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.