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.

Tim Tebow's chances of actually playing in majors

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Tim Tebow's chances of actually playing in majors

Could "Tim Tebow in the major leagues" actually be a thing in 2018?

The mere suggestion that Tebow could one day rise to baseball's highest level sounded crazy in the summer of 2016 when he signed with the Mets.

One former Phillie referred to it as a "slap in the face."

Longtime baseball man Larry Bowa said this in August 2016:

"Whosever idea it is, they don't respect the game of baseball. It's a hard game. You don't come in at age 28 or 29. I'm not saying he's not a good athlete, but this is a hard game and there are a lot of good athletes in pro ball that never get to the big leagues. 

"I don't think it can happen. There are guys 28 or 29 that are getting released everyday. How can you take 10 years off and all of the sudden be facing guys throwing 95, guys throwing sliders?"

Yet here we are in spring training 2018 and Mets GM Sandy Alderson has said he expects to see Tebow play in The Show.

"Somebody asked me whether I think he'll be a major league player at some point," Alderson told reporters Sunday. "I think he will play in the major leagues. That's my guess. That's my hope, and to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation."

Bovada has set Tebow's odds of playing in the majors in the 2018 or 2019 regular season at 6/1. If you bet against him, it's 1/10, meaning a $100 bet would win you $10.

Tebow played at two levels in 2017: Class A and Class A Advanced. He hit .226/.309/.347 with 24 doubles, eight homers and 52 RBIs in 486 plate appearances. He walked 43 times and struck out 126.

Nearly all of Tebow's minor-league innings have come in left field, where he had 10 errors and two outfield assists in 2017.

Tebow last appeared in the NFL in the 2015 preseason with the Eagles. He went 21 for 36 for 286 yards with two TDs and an interception, adding 82 yards on 14 carries with a TD on the ground but failing to make Chip Kelly's 53-man roster.

Bombs away! Nick Williams takes aim on manager's car in batting practice

Bombs away! Nick Williams takes aim on manager's car in batting practice

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A week into camp, Nick Williams looks primed to build on last year’s impressive rookie season.

Williams has been launching balls in batting practice and manager Gabe Kapler loves it — even if it means he’ll be charged for a little damage to his rental car.

On Tuesday, Williams clubbed a ball far over the fence at Mike Schmidt Field. It landed on the roof of Kapler’s rented Ford Explorer, leaving a dent that would hold a couple of servings of creamed spinach.

“I would trade a Nick Williams home run for a dent in a rental car any day of the week,” Kapler said Tuesday.

“I’m glad he said that,” Williams said Wednesday morning, “because it felt kind of good to hit it.”

Later on Wednesday, Williams put on another power display at Schmidt Field. It was so impressive that Cesar Hernandez considered leaving the field, grabbing his keys and moving his car.

“I just missed Cesar’s car,” Williams said with a laugh.

Kapler was again impressed with Williams’ round of BP.

“Today we had a nice little breeze coming in from right field,” Kapler said. “The breeze did not stop Nick Williams from destroying the baseball and almost hitting my car for a second day straight.

“If he is destroying cars and it happens to be mine, no problem.”

Kapler has no intention of parking elsewhere in coming days. In fact, he likes the idea of Williams using his car for target practice.

“We’re going to make it a bull’s-eye for him,” Kapler said. “That’ll be a running joke. It’s a great way to build relationships. It’s part of the whole scientific plan to make this work.”

Williams, 24, arrived in the majors in June of last season. He played in 83 games and hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS. Like a number of players on the roster, he would benefit from fewer strikeouts and more walks (97/20 in 343 plate appearances last season), but a week into camp, Kapler likes the hitting potential he sees in the young outfielder.

“He’s really shining,” Kapler said. “He really is. He walks around with a perpetual smile on his face.

“Our hitting coaches are enthused about the bat path. The way he sort of lofts the ball to the middle of the field. Some hitters, when they strike their best ball, it’s on the ground. But Nick, when he makes his most solid contract, it has a nice loft to his swing. And in the middle of the field, there aren’t many guys who can drive the ball like he can.”

The Phillies have four outfielders worthy of regular playing time. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera line up to play left field and center field, respectively. Williams will get time in right. Aaron Altherr can play any outfield position.

Kapler is reluctant to assign roles at this point in camp. But he is confident he can find all four playing time.

“I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “Between pinch-hitting, interleague, someone getting a tweak and missing a week, the occasional rep at first base [for Hoskins], they’re all going to get a ton of reps. I envision plenty of at-bats to keep everybody satisfied, healthy and performing well.”