Cameron Rupp

Phillies players react to Pete Mackanin being out as manager

Phillies players react to Pete Mackanin being out as manager

When Cameron Rupp arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Friday ahead of his team’s game with the New York Mets, he didn’t expect to hear that Pete Mackanin had been fired as the Phillies' manager (see story).

“I was just kind of like ‘Wow’,” Rupp said. “It’s not something that you ever expect or know when something like that is coming. I guess that’s just the nature of the business when they believe it’s time to make a change. That’s something we have to deal with and it’s part of the game.”

Instead, Mackanin, who was under contract through 2018, signed a new contract with the club to be a special assistant to the general manager. He will manage the Phillies' final three games of the 2017 season against the Mets.

In almost three seasons as Phillies manager, Mackanin posted a 172-247 record entering Friday with zero playoff appearances. In 2017, the Phillies finished an abysmal first half at 29-58, but have turned it around to end the season behind the success of their young prospects.

After winning 11 of their last 18 games and 17 of 31 since the end of August, Rupp questioned the timing of the decision.

“We’ve played really good baseball in the second half,” Rupp said. “We’ve had good pitching, offense has been there, and we’re in the top in baseball in offense the last couple months. It’s not something you expect. You don’t come to the ballpark saying, ‘Who’s getting fired?’ or ‘Who’s not going to return?’ You come to the ballpark to get ready for the night and when you hear it, it’s a little surprising.”

Rookie Rhys Hoskins echoed his teammate’s opinion.

“To me, yeah, [it’s odd timing],” Hoskins said. “But I’ve never gone through it. The organization did what it thought was best. We’re still going to go out and play hard and try to win these last three games.”

Hoskins has been one of the driving forces behind the Phillies' second-half surge, posting 18 home runs and 47 RBIs since being called up on Aug. 10. He attributed much of his early success to the 66-year-old Mackanin.

“He’s a great baseball guy,” Hoskins said. “He’s been around the game for a long time and I think that experience he has is pretty invaluable. He was able to pass that off to some of us young guys. I think being around him for the 50 games that I was up here is something that I’ll remember, especially as my first manager in the big leagues.”

After Friday's move, Phillies GM Matt Klentak is clearly pushing the team in a new direction (see story). Now Rupp and the rest of the players can only wait to find what direction that takes them.

“We knew who we were going to be playing for next year and now it’s like ‘OK. Who’s it going to be?,'” Rupp said. “It’s always nice to go into spring training and know what to expect, who’s going to be running camp and now it’s like ‘What’s this camp going to be like? What’s this roster going to look like?’ There’s going to be changes made and decisions that will be made. It will be different for us.”

Phillies safe from 100 losses after taking down Nationals

Phillies safe from 100 losses after taking down Nationals

BOX SCORE

The 1961 Phillies are safe.

They remain the last Phillies team to reach triple-digit losses.

The 2017 Phillies avoided the ignominy of 100 losses as they rode a pair of big hits by Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp and the excellent bullpen work of Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris to a 4-1 win over the National League East champion Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night (see observations).

Manager Pete Mackanin had recently downplayed avoiding 100 losses as a goal. His focus has been simply on seeing improvement from his young, rebuilding club.

But win No. 63 made Mackanin pretty happy.

"When I said 100 losses didn't matter — I lied," Mackanin said with a laugh. "I admit it. Great win."

The 1961 Phillies, under second-year skipper Gene Mauch, went 47-107.

Rupp had the game's biggest hit, a bullet of a two-run double over the centerfielder's head in the bottom of the third inning. It gave the Phillies and starter Jake Thompson a 3-1 lead. Rhys Hoskins padded the lead with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and the aforementioned quartet of relievers registered nine of 12 outs via the strikeout to close it out.

Rupp was around two years ago when the 2015 Phillies lost 99 games. With four more games left before it's time to go home for the winter, Rupp hopes Tuesday night's win is not this team's last.

"I've already lost 99 one time," said the catcher, who turns 29 on Thursday. "Let's win a couple more."

Not long ago, the Phillies were on a clear path to triple-digit losses. An influx of young talent, led by Hoskins and Nick Williams, and much improved bullpen work have helped the Phillies go 34-37 after the All-Star break, a major improvement after they were 29 games under .500 before the break.

"It's one of those things we know," Rupp said of the specter of 100 losses. "But we come out every day and try to let the results show. There's been a lot of games that we've been right in and the ball hasn't rolled our way, a lot of one-run and two-run losses. One big hit here and there and we flip our record in one-run games. It's not that we’re far away. We've got the players here. We just have to get that big hit."

The Phillies are 21-36 in one-run games.

Rupp's double in the third inning came against Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, who did not pitch up to his 2.68 ERA, which was third best in the NL entering the game. Mackanin said he started Rupp because he had good numbers against the lefty Gonzalez — five hits, including two doubles, in 14 career at-bats.

The Phillies played good defense in this game, particularly J.P. Crawford at third base. He started a big double play behind Thompson in the first inning and later made a diving snare of a 108-mph liner off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. But nothing made Mackanin happier than seeing Joseph and Rupp get their big hits in the third inning.

Joseph and Rupp have lost playing time in recent weeks as management looks at young players. It's unclear where both players fit into the team's future. It's possible both could be with other clubs next season.

But right now, they are Phillies, and their heads are high.

"I was very happy for both of those guys," Mackanin said. "The way they've handled the whole situation — it's a testament to their professionalism."

Rupp has lost time to rookie Jorge Alfaro in recent weeks. Joseph has lost it to Hoskins.

"It's one of those things where when I get my chance, I've got to perform," Rupp said. "It doesn't matter the situation. It doesn't matter who's in there. You get your chance, you need to show them what you can do. It's the situation that we're in. It's no secret when we get our chance, we have to perform."

Rupp and Joseph got their chance Tuesday night.

They performed.

The 1961 Phillies are safe for at least another year.

Phillies-Nationals observations: Big 3rd inning in 4-1 win

Phillies-Nationals observations: Big 3rd inning in 4-1 win

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp keyed a three-run third inning and the bullpen pitched well in lifting the Phillies to a 4-1 win over the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.

The win was the lowly Phillies' 63rd against 95 losses and it ensured that the team will not reach the 100-defeat mark. The Phils have not lost 100 games in a season since 1961. Nonetheless, the Phils entered the game tied with San Francisco for having the game's worst record.
 
Joseph and Rupp have each lost playing time recently. Joseph had an RBI single in the third and Rupp scorched a two-run, two-out double over the centerfielder's head.

• Jake Thompson pitched five innings of one-run ball. He pitched 46 1/3 innings in the majors this season and had a 3.88 ERA. For his career, he is at 100 big-league innings. His ERA is 4.86.

• Washington starter Gio Gonzalez entered the game with the third-best ERA in the National League at 2.68. He allowed five hits and three runs over five innings. He struck out seven but walked five. Two of those walks became runs. Gonzalez will need to be better when the postseason starts next week.

• Washington star Bryce Harper returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a hyperextended left knee on Aug. 12. He was hitless with a walk in three at-bats. Harper is basically trying to get his timing back for the postseason.

• Pitch efficiency was seriously lacking early in the game as Thompson and Gonzalez combined to throw 96 pitches in the first two innings. Thompson threw 29 strikes and 18 balls in the first two innings. Gonzalez threw 25 strikes and 24 balls in the first two innings and reached 100 pitches with one out in the fifth inning.

• J.P. Crawford continued to get work at third base. His actions and first-step quickness at the position are excellent. He made a quick-reaction diving stab on a liner from Ryan Zimmerman in the sixth inning. That ball came off Zimmerman's bat at 108 mph.

• Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris combined on four shutout innings — and nine strikeouts — out of the bullpen. Morgan has given up just two runs in his last 25 innings. Neris has converted 19 straight save chances.

• Odubel Herrera's first two at-bats against Gonzalez were not pretty. He struck out swinging at a pitch up and out of the strike zone in the second inning and popped weakly to short with men on base in the fourth. He got out in front of a Gonzalez curveball and popped to center in the fifth. In the eighth, he fanned against reliever Austin Adams.

• Smart play by Freddy Galvis taking an extra base on Nats first baseman Zimmerman on a groundout in the seventh. Zimmerman has trouble throwing the ball, hence his position move from third base to first. Galvis knew this, alertly took advantage of it and it resulted in a run on a sacrifice fly by Rhys Hoskins.

• Hoskins entered the game in an 0-for-10 funk (5 for 37 overall) and struck out on curveballs from Gonzalez in his first two at-bats. He rebounded to draw a walk in the fifth and had an important sacrifice fly in the seventh.

• Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.69) pitches against Washington's Tanner Roark (13-10, 4.41) in the series finale on Wednesday night.