Phillies

1st-place Phillies about to match last season's win total — with 7 weeks to play

1st-place Phillies about to match last season's win total — with 7 weeks to play

BOX SCORE 

SAN DIEGO — There are still 46 games to play in this Phillies season and seven weeks of pennant-race baseball to navigate, but on the night this team beat the San Diego Padres, 5-1, to move a game up on the Atlanta Braves for first-place in the National League East (see first take), it’s worth providing this little progress report:

The Phillies’ record is 65-51.

They are one win away from matching their victory total for all of last season.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Aaron Nola, who lived through a last-place finish and a 66-96 record last season.

“I mean, winning's a lot more fun. It's a lot more addicting. Chemistry is better. I think overall we're a lot better team than we were last year. We knew it coming into spring training. We knew it going into the season that we were going to be a better team.

“We're playing as a team. We're playing as a whole. Guys are coming through in the clutch throughout the whole team. It's not just one guy or two guys. It's everybody, one through nine.”

Nola has been a huge contributor all season and he was again with six shutout innings Saturday night.

He is 13-3 in 24 starts and has a 2.28 ERA, sixth-best in the majors. He has allowed just five earned runs over 33 innings in his last five starts away from Citizens Bank Park.

“He’s really good,” said shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who joined the Phillies in a trade-deadline deal two weeks ago. “He is one of the guys you didn’t want to face when I was with the Mets.”

Nola survived some early command issues. He stranded six base runners in the first three innings before hitting a stride. He was backed by plenty of offense. The Phillies had been shut out in their previous two games and carried a 19-inning scoring drought into the contest. But things turned early as the club rallied for two first-inning runs against San Diego rookie Walker Lockett.

“It's always good when we score early,” Nola said. “We've been in kind of a rut a little bit. But we know what we have. It's just a matter of time that the offense turns around. It did tonight. They have confidence in themselves, and they know we're going to put up runs.”

Cesar Hernandez led off the game with a walk and scored on a triple by Nick Williams. Two batters later, Cabrera stroked an RBI double and the Phils were on their way.

Maikel Franco (No. 19) homered in the fourth and Hernandez (No. 10) clubbed one in the fifth to highlight a two-run inning. Rhys Hoskins singled and scored the second run in that inning. The hit snapped an 0-for-22 skid for Hoskins.

The four extra-base hits in the first five innings were as many as the Phils had in the first four games of the trip. They scored just seven runs in the first four games.

“We got some big hits,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Cesar's homer was huge. Mikey Franco's homer was enormous as well.

“Anytime you're able to jump on the opposition early with a guy like Aaron Nola on the mound, it gives you a lot of confidence. Our guys showed that in the dugout. I actually thought the energy in the dugout preceded the outcome. I thought that was kind of cool. Our guys were especially energetic going into today's game.”

The bullpen picked up three innings of one-run ball after Nola departed. Victor Arano continued his excellent work by cleaning up a potential mess in the seventh and Tommy Hunter and Seranthony Dominguez closed it out.

Dominguez’ fastball was consistently 97 mph and it touched 98.

The Phillies are 2-3 with one game remaining on the road trip. They will, at some point, blow past last season’s win total. They will look to equal it Sunday behind Jake Arrieta on their way, they hope, to bigger and better things.

“I think it's an indication and evidence that our players have developed,” Kapler said of the potential to equal last year’s win total with seven weeks to go in the season. “That's probably the most notable thing.

“It was a good team in spring training; we felt confident in that. But we also knew in order for us to have a really good year, we would have to have our players take some steps forward. I think we've seen that with a number of our guys. Nick Williams jumps out to me as a guy who has taken real steps forward from where he was at the beginning of the season. Our starting pitching has taken real steps forward. And maybe the bullpen has been even better than we thought it was going to be. Even more dependable than we thought it was going to be.”

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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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If you're waiting for Gabe Kapler to pitch a fit, keep waiting – ‘I won’t be a character’

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If you're waiting for Gabe Kapler to pitch a fit, keep waiting – ‘I won’t be a character’

DENVER — After falling flat on their faces, losing four straight games and being officially eliminated from postseason contention, the Phillies arrived in Coors Field for the first of four games with the Rockies on Monday night.

The Phils were hammered, 10-1. The defeat marked their 30th loss in 45 games and dropped them to the .500 mark for the first time since April 10 when the season was just 10 games.

An embarrassing loss like Monday night’s — coming on top of a steady wave of losses — might have caused some managers to give the boys a good ol' butt-chewing after the game. Some managers might have kicked over a chair in the clubhouse or gone off on an umpire. Anything to ramp up the urgency and send a message that what’s happening is not acceptable.

Gabe Kapler did none of this.

It’s not him. He prefers his conversations with players to be private and not for show.

“For me, the way that I personally operate, I need more than ‘sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work,’“ he said Tuesday. “That’s just my personality. I’m not flipping a coin. I’m not throwing (crap) against the wall to see what sticks. I just don’t do that. I want a reason. If I’m going to get the group together and have a conversation, I want a reason for it. I want to be very confident that it’s going to be helpful.”

Would it be?

“I don’t know,” he said.

Kapler is an amazingly aware guy. He’s plugged-in, connected, never far away from his iPad. He is social-media savvy. He knows people think he’s too positive. He knows fans want to see him pull a Larry Bowa or a Dallas Green or even a Charlie Manuel.

Not happening.

“I think, honestly, people have a hard time with it,” he said. “They want me to be that character. It’s hard. It’s not who I am. However, I think one of the things that’s been missed in this season is that I feel what people feel. I suffer with people. I am extremely, extremely competitive. I (bleeping) hate to lose. So all these things I share in common. People don’t tend to really read it on me. And I think that’s confusing for people. That’s OK.

“I read everything. I know what people think of me. I know how people are responding to me. Some of it I can do something about and I will. There are other things … First, I’m not willing to compromise my integrity to be a character. My job is to help the Philadelphia Phillies win baseball games. It’s not to be a persona. But that doesn’t mean I don’t (bleeping) feel. Yes, I promise I get mad. Yes, I promise there are conversations that get loud. I promise I pound my fist from time to time. I’m not going to do it for who. It’s not who I am.”

Kapler mentioned two of his managerial mentors, Terry Francona and Joe Maddon. He played for Francona in 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. Francona never held a team meeting that season.

“I think there’s something to my experience in that clubhouse that leads me to lead this clubhouse in a similar fashion,” Kapler said. “That’s who he was. He let the players police the clubhouse. He had some veterans that were very good at it. And when he spoke, he spoke to guys individually. That doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to do it.”

But it’s Kapler’s way.

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