs pick for the NL Central, as well as the Atlanta Braves, who I had for third place in the NL East.
My NL Wildcards were those Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. So the Braves were the only NL playoff team that I missed. In the AL, I had the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels as those Wildcard teams. Right divison, wrong team, as the Oakland Athletics actually captured an AL Wildcard spot instead of those Halos.
For the Fall Classic, I predicted that the defending champion Houston Astros would repeat by downing the Cubs in five games in a match-up between the two previous World Series titlists.
Those Cubs would end up losing a thrilling 2-1 NL Wildcard Game to the Rockies at Wrigley Field. The Astros returned to the ALCS, but were eliminated in five games by the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Since I am writing for a Phillies-centric site, a bit of a disclaimer: this piece is not Phillies-centric. There will be plenty of times here at Phillies Nation where we cover the wider story of Major League Baseball. As for our favorite home nine, well, you are going to have to look elsewhere if you want to find a “homer” World Series prediction. At least this year.
Now time to reveal my predictions for the upcoming 2019 season. As always, I would love to hear your own picks in the comments section or on social media. Play ball!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Phillies incumbents Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez face pivotal seasons

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Hernandez again finds himself in Phillies Opening Day lineup

The starting lineup of position players scheduled to take the field for the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day of the 2019 season bears little resemblance to the one from just a year ago.
With Rhys Hoskins returning full-time to first base from left field, just two of the eight starting position players from manager Gabe Kapler‘s first-ever regular season starting lineup on March 29, 2018 are back this year at the same position.
Those two players are second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco. Hernandez was the leadoff man with Franco batting seventh last year. The early line is that they will hit seventh and eighth respectively this time around.
The other six players are clearly a part of the Phillies future: Andrew McCutchen (LF), Jean Segura (SS), Bryce Harper (RF), Hoskins (1B), J.T. Realmuto (C) and Odubel Herrera (CF) are players whose jerseys and shirseys the fans can feel comfortable purchasing and getting a lot of use out of, at least for the next few years.


Hernandez and Franco are opening as starters once again, but both players are squarely on the proverbial hot seat. Each is operating on a one-year contract. Hernandez is eligible for arbitration once again next off-season and then is scheduled to become a free agent following the 2020 campaign. Franco has two more arbitration years remaining.

Kingery will begin the 2019 season serving as a utility player, backing up both Franco and Hernandez as well as shortstop and in the outfield. (Ian D’Andrea)
While general manager Matt Klentak will certainly be working hard to get Realmuto and Hoskins signed for the long-term, the Phillies have made no such overtures to either Hernandez or Franco.
Hernandez produced career highs in home runs (15), RBI (60), and runs scored (91) a year ago while tying a career high with 19 steals. However, in 131 more plate appearances he produced eight fewer extra-base hits than the year prior. His batting average dropped more than 40 points and his OPS was down by 75 points.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Jake Arrieta returning to form will be a major key for 2019 Phillies success

Arrieta had January knee surgery and looks ready
It was just over a year ago, on March 12, 2018, that free agent starting pitcher Jake Arrieta finally found a team for his services. Somewhat surprisingly, that team was the Philadelphia Phillies.
His choice was a bit of a surprise in that the Phillies were still trying to find a path back to long-term contending status. The team had not been a winner since 2011. At age 32, Arrieta was coming off a three-year stretch in which he had won both a Cy Young Award and World Series with the Chicago Cubs.
But with no other suitors willing to meet his price on a multi-year deal, Arrieta accepted the Phillies offer of a guaranteed $75 million over three seasons with two additional club option years.
The Phillies hoped that eight-year veteran could provide leadership to an otherwise young rotation as well as deliver consistently strong outings to help push the team closer to contention.
The leadership has come. The consistent strong outings came as well, but only for the first two months of the 2018 season. On May 29 of last season, Arrieta went seven shutout innings at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles as the Phillies downed the hosts by a 6-1 score.
He allowed just six hits, walked two and struck out five in raising his record to 5-2 on the year to that point. Over those first two months the right-hander allowed just a .230 batting average against. He yielded 48 hits over 58.1 innings with a 40/19 K:BB ratio and had given up just two home runs over his first 10 starts in a Phillies uniform.
But trouble suddenly developed in June. He suffered losses in four of his five outings and produced a frightening 6.66 ERA while surrendering seven long balls. Arrieta bounced back in July, when he pitched to a 2.80 ERA and .238 BAA across six starts. He went 4-0 in that stretch and allowed just two balls to leave the yard.
His August began with a gem in the Arizona desert. Arrieta went eight shutout innings against the host Diamondbacks, allowing just three hits and two walks. Unfortunately, young closer Seranthony Dominguez came on and blew a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th of a game that the Phillies would ultimately lose in 14 innings.
Arrieta was rocked in San Diego six days later but recovered with a strong outing at home against the Mets on August 18. However, the offense let him down in that one for a 3-1 defeat. That was the first of eight losses in ten games that would drop the Phillies from a neck-and-neck battle with the Atlanta Braves at the top of the NL East standings to 4.5 games out.
By the end of the season it would grow to a 10-game deficit, and the pitching of Arrieta was partially to blame. Over his final seven starts beginning on August 24 he went just 1-3 with a 6.82 ERA, allowing 40 hits including nine homers over 34.1 innings.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Drew Anderson, Jerad Eickhoff provide back-end Phillies rotation insurance

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Zach Eflin has had a solid spring at back of Phillies rotation

As the club’s decision-makers have whittled away at the final Opening Day roster decisions over the last week or so, both the starting lineup and starting pitching rotation have solidified.
The regular starting lineup will see Rhys HoskinsCesar HernandezJean Segura and Maikel Franco around the infield. Andrew McCutchenOdubel Herrera and Bryce Harper will start in the outfield. Behind the dish, J.T. Realmuto will see most of the action.
On the mound it will be Aaron NolaNick PivettaJake ArrietaVince Velasquez and Zach Eflin in the starting rotation. Those are the same five starting pitchers who made 150 of the 162 starts for the team a year ago.
The club should feel confident in the first three of those arms. Nola was a 2018 NL Cy Young Award finalist and is one of the top young pitchers in the game today. Arrieta is a grizzled veteran with a Cy Young already in his trophy case. Pivetta is a strikeout pitcher who is widely considered as one of Major League Baseball’s leading breakout candidates.
The spotlight will be on the two pitchers at the back of that rotation. How Velasquez and Eflin pitch could go a long way towards determining whether this vastly improved Phillies squad can actually contend for the National League East Division crown or an NL Wildcard postseason position.

Eflin had a solid spring. He led the club with 20.1 innings pitched down in Florida, delivering a 1.08 WHIP and .224 batting average against over five starts. Eflin surrendered just 17 hits and produced an 18/5 K:BB ratio.
Velasquez’ performance was less inspiring. He allowed nine earned runs and 11 hits over 6.1 innings across just three starts. Hitters produced a .379 batting average against him despite the fact that Velasquez remained overpowering at times, evidenced by his 15 strikeouts.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

First two home runs from Bryce Harper lead Phillies to spring romp

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Bryce Harper homers twice in Grapefruit League victory

It has happened 184 times over his first seven regular seasons in Major League Baseball and another five times in the postseason. There were even a few launched during spring training. But all of those happened in another uniform.
This afternoon for the first time as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper enjoyed the feeling of blasting a home run. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he decided to do it again, crushing a sixth-inning blast as well.
The first came during his first plate appearance of the afternoon at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida with one out and Andrew McCutchen at first base.
As Harper walked to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning, Phillies announcer Ben Davis told his broadcasting partner Gregg Murphy that “he is a tick away” and noted that Harper had “a few really, really good swings yesterday” in one of the more prescient calls of the former catcher’s career as a color analyst.
Harper wasted little time. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Sam Gaviglio tried to groove an 88 mph fastball for strike one, and the Phillies right fielder unloaded, ripping the ball out and over the right field wall.
The home crowd roared and rose to their feet as the ball sailed out. They remained on their feet as Harper rounded the bases for the first time as a member of the ball club that he will call his baseball home for the rest of his career.
After celebrating with a high-five at home plate with McCutchen, Harper trotted back to the home dugout and acknowledged the roaring fans behind home plate with a wave.
Harper’s blast touched off a massive Phillies power display on the day which would result in a 13-6 victory. In addition to Harper’s pair, other Phillies long balls on the day came off the bats of McCutchen, Gift Ngoepe, and one from each of the club’s two catchers, J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp.

Chase Utley to join the broadcasting ranks during first season in retirement

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Officially retired as a player, Utley will remain involved in the game

The ball player who grew to be known around Phillies Nation as ‘The Man’ appeared in his final big-league game on September 30, 2018. Stepping to the plate as a pinch-hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Utley struck out in his final plate appearance after 16 seasons in Major League Baseball.
Over parts of 13 years with the Phillies, Utley had become a heroic fan favorite. He banged out 233 home runs, drove in 916 runs, and crossed the plate with a run scored 949 times. He was a six-time National League All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and finished among the top 15 in NL MVP voting for five straight years.
Nearly seven years after helping the Phillies to win the 2008 World Series, Utley was traded out to his native California to play for the Dodgers. He would finish up his playing career in Los Angeles, getting back to the playoffs in four straight seasons but never winning another championship ring.
The Phillies announced months ago that Utley would join former teammates Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in being officially honored by the team for which they played their greatest baseball.
At what is now a sold-out June 21st game against the division-rival Miami Marlins the Phillies will hold “Chase Utley Retirement Night” with a number of special events. Those will include a pre-game highlight package and a bobble figurine giveaway as Utley officially retires from baseball as a member of the Phillies organization.
However, just when it seemed as if he might ride off into the sunset, it turns out that Utley will not be away from the game after all during the coming season.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Join Phillies Nation in fan polling for Wall of Fame 'March Madness'

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Manuel, Thome, Carlton (L-R) are part of March Madness

The calendar showing that it is the third week in March can mean only one thing. Okay, two. Alright, alright, at least three things. The first thing is that Spring has arrived! It was a long, cold winter. But now it’s finally over. Soon flowers will begin to bloom and grass will start to grow again.
The other two big things about this time of year involve the sports world. For baseball fans, spring training is winding to a close. The Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues have just days remaining in their schedules.
For fans of college basketball and many sports fans who barely follow the game at any other time of year this is “March Madness” time. The excitement and drama of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is unfolding.
Here at Phillies Nation we decided to run our own “March Madness” involving our favorite ball club. As subject matter we chose the Wall of Famers, those 40 individuals who have been honored to this point with a plaque at Citizens Bank Park.


Our tournament is being run at our Twitter feed: @PhilliesNation. If you aren’t following, fix that right away. If you are, head on over and be sure to follow regularly over the next week as we poll followers for their selections.
Phillies Nation “March Madness” began with a Play-in showdown between 1960’s-70’s infielder and later a coach with the team, Tony Taylor, facing off against 1950’s ‘Whiz Kids’ shortstop Granny Hamner. The popular Taylor took an early lead in voting and coasted to victory by 61%-39% of the 157 followers who cast a vote.

Phillies add Rhys Hoskins to spring injuries list

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Rhys Hoskins and Roman Quinn both battling spring injuries

The Philadelphia Phillies are scheduled to begin a highly-anticipated 2019 regular season one week from tomorrow. Including the Wednesday afternoon game in Clearwater against the Detroit Tigers there are just six game dates remaining on the Grapefruit League schedule. Two of those will be split-squad affairs.
Opportunities for the players to experience game conditions prior to Opening Day are dwindling quickly. With that in mind there are a number of Phillies players still battling injury issues which will hinder their ability to participate.
Scott Lauber of Philly.com noted this morning that first baseman Rhys Hoskins is suffering from a sore shoulder. He is being held out of game action at least through Friday, but at this point it is believed that he will be in the lineup against the Atlanta Braves on March 28 at Citizens Bank Park. He still hopes to be able to play in a couple of spring training games before then.
Lauber further noted that the Phillies would move starting third baseman Maikel Franco over to first base on Friday, and that Franco would cover the position if a longer term need were to arise. The Phillies would play Scott Kingery at the hot corner in such a scenario.
Jerad Eickhoff has returned to the mound following off-season carpal tunnel surgery. He should start at Triple-A. (D. Benjamin Miller/WikiCommons)
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported on Tuesday that both Roman Quinn and Tommy Hunter would likely open the season on the Injured List. Quinn suffered an oblique strain back in late February and has appeared in just one game down in Florida. Hunter was shut down at around the same time with a strain in the flexor muscle of his right pitching arm.
Also on the mound, Jerad Eickhoff underwent carpal tunnel syndrome surgery back in October. The right-hander had experienced some recurring symptoms in January which slowed his entry to spring games.

Eickhoff has now made two starts and is on track to open the season as part of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley starting rotation. As long as he remains healthy, he would likely be the first pitcher to be re-called should a need arise in the Phillies rotation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In wake of Mike Trout contract, Phillies fans need to move on and support their team

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Phillies fans are disappointed to not get a chance at Mike Trout

In one of my all-time favorite movies, 1988’s classic high school basketball film “Hoosiers”, there is a memorable speech delivered by Gene Hackman as coach Norman Dale.
He is a controversial new coach at the school and his star player has decided not to play that year in order to focus on class work. As the coach stands at center court to introduce his 1952 team, the crowd begins to chant for their star player.
Coach Dale’s response to the crowd is one that should be drilled into the minds and hearts of every team fan base at every level in every year:
“I would hope you would support who we are, and not who we are not.”
These six individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, and put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next four months to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team.
There has been much excitement and speculation surrounding the potential for the Philadelphia Phillies to sign local product Mike Trout when he was due to become a free agent following the 2020 season.
Phillies fans have wanted it to happen for years, and recent free agent signee Bryce Harper only fueled the fires after he signed with the club earlier this month.
I’m making $26 (million) a year, something like that, so I think that’s gonna be able to bring some other guys in as well that will help this organization win. I know there’s another guy (Trout) in about two years who comes up off the books. We’ll see what happens with him.”
That excitement was warranted. Trout is the best player in the game today. The argument is beginning to be made that he is one of the greatest players in the history of the game. You would have a hard time winning if you chose to argue against that point.
Trout is also a native of Millville, New Jersey. The town is just 45 miles southeast of Philadelphia. Trout grew up as a Philly sports fan. He tailgated at the 2008 World Series, has frequently attended 76ers games, and is a long-time Eagles season ticket holder.