4/20/2014 10:27 P.M. ET
Hoping to spur lagging offense, Phils take extra work
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
DENVER -- Sunday mornings are typically laid back in baseball clubhouses with players getting their work done in the batting cages. But not this Sunday for the Phillies.
They took batting practice.
They had been held without an extra-base hit for four consecutive games before Jimmy Rollins hit a solo homer in the first inning on Sunday. The drought was the longest in baseball since the Marlins went four straight games without one in Sept. 1993, and the longest one in the organization since May 1968.
The Rollins homer was the first extra-base hit for the club in 130 plate appearances. Before the blast, the Phillies' last extra-base hit came in the eighth inning on Monday when Domonic Brown hit a home run.
Phils enduring collision rule growing pains
DENVER -- Twice in one week the Phillies had a play at home where a catcher blocked the plate before he received the ball.
Both times the home plate umpire called out the baserunner, and both times a manager asked the play to be reviewed under Collision Rule 7.13 to see if the catcher blocked the plate illegally.
Umpires ruled Phillies center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. out at the plate on April 13 at Citizens Bank Park, despite the fact Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis had blocked the plate. Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, called the Phillies later to tell them a mistake had been made. The umpires correctly ruled Carlos Ruiz blocked the plate on Saturday in a 3-1 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field.
It is quite confusing.
"The one yesterday was right," said Phillies catcher Wil Nieves, who started Sunday's series finale. "That's what they told us in Spring Training. You cannot block the plate without the ball even if there's no contact. We have to give them a lane. That's what happened with Mathis. He was blocking the plate. There was no lane for the runner. And they messed up. They admitted it. So right now we know to give them a lane."
Of course, catchers have been taught their entire life to block the plate one way. Now they must fight those instincts as a play develops.
"I was talking to Chooch [Ruiz] about it," Nieves said. "He's one of the best in the game at putting down the leg and blocking the plate. Trying to change that is going to be hard, so we've got to concentrate a lot. We just need to set up early in front of the plate and just try to stay there as long as we can without taking away that lane.
"If your left foot is on the line you still have a lane. If you go past that then you're blocking the plate. But if you have it on the line they still have a lot of room to slide. That's where you want to be. And then after we have the ball we can do whatever we want. And if the throw doesn't beat the runner he's safe."
Phils hope scoring change will give Howard cycle
DENVER -- First baseman Ryan Howard fell a double short of the cycle Sunday afternoon at Coors Field in the Phillies' 10-9 win over the Rockies.
But the Phillies hope to have his hit in the seventh inning changed from a single to a double, which would give him the belated cycle. He lofted a ball to right field in the seventh inning and it fell in front of Rockies right fielder Brandon Barnes, who let the ball get past him to allow Howard to reach second base.
The official scorer ruled it a single and an error to Barnes for allowing Howard to reach second. A Major League Baseball authenticator retrieved the ball in the event the call is overturned. Naturally, most everybody in the Phillies clubhouse thought the play should have been ruled a double.
"He went for a shoestring catch there and the ball got by him for a double," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He went for the catch. There's no guarantee he knocks that down and makes it a single. He went for the catch on a tough ball."
Howard had the ball in his locker after the game.
"I'm going to keep it," he said. "I still got four hits. I'm going to take it and keep it as a memento, as an almost."
Howard also singled in the first inning, hit a two-run homer in the third and tripled in the sixth.
Mayberry replaces Howard at first late in win
DENVER -- Ryan Howard had a huge game offensively Sunday at Coors Field, but with a two-run lead Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had John Mayberry Jr. replace him at first base in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Mayberry made an incredible pick on a throw from Freddy Galvis in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runners on and two outs to end the game and give the Phillies a 10-9 victory.
"Hell of play by Mayberry," Sandberg said. "That was a hell of a pick in that situation."
Sandberg said he had defense in mind when he made the double switch in the eighth, having Mayberry take Ben Revere's spot in the lineup and left-hander Antonio Bastardo taking Howard's spot. Howard has struggled at first base this season. He has two errors, but has left at least a couple other catchable balls get past him, including one in Saturday's 3-1 loss.
It is the second time Sandberg had Mayberry replace Howard at first base. It first happened in the ninth inning April 13 in a 4-3 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Mayberry had pinch-run for Howard in the eighth, but remained in the game.
"Possibly," said Sandberg, asked if he might continue to use Mayberry late in games as a defensive replacement at first base. "And just the fact that Mayberry is a little more athletic. But once again that was a heck of a pick. A lot of guys might score if that gets by him."
Howard said he didn't see those moves as ones for defensive purposes.
"I'm not disappointed at all," said Howard, who went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored. "What happened was, it was the play for the game. Bringing in the pitcher and having him go in the four hole, you bring in Mayberry to make that swap. I wasn't mad at that. That's just the flow of the game as it is."
And the fact it has happened twice in eight days?
"I don't have any concerns," he said. "It's more so a part of the flow of the game. I've come out before because I've been pinch-run for. I don't think it's a defensive thing. It's in the flow of the game. Now if I'm out there and they say, 'Hey, Ryan, come in,' then that's a defensive change. Those two times have been in the flow of the game."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.