New York Mets

Defensive alignment again hurts Phillies in loss to Mets

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Defensive alignment again hurts Phillies in loss to Mets

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NEW YORK — This isn’t how the Phillies wanted to come home after spending nearly $170 million on free agents and hiring a bold new manager this offseason.

But here they are, heading into Thursday’s home opener with a 1-4 record, hitting .183 as a team, scoring 2.8 runs per game and striking out more than 11 times per game.

They’re also carrying a 5.56 team ERA.

Sure, it’s a super-small sample size. But new manager Gabe Kapler and his charges are not off to a good start and it will be interesting to see what kind of welcome they get from the home folk.

“I’m excited about going back to Philadelphia and I think our players are, too,” Kapler said after his club capped its season-opening trip with a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday (see breakdown). “I think the fans can be excited for the young product we’re putting on the field, some hitters who have been grinding through at-bats, and some good young arms. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The road trip wasn’t fun for the Phillies or Kapler. Several of the rookie manager’s moves backfired, including a couple of defensive calls in New York. On Tuesday night, the Phils could not turn a double play in the sixth inning because they were in a shift. It led to two runs and a 2-0 loss (see story).

On Wednesday, reliever Drew Hutchison, who picked up Aaron Nola after 87 pitches, gave up a killer two-run triple to No. 9 hitter Amed Rosario with two outs in the sixth. It broke a 2-2 tie. The triple came on a first-pitch slider and sailed over the head of rightfielder Nick Williams, who was playing extremely shallow — about 50 feet closer than normal, according to MLB Statcast. Kapler said Williams was told to play in that position because Hutchison’s slider often induced weak contact and the Phils didn’t wanted to give up a hit in front of the outfielder.

Kapler defended the defensive alignment.

“That ball was hit hard,” he said. “If he was playing back 25 feet, I’m not sure he catches that ball. It was over his head by a significant margin and we’re optimizing for the ball in front of us there. I trust our positioning right there.

“Some of these moves have not worked out in the short term. In the long term, we are very confident they will. I can’t express enough confidence that our strategies will pay dividends, but I understand in the short term they haven’t and that can be disappointing. I get it.”

Williams said he was not sure if he would have had a play on the ball if he were in normal position.

Hutchison got in a jam in that inning by his own doing. He issued a no-out walk and a two-out walk before Rosario’s dagger.

“I wasn’t sharp with the two walks,” he said. “I didn’t make pitches. I didn’t get the job done.”

Nola survived a rough first inning — 32 pitches, two walks, a single and a two-run homer — and pitched through the fifth. He said Kapler made the right move going to the bullpen.

The Phils have lost three in a row and scored just four runs in that span. They struck out 15 times Wednesday and 26 times in two games in New York.

Now, this show goes home.

Phillies stumble again, return for home opener with 1-4 record

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Phillies stumble again, return for home opener with 1-4 record

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NEW YORK — Those walks will kill you.

So will those triples over the rightfielder’s head.

The Phillies are off to a 1-4 start after suffering a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets at blustery Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon.

Amed Rosario, the Mets’ No. 9 hitter, broke a 2-2 tie with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning when he drove a two-run triple over rightfielder Nick Williams’ head. The triple scored Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores, both of whom had walked against right-hander Drew Hutchison.

Williams was playing extremely shallow against the right-handed hitting Rosario. Had Williams not been positioned so shallow, he might have been able to run down the ball for the third out (see story).

It was the second straight game in which the Phils were burned by their own defensive alignment. In the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s game, they failed to turn a double play because they were in an infield shift (see story). The Mets then scored two runs in the inning en route to a 2-0 win.

The Phillies have lost three in a row as they head back to Philadelphia for the home opener against Miami on Thursday afternoon (3:05 p.m./NBC10).

The Phils have scored just four runs in those three losses. Their hitters struck out 15 times Wednesday for a total of 26 in the two games in New York.

Aaron Nola survived a rocky first inning in which he threw 32 pitches, walked two and served up a two-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes on his way to five innings of two-run ball. He was at 87 pitches after five innings and manager Gabe Kapler went to his bullpen.

The Phillies scored both of their runs in the third inning, breaking a 19-inning scoreless drought that stretched back to the first inning in Atlanta on Saturday night. Nick Williams plated one of the runs with a ground out and Carlos Santana scored the other on a swipe of home when Rhys Hoskins got snagged in a rundown between first and second.

The Phillies had just five hits. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is one of several Phillies scuffling in the early going. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Overall, he is 1 for 15 with five strikeouts and one walk.

Odubel Herrera did not start for the second time in five games. He was 1 for 17 lifetime against Mets starter Noah Syndergaard.

In health news, reliever Pat Neshek, on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, had an MRI. It showed no significant injury. However, Neshek will remain shut down for another two weeks before he starts throwing.

Meanwhile, Mark Leiter Jr. has been cleared to start a throwing program. He is on the DL with a strained flexor muscle in his right arm.

Nick Pivetta gets the ball in Thursday’s home opener. He will face Miami lefty Caleb Smith.

Phillies suffer a shifty loss and fall to 1-3

Phillies suffer a shifty loss and fall to 1-3

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NEW YORK — Whether in Cincinnati with the Reds or New York with the Mets, Jay Bruce has long been a Phillies killer. He entered this season hitting .317 (82 for 259) with 21 homers, 59 RBIs and a .990 OPS in 71 games against the Phils.

So it stood to reason that the Phillies would pitch Bruce carefully and defend him strategically when he came to the plate with a runner on first base in the sixth inning of a scoreless game in the first meeting of the season between the Phils and Mets at frigid Citi Field on Tuesday night.
 
Phillies starting pitcher Ben Lively did just what he wanted to do when he got Bruce to hit the ball on the ground to shortstop J.P. Crawford. However, the Phillies were in a defensive shift with Crawford on the right side of the second base bag and that made it impossible to turn a double play. It was a game-changing moment in the Phillies’ 2-0 loss to the Mets (see breakdown). The shift allowed Yoenis Cespedes, who had been hit by a pitch, to reach second base and he scored on a double by Todd Frazier. Later in the inning, Travis d’Arnaud singled home Frazier.

“That’s what the shift does,” Lively said after the game. “You can’t really do anything about that. It sucks but you have to move past it and make pitches to the next hitter.”

Manager Gabe Kapler acknowledged the role that the shift played in the outcome.

“It was a double play almost anywhere on the field,” he said.

“But we have to shift Bruce in that position. That’s the one ball we’re not going to be able to turn it on, but over the course of time we feel like that’s the best positioning for Jay Bruce.”

The play would not have loomed so large if the Phillies delivered any kind of offense. They had just three hits — all singles — and one was a bunt hit by Cesar Hernandez. Mets starter Matt Harvey pitched five innings of one-hit, five-strikeout ball and the Mets’ bullpen delivered four scoreless innings. Seth Lugo had two of them and struck out four. Jeurys Familia survived a leadoff walk and a one-out single by Odubel Herrera in the ninth and earned the save. Familia retired Scott Kingery and Andrew Knapp with runners on the corners to end the game.

Lively went 5 2/3 innings, the longest by a Phillies’ starter in the young season. He allowed six hits, a walk and struck out five.

“I thought Lively was exceptional,” Kapler said. “We knew that he was going to be gritty on a really cold night. He showed that tremendous competitiveness and really sort of did the Lively style of pitching — attacked the strike zone with his fastball, landed that slower curveball, kept hitters off-balance, stayed off barrels and was everything we hoped he’d be.”

The shift bit Lively. But the lack of offense hurt even more. The Phils were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

The Phillies are 1-3 under Kapler. They are 19-39 against the Mets since the start of the 2015 season. It'll be Aaron Nola and Noah Syndergaard in the series finale Wednesday afternoon.