Phillies

Best of MLB: Tigers beat Rays but lose Cabrera, Zimmermann

Best of MLB: Tigers beat Rays but lose Cabrera, Zimmermann

DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez homered, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4 on Sunday despite losing starter Jordan Zimmermann to a strained groin in the sixth inning.

Detroit has won six of seven, but Zimmermann's injury is a concern. He has been the team's best pitcher after signing with the Tigers in the offseason. Zimmermann (7-2) allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings -- this was the first start all year in which he didn't make it through six.

Cabrera also left early. with a left knee bruise after being hit by a pitch in the seventh.

Logan Morrison and Tim Beckham homered for Tampa Bay, but that wasn't enough to overcome a poor outing by Chris Archer (3-5) (see full recap).

Hamels strikes out 11 in win over Astros
HOUSTON -- Cole Hamels fanned a season-high 11 in eight sparkling innings and the Texas Rangers jumped on Dallas Keuchel early, cruising to an easy 9-2 win over the Houston Astros to complete a three-game sweep Sunday.

The Rangers have taken six in row from Houston and 14 of 16. The Astros have lost four straight overall.

Hamels (5-0) has won a career-best 12 straight decisions dating to last year. He allowed five hits and two runs -- one earned -- in his longest start this season to lower his ERA to 2.83.

Nomar Mazara hit an RBI single during a five-run third against Keuchel (2-6) and added a two-run homer to pad the lead in the seventh.

Keuchel (2-6) continues to struggle in the follow-up to his 20-win season. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed nine hits and seven runs in six innings, extending his skid to five games (see full recap).

Syndergaard fans 11, Mets sweep Brewers
NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard struck out 11 in seven overpowering innings and Michael Conforto homered to help the New York Mets beat the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

Asdrubal Cabrera broke a fourth-inning tie with a two-run single that sent the Mets to their 12th victory in the last 16 home games. Next up, they visit NL East rival Washington for a rematch after the Nationals took two of three at Citi Field last week.

Conforto connected early off Chase Anderson (2-6), who took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of his previous start against the Chicago Cubs and came within one out of a shutout. This time, he lasted five innings and was hurt by Ryan Braun's misplay in left field.

Back in the lineup after missing four games with a stiff back, Braun singled once in four at-bats. He got a bad break on Yoenis Cespedes' shallow looper in the fourth and let it bounce past him for a double that put runners at second and third (see full recap).

Scherzer, Nationals crush Marlins, 8-2
MIAMI -- Max Scherzer eased up on the strikeouts but allowed only two runs in eight innings Sunday to help the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 8-2.

Scherzer (5-3) struck out eight, gave up six hits, walked none and threw 103 pitches. He has 38 strikeouts in his past three starts, including a record-tying 20 against Detroit.

Justin Bour ended Scherzer's shutout bid with a two-run homer in the seventh, his ninth home run this season and his second in as many games. Scherzer has allowed 14 homers this year, including nine in his past four starts.

Washington won the three-game series and took a 7-6 edge in the season series. The NL East foes don't meet again until Sept. 19.

Nationals leadoff batter Ben Revere had three hits, two runs, two RBIs and his first two stolen bases of the year, and hiked his average to .185 (see full recap).

Dodgers top Padres in 17-inning marathon
SAN DIEGO -- Yasiel Puig hit a tiebreaking, two-run single with the bases loaded and one out in the 17th inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 9-5 on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak.

The game started in afternoon sunshine and ended at dusk, taking 5 hours, 47 minutes.

The Dodgers started the four-run rally off rookie Luis Perdomo when Howie Kendrick hit a leadoff double that bounced over the wall in right-center field. Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked and reliever Ross Stripling advanced them with a groundout. Joc Pederson was intentionally walked to load the bases, and then Puig singled up the middle. Pederson scored on a wild pitch and Carl Crawford hit an RBI grounder.

Stripling (2-3) pitched three innings for the win. Perdomo (1-1) was the hard-luck loser after pitching five innings (see full recap).

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Phillies cannot improve without making these defensive fixes

Phillies cannot improve without making these defensive fixes

The Phillies' defense was atrocious this season. It was the worst in the majors. It was the worst this city has seen in decades. 

When looking at why the Phillies fell apart in the second half, the offense deserves its share of the blame, but the defense faltered all year long.

The Phillies are not going to contend with below-average defenders at nearly every position. You just can't, even if you have a staff full of aces.

I personally take defensive metrics with a grain of salt, but the Phils' figure of minus-129 defensive runs saved this season is hard to ignore and certainly passes the eye test. It's 28 defensive runs worse than the next-worst team, the 111-loss Orioles.

The four main reasons:

1. Infield defense an overall weakness

There was a 100 percent chance the Phillies' shortstop defense was going to be worse this season. That's what happens when you move on from a defensive whiz like Freddy Galvis, who by the way is still making sensational plays and saving his pitching staff in San Diego.

Phillies shortstops have committed 19 errors this season, a dozen more than their league-low seven last year.

Scott Kingery did improve at short after a shaky start. And it seems clear the Phillies aren't sold on J.P. Crawford's defense at short. Crawford had more errors — mostly on throws — in 30 games at shortstop this season than Galvis had in 155 starts last year.

To make matters worse, the Phillies received Galvis-like offensive production from their shortstops this season. They got Galvis' bat without his glove. Don't be surprised if the Phils add a defensive-minded veteran shortstop this offseason, especially if Kingery moves to 2B.

2. Catchers couldn't catch

Jorge Alfaro graded out well this season with pitch-framing. Every other aspect of his receiving was poor. There is a case to be made that Alfaro's focus — and really the organization's focus — on pitch-framing and catching the ball perfectly made him worse at catching it, period.

The Phillies have the most passed balls in the National League. A lot of them were inexcusable for a major-league catcher. Only the Pirates have more combined passed balls and wild pitches.

These are costly, costly events that increase the other team's scoring chance in a substantial way. 

Alfaro's offseason focus will likely be enhancing his receiving ability. If the Phils move on from Wilson Ramos, they need to add a second catcher who excels defensively. The free-agent pickings are slim. Yasmani Grandal is out there but why would the Dodgers let him walk?

3. Rhys Hoskins is not a leftfielder

It's not his fault he's out there, but Hoskins is not a leftfielder, he's a first baseman. Hoskins' range is comparable to Pat Burrell's midway through Burrell's career, but Burrell could at least make up for it with a strong and accurate throwing arm.

The Phillies had the fourth-most errors in left field this year and the fifth-fewest assists.

Hoskins at first base with Carlos Santana at 3B is a legit possibility for 2019. Third base defense would be sacrificed for the betterment of offense and left field defense ... which is definitely more palatable if it means Bryce Harper is there.

4. Odubel Herrera regressed in CF

The defensive metrics liked Herrera until this season, and again, the eye test backs up the change. Herrera did not get good jumps this season. He did not make strong throws and was routinely tested by baserunners. The throwing arms of Herrera and Hoskins both grade out toward the bottom of baseball, with Hoskins ranking dead last among 58 qualifying outfielders.

Roman Quinn's above-average defense was glaring because of what it replaced.

Herrera had another multi-blunder game Tuesday night in Denver, not hustling on a double-play ball he had no excuse to not beat out, then later muffing a ball in deep right field.

The Phillies probably realize at this point Quinn is the better all-around player, but Quinn's constant issues staying healthy mean that the Phils would also have to bring in a fourth outfielder they'd feel comfortable playing a lot in center. Keeping Herrera as that fourth outfielder if no intriguing trade offer materializes could be an option.

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Will losing deter free agents from joining Phillies? Gabe Kapler weighs in

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Will losing deter free agents from joining Phillies? Gabe Kapler weighs in

DENVER — Sometimes you look at the mounting losses and wonder why Bryce Harper would want to be part of this.

Or Manny Machado.

Or Patrick Corbin.

The Phillies will be active in this winter’s free-agent market. They have the money. They have the desire. If you know owner John Middleton, you might call it an obsession.

But lately there’s been a feeling that all the Phillies’ losing — another loss Tuesday night made it 31 in the last 46 games — coupled with the unorthodox managerial stylings of Gabe Kapler might be a turnoff to free agents.

We don’t particularly buy this narrative because 1) the signing of one or two key free agents could help turn the losing around next season and 2) in free agency it’s all about the Benjamins and the Phillies have lots of them.

Kapler, whose team led the NL East on Aug. 5, does not believe the shine has worn off the Phillies as a free-agent destination.

“I think it’s likely a more attractive destination because I think people are very aware of the resources that the Philadelphia Phillies have,” Kapler said. “I don’t think that there’s any shortage of information on how we intend to be especially competitive in 2019.

“I think it’s really important to not respond to, and when I say not respond I mean not evaluate, based on a 45-game stretch. We haven’t played good baseball for quite some time. You cannot argue with that fact. It’s unacceptable. But it’s a fact. You also cannot argue with the fact that we played very good baseball for a half-plus of the season. And finally, you can’t argue with the fact that we have tremendous resources and a very young and talented core group of players. So if you look at all of those things combined, I think you have an especially attractive destination.”

No changes on coaching staff

Kapler said his entire coaching staff would return next season. All are under contract for 2019.

“I love our staff,” Kapler said. “I think they’ve done a tremendous job. They’ve worked especially hard all year long. They look out for each other and I think they are already seeking process improvement for 2019.”

The game

The Phillies gave up 10 runs for the second straight night in a 10-3 loss to the Rockies.

The Phils have lost six in a row and are 6-17 in September. They are under .500 for the first time since April 9. They had been 15 games over .500 on Aug. 5. The Phils need to win four of their remaining five games to finish with a winning record.

Odubel Herrera drove in the Phillies’ first run. He also dropped a ball in right field and did not run hard on a ground ball in the first inning. In other words, Odubel being Odubel.

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