A quick check of the standings reveals a pair of teams jockeying for position at the top of the Grapefruit League. Team One is a team that fell just two games short of the 2015 World Series. The other? Your hometown Philadelphia Phillies who ended the year with baseball’s worst record at 63-99, narrowly missing 100 losses.
The Phillies kept pace with the Blue Jays in the (unofficial, non-binding) race for the Grapefruit League (pretend) championship on Tuesday using timely power hitting to beat the Rays 5-2.
The Rays jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first following a Logan Morrison homer off of Aaron Nola. Cedric Hunter, a leading candidate to break camp as a fourth or fifth outfielder with the team, smashed his second homer of the Spring of Drew Smyly to knot the game at one apiece in the top of the 3rd. Kevin Kiermaier sent the first pitch he saw from Nola out of the ballpark to put the Rays ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the 5th. But the Phillies would not go down quietly.
The Phils jumped on pitcher Xavier Cedeno in the top of the 8th, starting with a lead-off double from Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez was driven in by pinch hitter Andres Blanco to tie the game at two. Darnell Sweeney would drive in Blanco three batters later following a Darin Ruf walk and Logan Moore fly out to put the Phillies ahead 3-2. Dylan Cozens would walk to load the bases and Tyler Featherston would force home Ruf on a fielder’s choice to second. Parker Markel would replace Cedeno for the Rays and allowed Sweeney to score on a wild pitch to give the Phils a 5-2 lead that they would not surrender.
Pitching notes: Nola struggled to keep the ball in the park today but struck out five in 4.2 innings without walking anyone. Bobby LaFromboise and James Russell both had scoreless outings to maintain their 0.00 Spring ERAs; both are believed to be in competition for the role of lefty reliever with Rule 5 pick Daniel Stumpf (1.80 ERA, 7 Ks, 5 IP in Spring 2016). In his fourth outing this Spring, Andrew Bailey struck out the side, raising his Spring stats to 2-0 in four appearances with a 4.0 IP, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 1 H line. After a shaky outing, Hector Neris continues to pitch well, striking out three today to up his total to nine in five appearances. Yoervis Medina was in to close but “felt a pop” in his right elbow. Colton Murray earned the save. David Hernandez struggled in his return to live pitching.
Roster notes: Earlier today, Ryan Lawrence reported that Jerad Eickhoff will make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday. Alec Asher and David Buchanan were optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley today while J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn, Edubray Ramos, and Nick Williams was assigned to minor league camp yesterday.
The Phillies have off tomorrow but the hottest (!) National League team in the Grapefruit League will continue their Spring slate at home against Tampa Thursday.
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