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September 09, 2016

Thompson strong again but Phils fall in walk-off loss in Washington

WASHINGTON – Not long after the Phillies arrived at Nationals Park on Thursday, manager Pete Mackanin joked that he would shave his head if his team reeled off 10 wins in a row.

But the reality is the manager might just pull every last silver hair out of his finely-coifed head if he has to continue to watch his offense as it's currently constructed.

Despite a fine effort from rookie Jake Thompson, who has rebounded quite nicely after a rough first two weeks in the big leagues, the Phils fell to Tanner Roark, Trea Turner, and the Washington Nationals 5-4 on Friday night.

Before Cameron Rupp’s clutch three-run home run in the eighth inning, the Phillies, who have lost eight of their last 11 games, were in danger of scoring one run or fewer for the 14th time in 51 games since the All-Star break (nearly 30 percent of their second-half schedule).

One ginormous swing (Rupp’s 15th home run of the season traveled 420 feet) prevented that from happening. But that one swing also accounted for almost the entirety of the offense the Phils managed to muster up on Friday night in D.C.

They went back into hibernation after Rupp’s home run and the Nats responded with a walk-off win. Turner, the Nats rookie leadoff hitter, ripped a booming, 440-foot home run to dead center off Frank Hermann, his second homer of the night, to lead Washington to victory.

"That kid Turner is a good-looking player," Mackanin said of the Washington rookie who has eight home runs and 21 stolen bases in his first two months in the first-place team's lineup. 

The 23-year-old Turner, the 13th overall pick in the 2014 (Aaron Nola) draft, was acquired by Washington in a three-team trade with Tampa Bay and San Diego on the same day the Phillies traded Jimmy Rollins. In addition to adding another lethal element to the Nats lethal lineup, Turner has made a seamless transition from his natural shortstop position to center field since arriving in the big leagues. 

If nothing else for the reeling Phillies on Friday, at least Thompson continued his maturation in the major league rotation.

Thompson, who had a 9.78 ERA after his first four major league starts, held Washington to just one run entering the sixth inning, when he allowed back-to-back hits to Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper to surrender the lead. The two runs Thompson allowed were almost two too many for the Phillies offense.

It’s a good thing the 22-year-old Thompson wears his own hair short and tight because he might have to join Mackanin the way the offense has performed in his last five starts. The Phillies have scored exactly two runs when Thompson has been in the game in those last five starts: 1, 0, 0, 0, 1.

"I knew who we were facing tonight, Roark, it's not like he's only doing it against us, he's doing it against just everybody he faces," Thompson said of Roark, who has a 0.79 ERA in five games against the Phils this season and a 2.85 ERA overall. "That's the kind of guy you've got to keep it to two runs or less. You're not going to have a very good chance if you don't. ... You've got to keep it close when you're facing guys like that."

The maddening thing for Mackanin on Friday was his team had plenty of base runners before Rupp’s blast. They just couldn’t figure out how to get them around the bases in an orderly fashion toward home plate.

Odubel Herrera, who would later leave the game after getting hit in the right kneecap with a Roark pitch, hit a one-out double in the top of the first. But then he tried – unsuccessfully – to advance to third when a pitch trickled a few feet away from Washington catcher Wilson Ramos.

In the third, a one-out walk from Tyler Goeddel was wasted. In the fourth, Freddy Galvis knocked in the Phils lone run and Peter Bourjos followed with a second straight two-out single to load the bases, but then Goeddel grounded out to short, stranding three.

In the fifth, Thompson led off with a booming double, Andres Blanco worked a two-out walk, and neither scored because the trio of Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr, and Ryan Howard couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield.

The latest lame effort from the offense probably shouldn’t have overshadowed the most recent positive effort from the big Texan: Thompson has a 2.33 ERA in his last three starts. On Friday, Thompson, the second of three consecutive pitchers acquired in the Cole Hamels trade to start for the Phillies in Washington this week, held the Nationals to two runs on five hits, striking out five and walking one.

 "(I) hate to lose but I was really happy with Thompson, that was his third real good outing," Mackanin said. "His last three have been very good. That’s nice to see for the future. He looks like he’s going to be a guy that can pitch up here."

Thompson has allowed as many earned runs in his last three starts as he allowed home runs (five each) in his first four games, and in the same amount of innings:

 • Thompson's first four starts: 19 1/3 innings pitched, 22 hits, 21 earned runs, 13 walks, 13 strikeouts, 5 home runs.

 • Thompson's last three starts: 19 1/3 innings pitched, 16 hits, 5 earned runs, 6 walks, 14 strikeouts, 2 home runs.

 • Odubel Herrera is day-to-day with a right knee contusion, the result of taking a pitch on the right knee in the fourth inning (and exiting the game an inning later). Maikel Franco (right thumb) is also day-to-day. Franco, who has struggled mightily since the All-Star break, has been out of the lineup for three straight games and Mackanin said he was also unavailable to pinch-hit on Friday.

• Speaking of pinch hitting, why did Mackanin let reliever Frank Herrmann hit in the ninth inning of a tie game in September, when rosters are expanded and running out of players shouldn't be an issue? Mackanin said it was because he was not going to pitch his three trustworthy relievers, Edubray Ramos, Severino Gonzalez, and Jeanmar Gomez.

"Gomez has been in 5 out of 7 days, Neris 4 out of 6, Ramos 4 out of 6," Mackanin said. "I had to stay away from those guys. Sometimes you have to rely on the other guys to do the job for you. ... I thought about hitting (Tommy) Joseph there or (Darin) Ruf, someone to maybe hit a home run, but my biggest concern was going 14 innings and having to go to those guys. That would be the worst case scenario for me."

It's all well and good to look out for the workload of your pitchers, but both David Hernandez and Severino Gonzalez were available. If you pinch hit for Herrmann, Gonzalez, a former starter, should be able to pitch at least four innings, if needed, before you get to Hernandez in a possible closing situation, while still staying away from the other trio unless they were absolutely needed.

The Phillies will likely add more arms to their bullpen, perhaps as soon as today, with Triple-A Lehigh Valley's season coming to an end on Friday night. 

• Around the Phillies minor league circuit, Low-A Lakewood advanced to the Sally League Championship series, Triple-A Lehigh Valley was eliminated, and Double-A Reading stayed alive in the Eastern League playoffs with a 13-5 rout over the Trenton Thunder.

Catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, also acquired in the Hamels trade and a player likely to join the Phillies when Reading's season is over, fueled the Fightin' Phils offense Friday by going 4-for-5 with two home runs.

Rhys Hoskins, one of three players honored with the prestigious Paul Owens Award on Friday, also homered for Reading.

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