Phillies

Odubel Herrera apologizes to teammates after miscues cost Phillies a game

Odubel Herrera apologizes to teammates after miscues cost Phillies a game

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ATLANTA — The dateline says Atlanta, but it might as well say Planet Odubel.

Phillies fans have visited the locale before.

It’s the place where you can see Odubel Herrera drive balls into the gaps with his sturdy bat and run them down with his quick legs. It’s the place where he oozes the talent that allowed him to go from unheralded Rule 5 pick in 2014 to the All-Star Game in 2016.

It’s also the place where he can infuriate those around him with boneheaded plays, lapses in concentration and lack of hustle.

Monday’s game against the Atlanta Braves offered a distilled version of what makes Herrera alternately exciting and exasperating. He belted a solo home run to give the Phillies a lead in the first inning, but by the time the game was four innings old, he’d made a mistake on the bases and in the outfield and both proved costly in a 2-1 loss in which the Phils wasted a strong start from Aaron Nola and saw their six-game winning streak die (see first take).

Herrera’s play earned him a postgame meeting with manager Gabe Kapler. A few moments later, Herrera spoke with reporters and offered his apologies to his teammates.

Herrera’s first miscue came in the third inning when he was on his way to a hustle double but was called out when he failed to slide into second. Had he slid, the Phils would have had runners at second and third with one out for the middle of the order. Instead, there were two outs and winning pitcher Julio Teheran eventually pitched out of trouble.

“I’m not sure if the game changed there, but it was certainly an important play in the game,” Kapler said. “There’s no doubt about that. I talked to Odubel about it. It’s a play you have to slide on. He knows that. And next time he goes in, he’s going to slide, for sure.”

Herrera knew he messed up because he swatted himself upside the head as the umpire called him out. He said he misread the play and thought he could make it without sliding. On his way out to center field for the next inning, Herrera and Rhys Hoskins chatted briefly in the outfield. Hoskins appeared to be giving Herrera a pep talk or maybe some tough love.

“I apologized to him,” Herrera said. “I said, ‘My bad. My bad.’ I felt bad. He said, ‘Don’t worry, we got you.’”

In the fourth inning, Herrera and rightfielder Aaron Altherr failed to communicate on a sacrifice fly. No one called the ball, so Altherr came way over from right field to make the play, but his throw to the plate was late, allowing Ozzie Albies to score what proved to be the decisive run. The ball should have been Herrera’s all the way.

After the game, Kapler told Herrera, “You’re the captain of the outfield as the centerfielder and so at that point, you call everybody off, you take that ball, you get behind it, and you make your best throw to the plate. He understands that well and next time out he’s going to throw his ass out at the plate.”

Herrera admitted he should have called for the ball and made the play.

“It’s something I have to learn from,” he said, referring to the whole night.

Phillies hitters rack up the strikeouts

Phillies hitters rack up the strikeouts

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Winning covers up a lot of flaws. Or at least stops people from talking about them. So as the Phillies were running out to a 14-7 start in the new season, the alarming number of strikeouts that their hitters were racking up was hardly noticed.

Not Tuesday night.

Phillies hitters struck out 16 times in an 8-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (see first take).

Manager Gabe Kapler rationalized the high number of Ks by pointing out that opposing pitcher, lefty Robbie Ray, “is a strikeout guy with good stuff.” Indeed, Ray struck out 11 in just 4 2/3 innings.

Nonetheless, this was the 15th time that the Phils have reached double digits in strikeouts in 22 games this season. They entered the game ranked seventh in the majors with 211 Ks. Now, it’s up to 227.

“Part of working deep counts and seeing a lot of pitches is that you’re going to go through stretches where you strike out some,” Kapler said. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to put the ball in play more. We do. It’s an absolute necessity. But sometimes you have to give credit to the opposing pitcher.”

Carlos Santana struck out three times. So did rookie Jorge Alfaro. Twenty-four of his 52 plate appearances have ended in a strikeout this season.

Rookie Scott Kingery led the way with four strikeouts. He is mired in his first funk as a big leaguer. Over his last 25 at-bats, he has struck out 12 times while collecting just two hits.

“The one thing we know is that the league is going to adjust to our hitters and we trust that Kingery has the ability to adjust back,” Kapler said. “We’re seeing some adjustments made. He was really, really good early on and he’s going to go through a stretch where he scuffles a little bit. It doesn’t change our confidence level in him. In fact, it's as high as it has ever been. We know he’s going to come back strong. He’s going to need to make some adjustments but there’s no doubt in his capability to do so.”

Kingery acknowledged his struggles and said he would learn from them.

“I’ve started swinging at balls in the dirt,” he said. “That's always been one of my weaknesses. I'm chasing a little bit right now. They're just really kind of nibbling over the plate. They're not really throwing me too much. They're starting to work ahead with off-speed and trying to get me to chase. So now it's something I'm going to have to adjust back to.

“I knew this was going to happen. Coming into the season, they probably didn't have much information on me. I didn't have much information on them. You start to see some tendencies and stuff like that. They start attacking areas that you're not strongest in and when I chase, that piles up the strikeouts for me.

“I'm going to have to adjust and learn some stuff now to get back to hitting the ball like I was in the beginning of the season. There's definitely room to learn and grow as a player. It's definitely going to be a learning experience that is ongoing.”

Arizona hitters struck out 12 times, but the D-backs hit three homers, two against Phillies' starter Vince Velasquez, as they improved to 16-6.

Phillies fall to Diamondbacks, finally lose at home again

Phillies fall to Diamondbacks, finally lose at home again

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The test got a little harder for the Phillies on Tuesday and they did not fare well. They were beaten, 8-4, by the Arizona Diamondbacks on a rainy night in South Philadelphia.

The Diamondbacks hit three home runs. Phillies hitters struck out 16 times, four by rookie Scott Kingery. It was the 15th time they’ve reached double digits in strikeouts in 22 games this season.

The game was played in a not-so-swift three hours, 49 minutes.

The Phillies entered the game with the fifth-best record in the majors after posting a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh. Arizona, meanwhile, had the second-best record in the majors. The Phils fell to 14-8 with the loss while Arizona improved to 16-6.

Phillies starter Vince Velasquez’s string of three straight quality starts ended as he went just 4 2/3 innings.

Velasquez struck out four of the first six batters he faced then allowed back-to-back homers to open the third. His mates got him the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third but he ran into trouble in the fifth inning and was touched for a pair or runs after the first three batters reached on a walk, a single and another walk. David Peralta’s double brought home two runs for Arizona. Velasquez threw 36 pitches in the inning and got just two outs.

Arizona starter Robbie Ray had the stuff to strike out 11 in 4 2/3 innings. But he threw 107 pitches and got an early hook.

Victor Arano’s scoreless innings streak ended when he gave up an RBI single in the sixth as Arizona went up 5-3. Arano had not allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings this season.

The Phillies shaved a run off the Arizona lead in the bottom of the inning on a two-out hit by Cesar Hernandez.

The Diamondbacks put the game away on a two-run homer by Daniel Descalso in the eighth. The home run capped a three-run inning against Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios.

Notes
• Odubel Herrera did not start as manager Gabe Kapler parlayed Monday’s off day in the schedule into an extra day of rest for Herrera.

“This gets him back-to-back days of full recovery and tissue repair,” Kapler said. “Then Odubel will get right back in there and play a long stretch of games.”

Herrera entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and was hit by a pitch. He has reached base in 24 straight games, dating to last season.

• Jorge Alfaro struck out three times. Twenty-four of his 52 plate appearances have ended in a strikeout this season.

• The rookie Kingery got the start in right field. He struck out four times and is 2 for his last 25 with 12 strikeouts.