Chicago Cubs

Gabe Kapler drawing interest from multiple teams in search of a manager

Gabe Kapler drawing interest from multiple teams in search of a manager

In the four days since Gabe Kapler was let go by the Phillies, two reports have surfaced of teams set to interview him. First, the Giants, now the news Monday from the Chicago Tribune that Kapler will interview with the Cubs.

It shows that, despite how things ended here, Kapler is well-thought-of in major-league circles. Why wouldn't a few teams with openings bring him in to hear what he says, how he'd manage their club, and pick his brain for ideas? Not every team has as much of a preference for a seasoned skipper as the Phillies appear to. It makes sense for a few of the eight teams with vacancies to cast a wide net. There are plenty of examples of managers not succeeding at their first stop before settling in.

Kapler has ties to both the Giants and Cubs. San Francisco's baseball department is run by Farhan Zaidi, who worked with Kapler in the Dodgers' front office. Chicago's head man is Theo Epstein, who had Kapler as a player with the Red Sox from 2003-06.

Former Cubs catcher David Ross is viewed as one of the favorites for that job. Joe Girardi has been connected to the Cubs and Mets, and it is believed that the Phillies are speaking with him Monday in the New York area.

Fuld declines interviews

Sam Fuld, the Phillies' major league player information coordinator, declined managerial interviews with the Cubs, Mets and Pirates, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Fuld is an important and valued member of the Phillies' organization. A former player himself, he serves as a conduit between the analytics department and the players. Fuld is highly respected around the game and could one day be a manager or general manager somewhere. 

Could an opportunity with the Phillies be the reason he declined three interviews? Possibly, but it still seems more likely the Phillies go the route of an experienced manager. It could have more to do with Fuld's family situation, comfort in his current role and potential upward mobility in the Phillies' own front office.

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Yes, the Phillies actually gained ground this weekend — checking in on NL wild-card teams

Yes, the Phillies actually gained ground this weekend — checking in on NL wild-card teams

The Phillies had a brutal weekend in Miami yet didn't lose ground in the wild-card race. And so the charade continues.

The second wild card remains reachable for flawed teams like the Phillies, Brewers and Cubs. And one of them, or the slightly-less-flawed Mets, has to finish in that spot.

This weekend, the Phillies lost two of three in Miami. The Mets were swept at home by the Braves. The Cubs were swept at home by the Nationals. The Phillies actually gained a game, silly as that may sound.

The Phillies are 1½ games behind the Cubs, but at 67-62 the Phils are on track to win 84 games and that won't get you into the one-game playoff. Even if you assume that 87, typically a low number for the second wild-card spot, is high enough, that would still require the Phillies to go 20-13 over their final 33 games.

Do you see the Phillies going 20-13 over their final 33 games?

The Phils have three at home with the Pirates this week, an off-day Thursday, then three at home with the Mets. The Phillies have not faced the Mets since the last series before the All-Star break. The Mets ended that series 10 games under .500. They're four over now.

The Phillies' September schedule is daunting. After four games in Cincinnati to begin the month, they have their final three with the Mets at Citi Field, four with the Braves, two vs. the Red Sox, three more in Atlanta, three in Cleveland, five in D.C. and then the Marlins to close out the regular season.

After the Reds series, that's 20 straight games the Phillies will play against teams over .500 and fighting for the playoffs. None of those games will be made easier by a team sitting key players.

The season is now 80 percent complete. The Phillies are what they are — a team slightly above .500. Removing passion or optimism from the equation, their likeliest range is 82 to 85 wins. 

Unless the Phils make a run they haven't made since the fourth week of May, those nine losses against Miami will stick out. The Phillies need to sweep the Marlins the final weekend of September just to avoid a losing record against the National League's worst team.

The injuries will stick out, though if you were told at the beginning of the season that the Phillies would lose Andrew McCutchen for the season along with six of their top seven relievers, 82 to 85 wins would have sounded reasonable.

The 2019 Nationals are a much better team than the 2019 Phillies. They have the deep, powerful and multidimensional offense the Phillies thought they had. Their rotation is far superior. Their bullpen, with the deadline additions of Daniel Hudson and Hunter Strickland, is not the nightly sieve it was in the first half.

The Mets, as of this moment, also have the better roster. They have three dangerous hitters in Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, a red-hot Amed Rosario and useful offensive pieces in J.D. Davis, Wilson Ramos and Todd Frazier. The offenses of the Mets and Phillies are pretty even, but the Mets have the huge edge in starting pitching and therefore pitching altogether.

The Cubs have a decent but disappointing rotation, a bad bullpen and an offense that has been stale much of the last two months. They're still probably a slightly deeper team than the Phillies, and down the stretch, you'd rather be the team with Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester and Yu Darvish than the team with Aaron Nola, Jason Vargas, Drew Smyly, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez.

The Phillies' run differential of minus-17 suggests they've outperformed their true talent level this season. There are 14 teams with negative run differentials and only the Phillies and Brewers have winning records.

To finish ahead of the Cubs, Mets and Brewers, the Phillies will have to play the kind of baseball they have not played with this group, the kind of baseball the underlying numbers illustrate they're probably incapable of.

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Bryce Harper blasts a walk-off grand slam to beat the Cubs in series finale

Bryce Harper blasts a walk-off grand slam to beat the Cubs in series finale

After being dominated for seven innings by Chicago Cubs starter Yu Darvish on Thursday night, the Phillies rallied for seven runs against the Cubs’ bullpen in the final two innings and pulled out a dramatic 7-5 win at Citizens Bank Park.

Bryce Harper won it with a grand slam with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

He sprinted around the bases and was mobbed at home plate by his delirious teammates.

The Phillies are 2-0 under new hitting coach Charlie Manuel.

The win gave the Phillies a series sweep of the Cubs, who entered the game tied for the NL Central lead.

The Phillies (63-58) had not swept a series since late June.

Harper’s grannie came against lefty Derek Holland. It was a high-arching drive down the right field line.

The Phillies entered the game two games back in the NL wild-card race.

Harper has seven homers and 15 RBIs in his last 12 games.

Funny game

Harper ultimately delivered with runners in scoring position and the Phillies finished the game 4 for 15 with runners in scoring position. But the Phils began the night 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

Darvish shines

The Phils were shut out over the first seven innings by Darvish.

The Cubs’ right-hander did not walk a batter. He scattered four hits and struck out 10. It was one of his best outings of the season.

Darvish threw mostly four-seam fastballs and cutters and he got 16 swings and misses while throwing 92 pitches. His heater topped out at 96.7 mph.

No Smyls

The Phillies did not get a good start from Drew Smyly. He allowed seven hits and five runs over five innings. He gave up two homers. He gave up three long balls in 5 2/3 innings in his last outing. Over his last two starts, he has been tagged for 10 extra-base hits.

Up next

The Phillies open a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Friday night. Vince Velasquez (4-7, 4.30) gets the ball in the opener. He will oppose right-hander Chris Paddack (7-5, 3.26).

Right-hander Zach Eflin (7-11, 4.49) will face right-hander Dinelson Lamet (1-2, 3.86) on Saturday night.

A pair of lefties, Jason Vargas (6-6, 4.03) and Joey Lucchesi (7-7, 4.25) will pitch in the series finale Sunday afternoon.

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