Lively ready for final audition after rough start

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The 25-year-old right-hander surrendered six runs over five innings in Friday’s 7-2 loss to the Braves. He allowed five runs and six hits to the first six batters he faced before settling a bit after that, but by then it was too late. Lively fell to 3-7 with a 4.35 ERA in 14 starts.

“This one, not happy for me,” Lively said. “I definitely felt way better than the way I pitched. The last game of the year, absolutely, battle, ready to go and end the season on a good note.”

Lively didn’t throw a breaking ball until the fourth batter of the game, which surprised Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. Lively said he was trying to find command of his fastball.

“Fifteen pitches too late,” Lively said.

Braves' five-run 1st

Still, Lively’s ERA is the second-best mark on the team among pitchers that have made 10 or more starts this season. It is just below the 4.49 average ERA for starters across the Majors. But it is clear the Phillies need to upgrade their pitching before Spring Training. Aaron Nola is the only lock at this point. Jerad Eickhoff is a smart bet, provided he rebounds from a right hand injury.

But after that, there is Lively, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin and Mark Leiter. Triple-A right-hander Tom Eshelman, who was the Phillies’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year, should be in the mix, too.

“He’s in the mix for a chance to make the team,” Mackanin said of Lively. “Nobody’s locked in other than Nola for me.”

Lively does not blow away the competition. His four-seamer averages 91.3 mph. He has allowed a lot of fly balls. His .98 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio is 151st out of 170 pitchers that have pitched more than 75 innings this season.

Before the game, Mackanin said he could not explain why Lively has pitched with success, other than he competes as well as anybody.

“You’ll have to kill him before he gives up,” Mackanin said.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Lively said he will fight to win a job in next season’s rotation. But first, he is scheduled to face the Mets next weekend.

“I’m going to battle,” Lively said. “I’m not going to back down. I’m going to keep pitching my game, stay aggressive and keep battling like the rest of those guys.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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