Phillies

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Aaron Altherr's big night powers 3rd straight win

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The Phillies continue to make baseball fun as they head toward the finish line of their fifth straight losing season.
 
They rallied for their eighth win in the last 11 games in beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-5, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.
 
The Phillies have taken the first three games of the series against the team with baseball's best record. All three wins have been come-from-behind efforts.
 
Aaron Altherr, the hero of Monday night's win against three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, was a key contributor again in this one. He drove in four runs late in the game with a two-run homer in the seventh and a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning.
 
• The Phillies' bullpen, which had been so good lately, blew leads of 2-1 and 5-4, but the offense overcame those issues.
 
• Despite having the second-worst record in the majors, the Phillies are 32-33 since the All-Star break.
 
• The game ended with Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera making a tremendous leaping catch at the wall on a bullet by Yasiel Puig. Herrera struck out three times at the plate, but showed maturity in not taking his struggles into the field.
 
• Cesar Hernandez started the Phillies' eighth-inning rally by working a walk against Luis Avilan. Avilan then made an errant throw to help set up Altherr's big single.
 
• Hector Neris pitched for the third night in a row and earned his second save of the series.
 
• The Dodgers rallied for three runs against the Phillies' bullpen to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh. The Phillies got the runs back quickly in the bottom of the inning. Rhys Hoskins continued to do things to help the team win when he led off with a walk against right-hander Ross Stripling. Stripling then threw two hanging curveballs and Altherr and Tommy Joseph deposited them in the left-field seats to give the Phillies the lead. Joseph, pushed into the background by Hoskins' emergence, had a two-RBI night.
 
• Phillies starter Jake Thompson gave up just one run but was not economical enough with his pitches to get past the fifth inning. Thompson allowed six base runners on three hits and three walks and got outs on several long fly balls. He walked two batters in the fifth, got a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure then got the final two outs on a pair of groundballs. He hung a full-count slider to Justin Turner with two outs, but Turner grounded it to short for the third out. Thompson survived and exited the game with a 2-1 lead.
 
• Chase Utley did not start for the Dodgers, but he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh with the Dodgers behind, 2-1. Facing rookie right-hander Victor Arano, Utley showed that famous short, chop swing in lacing a triple off the center-field wall.
 
• Arano was originally Dodgers' property. He came over to the Phillies late in the 2014 season in a trade for pitcher Roberto Hernandez. After Utley tripled, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent up left-handed hitting Andre Ethier to bat in the pitcher's spot. Pete Mackanin responded by waving lefty Hoby Milner into the game. Roberts went back to his bench and replaced Ethier with Kike Hernandez, a right-handed bat. Milner is a side-armer who struggles against right-handed bats (they were 19 for 46 against him while lefty hitters were 9 for 54). The results were predictable; Hernandez doubled home Ultey with the tying run. Milner did get to face a lefty hitter later in the inning and NL Rookie of the Year slam dunk Cody Bellinger broke the tie with a two-run double. Despite the difficult inning, Milner has made a nice showing and put himself on the map this season. He had not allowed a run in 21 straight appearances before being charged with two.
 
• The series concludes with a Thursday matinee. Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.93) pitches for the Phillies against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda (12-6, 4.91).

Gabe Kapler soaks in the sting of elimination, stores it for motivation next season

Gabe Kapler soaks in the sting of elimination, stores it for motivation next season

ATLANTA — Gabe Kapler knows what the Atlanta Braves were feeling as they streamed euphorically out of the dugout Saturday after clinching the National League East with a 5-3 win over the Phillies. As a player, Kapler was a World Series champion with the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

Nonetheless, Kapler lingered on the top step of the dugout and watched the Braves celebrate for several moments after they had eliminated his Phillies from contention (see story).

“I think it's important to feel the blow of that,” Kapler said. “Because up until a couple of days ago, I felt like we had a chance to be the ones having that moment at our ballpark. And I never came off that position because I always thought it to be possible, and I always believed in the players in that room. I think there's some value in just allowing the sting of that to sink in and acknowledge it and use it as motivation for next season.”

The Braves are NL East champs for the first time since 2013. They went 68-93 in 2016 and 72-90 last year, finishing 25 games out of first place. The Braves considered replacing manager Brian Snitker after last season. They stuck with him and now he is a strong candidate for NL manager of the year.

Kapler’s name was being mentioned as a manager of the year candidate when the Phillies were 15 games over .500 and leading the division by 1½ games on Aug. 5. The Phillies are 15-28 since then. There are eight games remaining in the season and the Phils need to win half of them to have their first winning season since 2011. They went 66-96 last season. 

Beyond saying that Aaron Nola would make his scheduled start Sunday, Kapler was not ready to say how he would approach the final eight games of the season.

“This is a really important moment to reflect back to the beginning of the season and even the offseason,” he said. “Yes, we feel disappointment. But if we had said that we were going to be playing a meaningful game on Sept. 22, I think a lot of people would've said that that's not a reasonable thought. On the flip side, this is ultimately a sting. This hurts. But I'm really proud of the guys in that room for putting us in this position and for fighting to be in Atlanta with kind of the season on the line today.”

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Jake Arrieta, Rhys Hoskins take responsibility in wake of Phillies’ elimination

Jake Arrieta, Rhys Hoskins take responsibility in wake of Phillies’ elimination

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ATLANTA — There were no excuses from two of the biggest names in the Phillies clubhouse.

Jake Arrieta didn’t get the job done Saturday and he said as much.

Rhys Hoskins didn’t get the job done down the stretch and he said as much.

The Phillies have breathed their last in the National League East race. Their long, painful collapse became official in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday (see first take). The Braves are NL East champions for the first time since 2013. They trailed the Phillies by 1 ½ game on Aug. 5 then went 27-20 to eliminate the Phillies. The Phils are 15-28 since being 15 games over .500 on Aug. 5.

The slow fade culminated with Arrieta lasting just two innings Saturday. He issued a four-pitch walk to three of the first four batters he faced and gave up four hits and four runs in the shortest start of his career. There was no politicking to try to stay in the game.

“If I did, my case wouldn’t have been very good,” Arrieta said. “I didn’t do my job today. You’ve got to tip your cap. They won the division. They really did.

“This wasn’t something that started today, obviously. Individually, the last month or so I haven’t been very good and we didn’t really take care of our business to get the job done. They did. That’s why we have the result we have.

“Defense, pitching and we didn’t swing the bats well. That’s all phases of the game that we weren’t as good and I think that’s pretty obvious.”

In March, the Phillies signed Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract — his $30 million salary this season is the largest ever for a Philadelphia athlete — because they believed his talent and veteran experience would be valuable in snapping a long postseason drought.

The 32-year-old right-hander failed to deliver down the stretch. He has a 6.64 ERA over his last eight starts. In 12 starts after the all-star break, his ERA is 5.09.

“This game is humbling,” Arrieta said. “You don’t always have it figured out and when you feel like you do you get kicked in the teeth. I’m not blaming it on anything other than just not being very good.”

With eight games to go, Hoskins is hitting .247 with 32 homers and 93 RBIs in his first full big-league season. At 25, he is a core building block for the future. But like Arrieta, he expected more from himself down the stretch. He is hitting just .204 with a .729 OPS over his last 44 games. He was hitless in 12 at-bats in the series before an RBI single in the eighth inning Saturday.

“It's disappointing,” Hoskins said in the postgame clubhouse. “You probably see that on a lot of our faces.

“I take a lot of responsibility for it. I wasn't me. That's frustrating and disappointing. But all you can do is learn from it.

“The inconsistency is frustrating. That's what makes good players great. I think it comes as a learned skill. All I can do is take what has happened, albeit disappointing, and learn from it and move forward with it.”

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