Phillies

Angry boos drown out cheers on an emotional night at the ballpark as Phillies give away lead vs. Nationals

Angry boos drown out cheers on an emotional night at the ballpark as Phillies give away lead vs. Nationals

Maybe it was the simple fact that there was a big, sellout crowd in the ballpark for Jimmy Rollins’ retirement ceremony. Maybe it was because the rebuild is over, the stakes are higher and the fans are more engaged now.

Whatever the case, the boos were louder and more frequent at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night than they have been in some time.

And so were the cheers.

It was that kind of night for the Phillies and their fans — the thrill of a dramatic five-run rally in the seventh inning, the agony of giving it all away an inning later.

“Tough loss on a really special night for Jimmy,” manager Gabe Kapler said after his club let one get away in a wild, 10-8 loss to the Washington Nationals (see observations).

The Nationals, down 8-5 entering the eighth inning, rallied for four runs in that inning to take the lead for good.

The Nats put two men on base against veteran Pat Neshek in the frame. With two outs, Kapler pulled Neshek in favor of lefty Adam Morgan.

One night after setting a club record with his 16th straight scoreless appearance to open a season, Morgan gave up a three-run homer to pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki and a solo shot to Victor Robles as the Nats surged into the lead.

Faced with the decision of having Neshek try to clean up his own mess against lefty-hitting Andrew Stevenson or go to Morgan and have the Nats respond with the right-handed hitting Suzuki, Kapler chose the former.

“In that situation you like a fresh Morgan who's been arguably your best pitcher all year against a pinch-hitter,” Kapler said. “That's the way you make them make the move.”

Morgan threw Suzuki two changeups. The second one went out of the park. Robles then hit a 1-0 fastball. The crowd booed loudly as each home run settled into the seats.

Previously, Morgan had given up just five hits in 12 2/3 innings.

“Any loss is tough, but to lose it like that was pretty hard,” Morgan said.

Morgan was not the only ineffective Phillies reliever. Juan Nicasio was nicked for two infield hits in the seventh then threw away a bunt as the Nats scored two unearned runs to take the lead before the Phillies got it right back in the bottom of the inning on four RBI doubles. Kapler had been watching Seranthony Dominguez’ workload so he gave Nicasio the ball in that situation.

“Ultimately, you have to trust your pitchers and not just the same pitchers you use to win a game every night,” Kapler said. “You've got to trust your entire bullpen and we trusted Nicasio there.”

Nicasio has allowed 24 base runners in 15 1/3 innings. How much longer can he be trusted?  

Jake Arrieta pitched six innings and gave up three runs. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez with one out and runners at second and third in the sixth. Hernandez struck out feebly against Patrick Corbin and Andrew McCutchen struck out looking. End of threat.

Kapler said it was a tough call to pinch-hit for Arrieta in a tie game.

“It really was,” he said. “He was pitching really well. But the one thing that I maintain is that we're going to be aggressive at every turn. We're going to try to win games when we have a chance to win ballgames. In that situation with a runner on second and third with one out, it was pretty much the only situation we were going to hit for him. Maybe bases loaded, nobody out a chance to break the game open, a chance to turn the tides. We were going to take advantage of that. Same thing with our bullpen usage. If we have a chance to win baseball games, we're going to go after them. We're going to go after them hard, we're going to go after them aggressively and I'm not going to come off that position.”

The loss left the Phils at 18-14.

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There are way bigger things to worry about with Phillies than Rhys Hoskins

There are way bigger things to worry about with Phillies than Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins is in a slump. An ill-timed slump, given the time of year and the Phillies’ position in a crowded but still somehow winnable wild-card race. 

Hoskins made four more outs Sunday. He’s 1 for his last 24. He’s hit .148 over his last 30 games. 

This rut from Hoskins has affected the Phillies’ record, but it’s nothing more than a slump and shouldn’t be viewed as such just because it is happening right now. It is not a sign that the organization needs to go out this offseason and find a better first baseman. It is not some definitive piece of evidence that Hoskins needs to move to the bottom of the order. 

We always overvalue what we’ve just seen. Hoskins hasn’t hit for a month, so his hot streaks become harder to recall and feel less long and less productive than they are. 

But consider this: Hoskins’ on-base percentage dipped below .380 Sunday for the first time since opening day. It took a stretch this cold for his on-base and power numbers to decrease to their current levels, which are still impressive. 

Hoskins’ OBP is 40 points higher than the league average for first basemen. His slugging percentage is 13 points higher than his first base peers and 40 points better than the league overall. He has made an out nearly 75 percent of the time he’s stepped to the plate over the last month, yet is still having an offensive season better than at least half of the league’s first basemen. 

Hoskins’ numbers likely won’t end up where they are now. We’ve seen too much evidence that he is a better hitter than this. A multi-year track record matters more than four weeks. It is a simple concept that always sounds logical until a player is in the midst of a run as poor as Hoskins’. 

Will Hoskins finish the year hitting .237? Will his slump last much longer? If you’re looking for a couple positive signs, take his 400-foot flyout to straightaway center that was a foot shy of tying Sunday’s game in the eighth inning. Hoskins had better swings and tracked pitches better in that game than he has for much of the past month.

He was confident and didn’t seem defeated after the game Sunday. 

“Look, I feel great,” he said after the Padres took two of three. “Obviously, it sucks to not contribute and not produce, but swing-wise, I feel great. I feel like for the most part I’m seeing pitches. I’m seeing the ball fine. Just for whatever reason things are a little off and the last couple weeks when I do click something, it’s right at somebody. 

“That’s baseball. Unfortunately, I know that’s really cliché. I wish I had a different answer. I’ve sat for hours and hours and looked at film trying to find something that I can go in the cage and take a thousand swings to fix, but at some point you just have to keep going up there and stuff will turn. Water will find its level.”

“I'm feeling pretty protective of him right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said, “because I know how hard he's working and I know how much effort and time he's putting in. The at-bat quality remains strong even though at the end, the results aren't there. 

“I know how disappointed he is in it and I'm disappointed for him because I know this is going to turn around for him. I know these at-bats are going to end in doubles and homers.” 

Still realistic for Hoskins to finish with an OPS around .900 with 30-plus homers and 90-plus RBI. That would be a very good season. Maybe not a “great” season, but remember again that this is a third-year player making less than $600,000. Should a very good player be blamed for not being a great player?

There are just far more important things to worry about with this team in 2019 and beyond than Rhys Hoskins. 

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A new feeling for Bryce Harper and a familiar feeling for the Phillies in disappointing end to homestand

A new feeling for Bryce Harper and a familiar feeling for the Phillies in disappointing end to homestand

As the Delaware Valley held its breath awaiting word of what happened to Bryce Harper, the Phillies again fell short against the Padres, losing 3-2 to close out a homestand that began with fireworks and ended with the excitement of a suburban dad mowing his lawn.

After sweeping the Cubs and winning a fourth straight game in the series opener vs. San Diego, the Phillies managed just five runs and 10 hits total in the final two losses.

This team ...

As for Harper, he is OK. He was suffering from blurred vision after the fourth inning and was forced to exit after five. The Phillies called it dehydration. Harper had an IV and was feeling better after the game. This was something he hadn't experienced before.

"An hour ago, I couldn't see in front of me," Harper said postgame, his eyes still sensitive to light.

He will be fine by Tuesday — good news because the Phillies are not going anywhere without him — when the quick two-game series at Fenway Park begins. 

Manager Gabe Kapler was happy Sunday with the quality of the Phillies' at-bats. He referenced the 110 pitches they made starter Joey Lucchesi throw and the 27 more they forced from closer Kirby Yates.

If a team is winning consistently or hitting consistently, maybe that kind of grind-it-out approach can make up for a loss or a series loss. But not as much when it's said about a team that hasn't been able to sustain momentum at any point this season, especially offensively. 

Sure, the Phillies made Lucchesi and Yates work. They also made an out in 18 of 23 plate appearances against them. 

The best example of the Phils' falling short on Sunday was Rhys Hoskins' 400-foot blast to the 401-foot sign in center field in the eighth inning. Padres centerfielder Manuel Margot raised his glove above his head and caught a ball that was a foot, maybe less, from going out and tying the game. In every game, you will find the sort of baseball randomness that impacts winning and losing. That deep, loud flyout was Sunday's example.

It was an 0-for-4 day for Hoskins atop the lineup, but ...

"Look, I feel great," said Hoskins, who is 1 for his last 24 and has hit .148 over his last 30 games.

"Obviously, it sucks to not contribute and not produce, but swing-wise, I feel great. I feel like for the most part I'm seeing pitches. I'm seeing the ball fine. Just for whatever reason, things are a little off and the last couple weeks when I do hit something, it's right at somebody. 

"That's baseball. Unfortunately, I know that's really cliché. I wish I had a different answer. I've sat for hours and hours and looked at film trying to find something that I can go in the cage and take a thousand swings to fix, but at some point you just have to keep going up there and stuff will turn. Water will find its level."

Water has found its level with Harper and J.T. Realmuto, two of baseball's hottest hitters in the month of August. Had Hoskins also been going well at this time, just imagine the run totals or win streaks the Phillies could have run off. 

Instead, on Sunday they wasted a rare strong pitching performance from someone other than Aaron Nola. Jason Vargas limited the Padres to two runs over 5⅔ innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his four starts as a Phillie but the team is just 1-3 because it has scored a total of five runs with Vargas in the game in his four starts.

"If we keep pitching like we do and the bullpen keeps pitching like (it has), we've seen how hot we can get quickly," Hoskins said.

"We swept a good team in the Cubs. Obviously, disappointing to lose a series to the Padres, but we talked about this a couple nights ago — you could feel the difference in here this week. It just feels a little different. There's a little more swagger and a little more confidence. Tough loss today but we'll be all right."

The Phillies have 38 games left to make a run and end a playoff drought of seven years. Harper was surprised when it was relayed to him Sunday that no Phillies team since 1990 has had its longest winning streak last just four games.

"That's crazy," he said. "In the game now, you see (Jacob) deGrom for six and see somebody else out of the bullpen, four other guys, three other guys. The game has definitely changed. It's evolved.

"Hopefully we can break that a little bit and win five in a row. Why not?"

One reason to remain skeptical: The last two times the Phillies have won four in a row, they lost their next series to the Marlins and Padres. You just don't know which Phillies will team show up on a given day.

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