Edubray Ramos

Tuesday night collapse leaves Phillies fans asking the same question they asked all offseason

Tuesday night collapse leaves Phillies fans asking the same question they asked all offseason

What started out as another promising night at the yard for the Phillies eventually morphed into a game that left many wondering, again, if they have enough pitching.

Aaron Nola took a four-run lead into the seventh inning against the Nationals and had pitched well, allowing lone runs in the first and sixth, when Washington began to claw its way back. 

The Phillies' infield defense had been especially impressive early, with Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco making diving plays and Jean Segura standing out twice on a bare-hand of a slow dribbler and a ball he ranged for up the middle to retire speedster Adam Eaton. But to start the seventh, Franco threw a ball into the dirt that Hoskins was unable to scoop, Yan Gomes followed with a homer, Howie Kendrick homered two batters later and Nola was pulled.

The error was costly, but it's still strange to see what's going on with Nola. Through three starts, he has a 6.46 ERA, has allowed five home runs and issued eight walks in 15⅓ innings. He has given up six and five runs in his last two starts after going 38 straight games surrendering four runs or fewer.

"I classify it as uncharacteristic and think we'll lean on two years of history that suggests this is probably not Nola," manager Gabe Kapler said after the 10-6 loss (see observations). "Certainly have to dig into why the balls are flying out of the ballpark, that's an important part of our process and we'll do that.

"(Entering the seventh) he was working a low pitch count, he was working efficiently, he was looking like Aaron Nola. He's earned a tremendous amount of my trust over the last calendar year. He earned the right to go out and continue to pitch well in that game. The error cost us, certainly."

The Phillies' bullpen, when everyone is available, can be pretty good. But Tuesday night, they didn't have everyone available. The Phillies wanted to stay away from Pat Neshek and David Robertson after using them both three times in the last four days. Both had appeared six times in the Phillies' first nine games. It is a long season and no team with postseason aspirations should burn out its top relievers this early. Kapler is far from the only manager who would exercise caution and try to get through a game with his other six relievers.

He turned to Seranthony Dominguez to finish the seventh after Nola gave up the second home run. Dominguez, for the second straight night, looked good, getting two outs on four pitches.

Kapler considered bringing Dominguez back out for the eighth inning but went with Hector Neris instead because the Phillies preferred Neris' splitter against the heart of the Nats' order. It took Neris 30 pitches, 26 of which were splitters, but he did get through that eighth inning unscathed.

The other issue with bringing Dominguez out for a second inning was his ineffectiveness in those situations last season. When the Phillies trotted Dominguez out for a second inning last year, he often was not the same pitcher he was an inning prior.

The Phillies' plan was to try to use Neris for more than one inning but that obviously changed when he needed 30 pitches to complete the eighth. That left Kapler to choose between Edubray Ramos, Juan Nicasio and situational lefty Jose Alvarez to face the bottom of the Nats' order in the ninth. He went with Ramos, who came within one strike of saving the game and sending the fans home happy. If Ramos executes one more pitch to Victor Robles, none of these questions surface, at least not as loudly as they did Tuesday night when Phillies fans at the park and on the internet made pleas again for the team to sign Craig Kimbrel.

"Would we have liked to have a full bullpen? Absolutely," Kapler said.

"It was a grind to get through, just like it's a grind for them to get through our lineup."

That was the aspect of Tuesday's game that may go overlooked. The Phillies, once again, chased a very good pitcher early. Stephen Strasburg lasted all of four innings, needing 63 pitches to get through the third and fourth. He was taken deep by Bryce Harper and Maikel Franco and allowed a two-run triple to Jean Segura.

The Phillies couldn't hang on, so the story wasn't the offense but the pitching. Can Nola revert to ace form? Do the Phillies have enough relief pitching? Have they fortified their roster enough to protect the leads the offense provides?

These are questions that can't be answered on April 10 but will be answered as the grind of a 162-game season wears on. Good teams blow leads. Great teams hang on to them with a bit more frequency. The Phillies protected one-run leads on Sunday and Monday. Tuesday night, they fell one pitch short.

They can still earn a series win over the Nationals Wednesday night when Nick Pivetta opposes Jeremy Hellickson.

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Phillies make 1st wave of September call-ups

Phillies make 1st wave of September call-ups

Gabe Kapler has an expanded roster at his disposal, and it seems he’s going to make the most of it.

With rosters expanding Saturday, the Phillies recalled Aaron Altherr, Dylan Cozens and Yacksel Rios from Triple AAA Lehigh Valley. The team also activated relievers Edubray Ramos and Austin Davis off the 10-day DL and Pedro Florimon off the 60-day DL.

Jesmuel Valentin was designated for assignment. Mark Leiter Jr., who had been designated for assignment earlier this week, was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays and is headed to Toronto.

Kapler hasn’t been hesitant to use his full bench and bullpen, and he now has a few more resources he can use.

All the players activated have spent time with the Phillies this season. Altherr was demoted in July after a disappointing start to the season. He hit just .171 in 248 plate appearances. He should provide another good defensive replacement and pinch-running option late in games, along with another powerful bat off the bench.

Cozens is 2 for 20 with 14 strikeouts at the major-league level. Like Altherr and recent addition Jose Bautista, he's an option who Kapler can turn to for power.

Florimon, who had been sidelined since May 18 with a broken foot, is a versatile defensive player. 

Rios, Ramos and Davis should give Kapler even more flexibility out of the bullpen.

After Friday night’s 2-1 win in 10 innings over the Cubs, the Phillies trail the Braves for first place in the NL East by two games with 28 games remaining. Seven of the Phillies’ final 11 games are against Atlanta.

This is the first wave of September call-ups for the Phillies. More moves could be coming later in the month once Lehigh Valley's playoff run ends. 

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Players Phillies are most likely to call up on Sept. 1

Players Phillies are most likely to call up on Sept. 1

As depressing as this is to everyone who loves summer, Saturday is Sept. 1.

In the baseball world, that means expanded rosters.

Starting on Sept. 1, teams can activate everyone on their 40-man roster if they so choose. You typically do not see a team make use of all 40 spots because it crams the clubhouse and dugout and some of them aren't needed.

But the 2018 Phillies figure to use more extra men in September than the last few years because of two reasons: They are in contention, and Gabe Kapler loves to match up.

Here's a look at the players most likely to be called up to the majors on Sept. 1. Keep in mind that the Triple A IronPigs will be going after a championship this month, so you could see a few players left at Lehigh Valley until they're actually needed.

SP Jerad Eickhoff
Eickhoff has started five games in August in his attempt to come back from lat and hand injuries. He has a 1.83 ERA in those five starts, including six shutout innings for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Saturday.

Eickhoff figures to work as a long man for the Phillies in September because their rotation is full. He could still make a spot start if there's an injury, if Nick Pivetta struggles or a rainout forces the Phils to play a doubleheader.

C Andrew Knapp
Knapp is currently on the Phillies' 25-man roster, serving as a bench bat and third catcher with Wilson Ramos' lingering wrist and hamstring issues.

Knapp could be the odd man out by Tuesday afternoon if the Phillies are able to acquire Jose Bautista from the Mets (see story). But even if Knapp is sent out to make room for Bautista, he will definitely be back by the weekend. Every team in baseball calls up a third catcher for the month of September.

SS/3B J.P. Crawford
Crawford, who homered Monday night, last appeared in a game with the Phillies on June 19. He is the type of player who might benefit from some more regular playing time at Triple A before a mid-September call-up. 

But the Phillies could also bring him back as a patient bat off the bench. This has mostly been a lost season for Crawford because of a forearm strain and a broken hand that kept him out for nearly six weeks each.

INF/OF Pedro Florimon
Florimon had his rehab assignment transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. He's been out since May 30 because of a broken foot caused by a foul ball.

Florimon has played shortstop, third base, center field and right field for the Phillies this season. He's pitched too, of course.

The Phillies could utilize Florimon's defense on the left side of the infield late in games. He's a better defender at this point than Asdrubal Cabrera and is obviously more seasoned than Scott Kingery.

OFs Aaron Altherr, Dylan Cozens
Altherr hasn't done a lot of hitting since being demoted to Triple A on July 22. Entering Monday night, he had hit .245/.314/.340 in 30 games with the IronPigs.

But the Phillies could use his speed and defense late in games. He's still a better and more instinctive outfielder than everyone on the Phillies' 25-man roster other than Roman Quinn.

Cozens, theoretically, could provide left-handed power off the bench, but he hasn't hit much lately — .156 with 19 strikeouts in his last 54 plate appearances.

The Phillies could call up both Altherr and Cozens on Sept. 1 but it seems more likely they wait to bring Cozens back until a bit later in the month, when he's seeing the ball better.

LHP Austin Davis and RHP Edubray Ramos
Both are on the 10-day DL — Davis with a back injury and Ramos with a blister.

Davis started a rehab assignment at Triple A on Monday.

Both have spent plenty of time up with the big club this season and had their share of successes. Davis is not a conventional lefty specialist. Lefties have actually hit .293 against him compared to .213 for righties. 

The Phillies value Davis' endurance, though. Of his 22 appearances in the majors this season, seven were scoreless outings longer than an inning.

Ramos has a 2.00 ERA in 42 appearances and was arguably the Phillies' most consistent reliever in the first half.

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