In one of the more predictable decisions of the 2015 Phillies season, Ruben Amaro, Jr. has been officially removed as General Manager. Take a moment and look around at the current state of the Phillies organization. The past nine months have been littered with departures of franchise mainstays. Jimmy Rollins? Gone. Cole Hamels? Gone. Chase Utley? Gone. And now, the man who joined the organization before any of them, Ruben Amaro, Jr. is gone as well. In case there was any lingering doubt, it’s now officially a new era of Phillies baseball.
Odubel Herrera keeps on truckin’. The Phillies’ center fielder went 2-for-3 with a walk and a three-run home run, putting Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves out of reach at 5-0. Herrera bolstered his triple-slash line to .302/.340/.434 and crossed the 3-WAR threshold on the season, according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.
Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts tweeted this during the game:
After tonight's performance, Odubel Herrera should have sole possession of greatest Rule 5 season ever
— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) September 9, 2015
Early in this season, much was made of the Phillies’ abysmal start, particularly in the run differential department. Here’s what was written on May 2:
Projected over 162 games, the Phillies are on pace to score 428 runs and allow 778. The -350 run differential would easily be their worst in a 162-game season. The current worst is -172 set by the 1997 Phillies. Before that, it was -140 by the ’96 squad. If we include 154-game seasons, the 1945 Phillies were kind of close at -317. The 1921 Phillies are next at -302.
Former Phillie Kyle Kendrick hasn’t had a great 2015, pitching half his games at Coors Field with the Colorado Rockies. He entered Monday’s start with a 6.29 ERA and he missed the entire month of August due to inflammation in his right shoulder. He’s had better years.
Kendrick did something on Monday that he never did in eight seasons with the Phillies: he hit a home run. And it was a no-doubter… at Petco Park.
Due to repeated statements that Cody Asche would not return to third base this season, tonight’s Phillies lineup included a bit of a shock:
Phillies tonight pic.twitter.com/I28zvZBvfW
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) September 4, 2015
Seeing Asche slotted back in at the hot corner is an encouraging development. The primary goal for the Phillies major league team for the final four weeks of the season is not to win games, but it’s also not to lose games and secure that #1 pick. No, the primary goal is to maximize opportunities for their young talent to gain major league experience and flexible lineup construction is the best way to create those opportunities.
The Phillies still have a ways to go before they can legitimately be considered a threat in the NL East again, but it’s hard not to be enthused by the team’s play in the second half, especially after pawning off a handful of veterans. They’re 24-19 in the second half, though they’ve narrowly outscored opponents 208 to 206.
On Tuesday, the Phillies handled the New York Mets 14-8 and the score made the game appear a lot closer than it really was. And it’s true that the Mets’ three errors and six walks contributed greatly to the win. That being said, Darnell Sweeney continued to impress, going 2-for-5 while driving in three runs. Since making his major league debut after coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Chase Utley trade, Sweeney is hitting .263/.417/.632 with a double, two home runs, and five walks.
As strange as it sounds, since they won by six runs, the Phillies held on to beat the New York Mets in Tuesday night’s game at Citi Field. The Mets scored four runs against Aaron Harang in the fifth inning to chase him from the game, and then once in each of the final four innings. They simply ran out of time, and the Phillies won 14-8. It’s the first time the Phillies defeated the Mets since May 8, ending a 10-game losing streak against them. Darin Ruf had a career game, homering and knocking in six runs.
The most interesting part of the game, to me, was the battle between Harang and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Phillies — some combination of pitching coach Bob McClure, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and Harang — clearly had a game plan against the slugger and executed it well… until the end. Cespedes hit a two-run homer in the fifth to make it a 6-4 game, and chase Harang out of the contest.
I captured each pitch to illustrate how the Phillies chose to approach Cespedes during the game:
Tomorrow is the first day of the utter madness that is September baseball. For better or worse, in-game strategy is thrown on its head for the final month of the regular season due to active rosters expanding from 25 roster spots to 40. For a rebuilding team like the Phillies, this can be an exciting time as it often means prospects will be called up for their first taste of the major leagues. This year, however, due to trades and starting rotation woes, most of the Phillies’ would-be September call-ups — Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Darnell Sweeney, Aaron Altherr — are already wearing red pinstripes.
As a result, Phillies beats writers indicated that the September call-up list tomorrow will be relatively small.