Miscues neutralize Phillies' power in 1-run loss to Nationals

Miscues neutralize Phillies' power in 1-run loss to Nationals


WASHINGTON — This one left Pete Mackanin shaking his head.

"If you would have told me that we'd hit three three-run homers and lose the ballgame, I wouldn't have believed it," the Phillies manager said after his team hung around and hung around before losing, 11-10, to the Washington Nationals on Friday night (see observations).

"You score 10 runs ... you'd like to win a game when you score 10."

Those 10 runs went for naught because of some horrendous defense in the bottom of the third inning. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez booted a tailor-made double-play ball and three batters later the Nationals put four runs on the board when Michael A. Taylor clubbed an inside-the-park grand slam against Phillies starter Jake Thompson.

The inside-the-park grannie was a little tainted because it came as the result of a misplay in center field by Odubel Herrera (see video).

Herrera at first broke in on Taylor's line drive. He then tried to scurry back before jumping and flailing at air. The ball rolled to the wall and the bases emptied as the Nats took a 6-3 lead that they never relinquished.

"That one inning hurt us bad," Mackanin said. "It would have been two outs and nobody on base and it led to four runs. That was the difference in the game."

Mackanin acknowledged that Herrera misplayed Taylor's liner to center, but added that it was a tough play.

"The ones right at you, you can't tell if they're going to take off or sink and he just misplayed it," Mackanin said.

Herrera then compounded the misplay by not exactly busting it for the ball as it rolled to the wall.

"I couldn’t tell for sure," Mackanin said. "It did not look like he was sprinting. But in the end, [Taylor] would have been out by 10 feet. The relay (from shortstop J.P. Crawford) was way off the mark."

Herrera explained the misplay.

"I didn’t read the line drive well," he said. "I thought it was going to sink. It didn't. It picked up."

Herrera's miscues did not stop with the misplay in the third inning. In the fifth, he was taking his time getting set in the batter's box when Washington ace Max Scherzer whistled a third-strike fastball by him. Herrera is notorious for being slow to get set and Scherzer taught him a lesson. Or did he? Time will tell. And, no, Herrera was not asking for time out when he raised his left hand. He does that every time, as if to tell the umpire he's not ready. But once he's in the box, he's fair game.

"He caught me by surprise," Herrera said. "I thought it wasn't even legal, or valid, what he did. I thought the umpire was going to say something to him but he didn't. Obviously, they know me and that I take a little long to set up, so he took advantage of it."

Mackanin did not think Scherzer did anything wrong.

"Odubel has a tendency to get caught up in his own little routine and, you know, he has to make sure he doesn't get caught putting his head down and waiting to get ready," he said. "We've seen quick pitches before and that really wasn’t even a quick pitch. Scherzer wound up and caught everybody by surprise."

After the four-run third inning, Washington kept on scoring, a run in the fourth against Jake Thompson, three in the sixth against reliever Yacksel Rios and one in the eighth against Hector Neris.

As it turned out, Washington needed all those runs because the Phils got a three-run homer from Rhys Hoskins (his 13th in 102 at-bats) in the seventh and another three-run homer from Maikel Franco in the ninth to make it a one-run game. Sean Doolittle came on with no outs and stopped the Phillies' rally. The South Jersey product is 17 for 17 in save opportunities since joining the Nats from Oakland in a July trade. Doolittle struck out all three batters he faced, including Jorge Alfaro. El Oso responded by breaking his bat over his knee in frustration. That's a strong man.

You know who else is strong? Nick Williams. He turned around a Scherzer fastball for a three-run home run in the first inning and finished with four hits on the day he turned 24. Williams, who has 10 homers and 43 RBIs since arriving from Triple A on June 30, was pumped to face Scherzer, last year's NL Cy Young award winner.

"In the [batting] cage before the game, I was talking with (hitting coach Matt) Stairs and he said this is probably the best pitcher you'll face in this league," Williams said. "A lot of people think he's the best pitcher in the game. I've watched him a lot on TV and everyone knows him. Stepping in the box, it's kind of like a big-league call-up all over again. You watch these guys as a kid and then you face them. The result — it was crazy. I can't even explain it."

Williams' three-run homer gave the Phils an early lead, but it didn't hold up. It's not often the Phils score 10 runs in a game, but that wasn't enough to overcome some poor defense.

The loss dropped the Phils to 53-88, worst in the majors.

Washington's magic number for clinching the NL East title is down to three.

5 Phillies-specific matters to watch during Winter Meetings

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5 Phillies-specific matters to watch during Winter Meetings

ORLANDO, Fla. — Matt Klentak checked off the biggest item on his offseason to-do list when he hired new manager Gabe Kapler in late October. Other than that, it's been a relatively quiet offseason for the Phillies general manager, who is entering his third year on the job.

Things are expected to pick up for Klentak and the Phillies this week as baseball's Winter Meetings get underway at Disney. Heck, things should pick up for the entire industry now that the winter's two marquee talents — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found landing spots. Ohtani, the Japanese phenom, signed with the Angels. Stanton was traded from the Marlins to the Yankees.

As the meetings get going, here are five Phillies-specific matters to keep an eye on:

Middle infield
The Phillies have a young shortstop (J.P. Crawford) and a young second baseman (Scott Kingery) on the way and any clubs looking for a shortstop or a second baseman know the Phillies are willing to deal Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. In fact, the Phillies have already received offers for both of these players, though none worthy of pulling the trigger on. The Phillies could go into the 2018 season with Galvis and Hernandez on the roster and mix in Crawford at three positions while Kingery percolates in Triple A. But it seems more likely the Phils will move one (maybe both) of their incumbents. Hernandez has three years of contract control so he could have more value than Galvis (he'll be a free agent next winter) on the trade market. The Angels have long liked Hernandez and the Mets are looking for second base help. The Padres are looking for a stopgap shortstop as they wait for prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., but there are free agents out there (Zack Cozart, Alcides Escobar) that would not cost the Padres talent in a deal.

The Phillies' bullpen showed signs of coming together in the second half of last season, but the team would still like to add a veteran who knows his way around the late innings. A Pat Neshek reunion has been discussed internally. A reunion with free agent Juan Nicasio might make sense.

Starting pitching
At the general managers' meetings last month, Klentak acknowledged the need to add a starting pitcher. The Phillies will look to mine the second tier of the free-agent market and will also look to get pitching in a deal for Hernandez or Galvis.

A blockbuster deal
The Phillies' farm system has improved to the point where they have the depth to jump in full-force if the Orioles make Manny Machado available or the Marlins look to trade Christian Yelich. Both players have big fans in the Phillies' front office. The Phils could also bid for a pitcher such as Chris Archer or Gerrit Cole if they become available.

Rule 5 draft
The Phillies have the third pick in Thursday's event and will have room on their roster after outfielder Cameron Perkins and infielder Engelb Vielma clear waivers Monday. The Phillies sneaked outfielder Carlos Tocci through the Rule 5 draft last year. They could lose him this year.

First base coach
The Phillies still have one opening on their coaching staff. Juan Samuel, most recently the Phillies' third base coach, could still end up being retained on the staff and move over to first base. Kapler, in continuing to introduce himself to his new charges, recently met with Phillies players in the Dominican Republic. Front office man Jorge Velandia, a longtime member of the player-development staff, accompanied Kapler on the trip. The Phillies brass likes Velandia's impact in the front office, but he could be an intriguing possibility as the first-base coach. He interviewed for the managerial job before Kapler was hired.

Gabe the Babe
Craig Calcaterra, founder of the HardballTalk blog on, unveils his annual list of baseball's most handsome managers during the winter meetings. This hilarious feature is hotly anticipated by many in the baseball establishment. Pete Mackanin ranked eighth last year and it was a big topic of conversation in the Phillies' war room. So where will the hunky Kapler land in his first year of eligibility? Keep an eye out for Calcaterra's fifth annual list.

Yankees, Marlins reportedly have Giancarlo Stanton trade in place

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Yankees, Marlins reportedly have Giancarlo Stanton trade in place

MIAMI -- After helping the New York Yankees to five World Series titles, Derek Jeter might help them win another.

The Yankees and Jeter's Miami Marlins have agreed to a trade that would send NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to New York, pending a physical, a person familiar with the negotiations said Saturday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn't announced the agreement.

Second baseman Starlin Castro would go to Miami as part of the trade, a second person familiar with the negotiations said. A third person said the Marlins would also receive prospects Jorge Guzman, a right-hander, and Jose Devers, an infielder who is a cousin of Boston prospect Rafael Devers.

The third person said the deal calls for the Marlins to send $30 million to the Yankees if Stanton doesn't exercise his right to opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the 2020 season.

Stanton has a no-trade clause in his record $325 million, 13-year contract and has indicated he will approve the trade, one of the people said. St. Louis and San Francisco said Friday that Stanton had vetoed deals to them.

As for the physical, injuries curtailed Stanton's season in four of the past six years, but he played a career-high 159 games in 2017 and led the majors with 59 homers and 132 RBIs.

If the Yankees complete the trade with Jeter, their former captain and the new Marlins CEO, the Bronx Bombers would pair Stanton with Aaron Judge, who led the AL with 52 in his rookie season. That would give them a one-two punch to rival Ruth-Gehrig or Mantle-Maris, making for must-see batting practice.

Judge sent a tweet to Stanton showing a clip from the movie "Step Brothers" with Will Ferrell saying, "Did we just become best friends?"

Obtaining the 28-year-old Stanton would be reminiscent of the Yankees' acquisition of AL MVP Alex Rodriguez from Texas after the 2003 season for second baseman Alfonso Soriano. Rodriguez signed a $275 million, 10-year contract after the 2007 season that ran through age 42; Stanton's deal runs through age 38.

An eight-year veteran with 267 home runs, Stanton has never played on a winning team and might now go to a club that hasn't had a losing record since 1992. The Yankees reached Game 7 of the AL Championship Series this season in the first full year of a youth movement.

New Yankees manager Aaron Boone, along with the front office, would have to sort where Stanton will play. He has played his whole big league career in right field, as has Judge. The Yankees also have the option of using one of them as a designated hitter.

Stanton is owed $295 million over the final decade of his record $325 million, 13-year contract. The All-Star right fielder led the majors in homers and RBIs, but his salary will rise to $25 million in 2018.

Jeter is expected to reduce payroll by at least 20 percent to $90 million or less. The Marlins shed $38 million of salary through 2020 by trading two-time All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday for three prospects.

Castro, who hit .300 with 16 home runs this year, could replace Gordon at second base -- or might also be dealt by Miami because of his contract. He's due $10 million in 2018 and $11 million in 2019 plus a $16 million club option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout.

Gary Denbo, the Marlins new vice president of scouting and player development, spent the past eight years with New York and oversaw a farm system that ranks among the best in baseball. Guzman went 5-3 this year with a 2.30 ERA for Class A Staten Island. Devers, who just turned 18, batted .245 with 16 steals in 53 games for two teams in the low minors.

More Marlins deals are possible at the winter meetings beginning Sunday in Lake Buena Vista; Castro and outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna possibly are on the trading block.

The Yankees' payroll for purposes of baseball's luxury tax was about $209 million this year, and owner Hal Steinbrenner has vowed to reduce it below next year's $197 million threshold, which would reset the team's base tax rate from 50 percent to 20 percent in 2019. That would put the Yankees in better position for next offseason's free agent class, which includes Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and possibly Clayton Kershaw.

Stanton counts as $25 million for the luxury tax, but trading Castro cuts New York's tax payroll by $8,801,786. Rodriguez ($27.5 million) comes off the payroll after this year, and five high-priced Yankees have become free agents: CC Sabathia ($20 million), Matt Holliday ($13 million), Michael Pineda ($7.4 million), Todd Frazier ($4,918,033) and Jaime Garcia ($4,961,721).

New York could trade third baseman Chase Headley ($13 million), expendable because of prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who counts as $21,857,143, appears to be superfluous in an outfield that includes Stanton, Judge, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner. Ellsbury is owed $21,142, 857 in each of the next three years as part of a deal that includes a $21 million team option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout.

After missing out on Japanese right-hander Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees are expected to seek starting pitching to bolster a rotation currently projected to include Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and Luis Cessa.

Stanton would take a cut in take-home pay for his games in the Bronx. While Florida has no state income tax, New York State has an 8.82 percent top rate on income and New York City a 3.876 percent top rate. But he might make up the difference in new endorsements.