September 17, 2016
In the bottom of the first inning at Citizens Bank Park, a familiar phrase from the recent past could be heard from the stands.
With the Phillies sitting dead last in the majors in runs per game by a decent margin, there haven’t been many reasons to get excited about the offense. Some stretches, including the one that began the season’s final month, were downright hopeless.
Not on Saturday night against the Miami Marlins. The bats were out in full force, as the Phils jumped on right-hander Jose Urena to the tune of five runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to an 8-0 win.
Jeremy Hellickson did the rest, tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout.
"Well, that was fun," Pete Mackanin said after the game. "Hellickson, what a performance. "I must admit that I did do a good job handling that bullpen."
The Phillies are now 67-82. After a strong first month, there haven’t been a ton of positives to take away on the whole. Perhaps the season’s best story has been first baseman Tommy Joseph, who wasn’t really part of the plan back in spring training after a series of injuries (most notably, concussions) had derailed his last three years in the minors.
"This time last year, a lot of people had given up on my future," Joseph said. "To be sitting here a year later with 20 homers in The Show, that's a pretty special feeling."
Last November, Joseph was waived from the team’s 40-man roster. The Phillies are happy that no team claimed him in the Rule 5 draft, as the organization is finally seeing some production from the 25-year-old who was acquired from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade from 2012.
"Pleasant surprise" is the operative term for Joseph, who hit his 20th homer of the season on Saturday.
“By and large Tommy Joseph has been a very pleasant surprise and a success story this year to come from not even on the roster to hitting 20-plus homers in his first year in the big leagues in a time-shared position no less,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said a few days ago. “I think it’s pretty impressive.”
"He's been a pleasant surprise, a guy that came out of nowhere, wasn't even on the radar for the last couple of years because of injuries," Mackanin said. "He's done a lot of good things, made a good impression for the future."
While Joseph admitted that he would like his on-base numbers to be higher, he has impressed with his power. His .503 slugging percentage would rank seventh in the MLB among qualified first baseman if he had a few more plate appearances. Joseph is joining some pretty good company, too:
Most HRs by Phils rookie:— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 17, 2016
Montanez - 30 (1971)
Allen - 29 (1964)
Howard - 22 (2005)
Rolen - 21 (1997)
Hisle - 20 (1969)
Joseph - 20 (2016)
In the third inning on Saturday, Joseph golfed a two-run home run out to center field off Urena to give the Phils a seven-run cushion:
It was Joseph’s 20th home run of the season in just 315 plate appearances. For a player that wasn’t expected to contribute at the major league level coming into the season, that is quite the pleasant surprise.
"The goal when I went into spring training was to get a September call-up," Joseph said. "And then once I got here it was to take it week-by-week. Over the last week once I hit 18 and 19, I was like, 'Alright, we can can do this. We got some time left to make this happen. I don't know if I would've been able to live with myself if I would've just stuck at 19."
"Over the last week once I hit 18 and 19, I was like, 'Alright, we can can do this. We got some time left to make this happen. I don't know if I would've been able to live with myself if I would've just stuck at 19."
Joseph wasn’t supposed to play in Saturday’s game, as Mackanin rightly is looking to get Ryan Howard playing time in home games as his long Phillies career reaches the finish line. A couple of hours before the game, the Big Piece was scratched with knee soreness. His status for Sunday’s game is TBD, but Joseph took advantage of the opportunity
On the mound, Hellickson did exactly what you would hope for with a big early lead. The veteran right-hander was aggressive, pounded the strike zone (featuring a very sharp change-up), and cruised to a complete game. He finished with five strikeouts and no walks on 106 pitches. It was his second career shutout, the first one coming all the way back in 2011.
"It wasn't something I was thinking about, but I definitely knew when the last time was," Hellickson said. "You know it's been a long time. It was nice to get a chance to go back out there in the ninth and finish it."
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann