Phillies-Nationals observations: Sloppy defense in 11-10 loss

Phillies-Nationals observations: Sloppy defense in 11-10 loss


WASHINGTON — From the start, this was not going to be a good matchup for the Phillies. They seldom fare well against Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, last year's National League Cy Young winner.

Scherzer was the winning pitcher in an 11-10 Washington victory on Friday night. He is 9-1 in 14 career starts against the Phils.

The Phillies took an early 3-0 lead on Scherzer, but it vanished amid the adventures — or misadventures — of Odubel Herrera in center field.

The Phillies pulled within a run on a pair of late-game three-run homers by Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco before Nationals closer Sean Doolittle came on and nailed down the win with three strikeouts. Doolittle's second strikeout came against Jorge Alfaro. The Phillies catcher snapped his bat in half over his knee after the strikeout. That's a strong man.

The Phillies are a majors-worst 53-88.

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

• Herrera misplayed a line drive by Michael A. Taylor into an inside-the-park grand slam in the bottom of the third inning. Herrera, at first, broke in on the ball. Then he scurried back. Then he jumped flat-footed for the ball. It rolled to the wall, Herrera jogged after it and Taylor circled the bases (see story). Earlier in the inning, second baseman Cesar Hernandez booted a tailor-made double-play ball.

• 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 and 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.

• While Herrera struggled in center field, Taylor excelled there for the Nationals. He cut down a run at the plate with a perfect throw in the seventh. On Thursday night, he robbed a home run from Andres Blanco. Taylor had four hits, adding a triple late in the game.

• Phillies starter Jake Thompson was hardly sharp, but his defense was awful.

• Freddy Galvis was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season as the Phillies looked at rookie J.P. Crawford at shortstop (see story). Crawford had two hits, including his first extra-base hit, and drove in a run. He is expected to play second base on Saturday night. Galvis pinch hit in the sixth inning, so he has played in all 141 games. He will return to shortstop Saturday night.

• The Phillies did some early damage against Scherzer. He walked two in the first inning then surrendered a three-run homer to rookie Nick Williams. Williams turned around a 93-mph fastball with a short, quick, powerful stroke. It was his 10th homer — he also has 43 RBIs — since coming up on June 30. Before the game, general manager Matt Klentak raved about the production and energy Williams has brought to the club.

"It's going on three months of production from him. I can't say enough about what Nick has brought to this team," Klentak said. "He deserves all the credit for it — just the style of play, the energy level that he brings. It's contagious. I know the players and the coaching staff would share that sentiment. He has enough of a sample now that this looks like the player Nick Williams is. And that's not to say he can't get better. He's making improvements at the major-league level. Where some players come up and struggle and take steps back, he appears to be going the other way. He's been a very positive development success story."

• Hoskins, who batted third, belted a three-run homer off lefty Oliver Perez in the seventh. It was his 13th homer in 29 games with the club. Seven of the Phillies' runs were driven in by rookies — three each by Williams and Hoskins and one by Crawford.

• Phillies pitchers threw a bunch of hanging breaking balls in this game.

• Howie Kendrick has played an important role in Washington's banged-up outfield since coming over from the Phillies at the trade deadline. He entered the game hitting .310 with six doubles, two triples, five homers and 22 RBIs since the trade. He made a heads-up base-running play in the first inning when he went first to third on a base hit to leftfielder Hyun Soo Kim. He eventually scored. Kendrick's time with the Phillies was brief and he had two stints on the disabled list, but he does a lot of little things right. Word is the Nats are thrilled with the pickup.

• Another pitching injury: Promising reliever Jesen Therrien is out for the season with an injury to the ulna collateral ligament in his right elbow. Therrien is still being evaluated medically, but Tommy John surgery is a possibility. Therrien struggled in 15 appearances in the majors after putting himself on the map with some excellent work at Double A and Triple A earlier this season.

• Herrera did manage an infield hit, improving his hitting streak to 21 games, longest in the majors this season.

• The series continues on Saturday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (2-5, 4.74) opposing Washington right-hander Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.29).

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition

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Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition


FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Phillies began their final full week in Florida on Sunday with a game against the Minnesota Twins. It provided manager Gabe Kapler the opportunity to look at a number of important areas — some settled, some unsettled — of his roster.

To wit:

• The opening day battery of Aaron Nola and Jorge Alfaro worked together. Nola battled through an early rough patch and delivered five innings of two-run ball. He will have one more start before he gets the call in Atlanta in 11 days.

• Scott Kingery, everybody’s favorite prospect, got the start at third base. He had two hits, raising his average to .378 (14 for 37), and made a nice play on a bunt. Kingery is projected to open at Triple A so the Phillies can control his rights through 2024. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be down there long. He projects as the second baseman of the future, but Cesar Hernandez is at the position for now. Third base could be a temporary landing spot for Kingery if Maikel Franco struggles. Kingery played some third at Triple A last season. Yes, Kapler wants to create versatility on his roster. But it was still notable that Kingery got his first look of the spring at third. He will get more time in the outfield before camp ends.

“We want him ready to step in and play all over the diamond whenever that time is,” Kapler said.

• The battle for bench spots was in full display. It’s not clear if the Phils have two or three spots open on the bench because they don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until April 11 and that could allow them a five-man bench at the outset. Regardless, the competition will come into focus this week.  Candidates Ryan Flaherty, Adam Rosales, Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn all played in the game.

Quinn, Florimon and Valentin are all on the 40-man roster so that could help their chances. Quinn, an outfielder by trade, got another look at shortstop. Florimon played left field, had a hit and walked twice. Valentin, an infielder by trade, got a look in right field and belted his third homer of the spring, a three-run shot, for the Phillies’ only runs in a 4-3 loss.

“Valentin has really put his strongest foot forward,” Kapler said. “He’s demonstrated pop, versatility and come up with huge hits.”

Flaherty, who played seven different positions with the Orioles over the last six seasons, started at first base and had a hit. He’s hitting .333.

“He’s having an awesome spring,” Kapler said.

Like Flaherty, Rosales, who has played parts of the last 10 seasons in the majors, can also play anywhere. Flaherty has an out in his minor-league contract on Thursday, so that could bring some clarity to his situation. If he’s still in the hunt Saturday, the Phillies must add him to the 40-man roster, pay him a $100,000 retention bonus or allow him to walk. Ditto for Rosales. So the bench picture will start to come into focus soon.

“There’s a lot to be excited about in that bench role,” Kapler said.

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

Jim Salisbury/NBCSP

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

DUNEDIN, Fla. — It’s not hard to find Charlie Manuel in spring training. In late mornings, he’s perched behind the batting cage watching Phillies hitters take their swings. During the game, he’s on the top step of the dugout, taking it all in and offering advice where needed.

Manuel didn’t stay for the game Saturday. He watched batting practice, showered and drove out of the parking lot 30 minutes before the first pitch.

Manuel, you see, had a promise to keep.

Back in November, Manuel was one of nine people to speak at Roy Halladay’s memorial service at Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring training home. Manuel stood at a podium near the very mound that Halladay trained on and spoke from the heart about what an honor it was to manage such a great talent and competitor. Manuel had jotted his words down on a paper, but he didn’t stick completely to his script that day. At one point, he looked down at Halladay’s two grieving sons, Braden and Ryan, and told them he’d be keeping tabs on their progress as young ballplayers. Manuel promised to attend their games. And that’s just what he did Saturday afternoon.

Braden Halladay, a lanky 17-year-old right-hander who bears a striking resemblance to his dad, on and off the mound, is a member of the Canadian Junior Team’s spring training roster. He was born in Toronto when his dad played for the Blue Jays, hence his eligibility to pitch for Canada.

On Saturday, Braden pitched a scoreless eighth inning against a Jays’ split-squad team on the very Dunedin Stadium mound where his dad began his career.

“I’m so glad I came over,” Manuel said after Braden’s perfect inning of work. “He did good. I’m glad he got ‘em out.”

This wasn’t the first time Manuel had seen Braden pitch. Braden pitches for Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, where he is a junior. Manuel watched him pitch five shutout innings earlier in the week. And on Wednesday night, Manuel attended young brother Ryan’s practice in Clearwater.

Manuel has a warm spot for the boys for a lot of reasons. Obviously, there was the respect he had for their dad. “When I think of Roy, I think of the perfect game and playoff no-hitter first,” Manuel said. “Right after that, I think of his work ethic. It was the best I’ve ever seen.” 

But Manuel’s affection for the boys goes beyond the respect he had for their dad. Manuel was 18, the oldest son in a family of 11 children, when he lost his dad.

“I feel for those boys,” Manuel said. “I know what they’re going through and it isn’t easy. Not easy at all.”

It takes a lot of love to get through a tragedy like the one the Halladay family has gone through. The boys get it from their mom, Brandy, who is at all of their games. And they get it from people like Charlie Manuel.

Saturday’s first pitch at Dunedin Stadium, just a few miles from the Phillies’ ballpark, was scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Manuel wanted to hustle over so he could wish Braden luck before the game. Manuel made his way down to the bullpen area and spotted one of his former Phillies players, Pete Orr, who is a coach with the Canadian team. Orr called over to Braden. A huge smile crossed the kid’s face when he saw Manuel. He sprinted over and gave Manuel a hug. Orr, who grew up near Toronto, slapped Braden on the back of his Team Canada jersey and said, “He looks good in red and white.”

He sure did.

Braden chatted with Manuel for a minute or two, and Manuel wished him luck. A reporter from Philadelphia asked Braden what it felt like to have Manuel keep tabs on his baseball career.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Braden said with a big smile. “It means a lot to me.”

The reporter wished him luck and told him that all of Philadelphia was rooting for him.

“I appreciate that,” the young pitcher said before trotting off to join his teammates.

Braden Halladay is 6-3 and 150 pounds. He entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with his team down, 11-3, at first to a smattering of applause. That grew into a big, beautiful round of applause after the PA man announced his name and everyone in the crowd realized the magnitude of the moment. Braden knelt behind the mound and wrote his dad’s initials in the dirt before delivering his first pitch. His pitching delivery is smooth and fundamentally pure.

“You can tell Roy worked with him,” Manuel said.

Braden mixed his pitches nicely in getting two pop-ups and a ground ball. He hit 83 mph on the stadium radar gun. A few months ago, Braden announced that he had committed to Penn State. Manuel sees a lot of promise in the kid.

“When he’s 21, he’ll pitch at 205 pounds,” Manuel said. “He’ll get stronger. You watch, he’s got a chance to be real good. He has a good, quick arm, command of the ball and mechanics.”

Where the game will eventually take Braden Halladay is a story for another day. Back in November, he sat in the middle of a baseball field and listened to people eulogize his dad. It was an excruciatingly difficult experience and the look on his face that day said as much.

So on Saturday, it was just great to see Braden Halladay back on a baseball field with a smile on his face. And it was great to see Charlie Manuel there, taking it all in, just as he had promised.