Phillies

Brewers 5, Phillies 2: Sloppy defense, mental mistakes costly in another loss to Milwaukee

Brewers 5, Phillies 2: Sloppy defense, mental mistakes costly in another loss to Milwaukee

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A strange third inning was the Phillies' undoing Wednesday night in a 5-2 loss to the Brewers.

With the game tied 1-1, Jake Arrieta walked pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Lorenzo Cain to begin the third before Christian Yelich loaded the bases on an infield single to second. Cesar Hernandez misplayed the ball, which should have resulted in an out. 

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Ryan Braun grounded a ball to Sean Rodriguez at third base. Both Gonzalez (the runner on third) and Rodriguez lost track of the situation. Gonzalez stayed on third base and Rodriguez hesitated before throwing home to get the force at the plate. Had Rodriguez stepped on third, he could have gotten two outs on the play by simply tagging Gonzalez.

Instead, the inning was extended and Arrieta allowed three runs, which effectively put the game away. 

"Really unusual situation to have Gonzalez go back to the bag," manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. "If Gio goes back to the base, probably the play there is for Sean to tag him and then deal with Cain. Very confusing play, not one you see very often. Looked confusing to Sean as well."

Two innings later, Andrew McCutchen dropped a deep flyball in center field, which resulted in another run.

The Brewers are far too formidable an offense to give extra outs.

The Phillies scattered nine hits and had run-scoring opportunities but had just one knock with runners in scoring position.

The loss makes the Phillies 24-18. The Brewers are 26-19. The series wraps up Thursday afternoon and the schedule doesn't get much easier from here, with the Phillies' next five series coming against the Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals and Dodgers — five legit NL contenders.

In a scheduling quirk, beginning Thursday the Phillies will play 12 consecutive games with a different start time than the previous game.

A couple promising ABs for Harper

One positive for the Phillies were Bryce Harper's early at-bats. Harper had the Phillies' two hardest-hit balls of the night, a 385-foot flyout against Gonzalez in the first inning and a well-struck opposite-field double in the third. 

The flyout traveled 106 mph off the bat and the double was 109 mph. Cain caught the deep fly a step in front of the wall in left-center field.

"That ball he drove to left-center field was as clean a swing as we've seen him take," Kapler said.

It had to be encouraging for Harper and the Phillies to see him stay on the ball and drive it the opposite way twice against the lefty Gonzalez. Staying back is a good way to recalibrate your timing at the plate. Now, Harper needs to do it against a pitcher with velocity. Gonzalez's heater averaged 89 mph.

Harper also made another sliding grab to save runs, sliding to rob Yasmani Grandal of a hit and an RBI in the seventh inning. That's four games in a row Harper has made a sliding or diving catch — and he's needed to do it each time, it hasn't been false hustle.

Arrieta's evening

Arrieta had a strong start to the season but his last two starts have been poor. He allowed three home runs last week in Kansas City (his most in 123 starts) and struggled with control in this one. 

His ERA has quickly risen to 4.02, a tick above last season's mark of 3.96.

His defense did not help him against the Brewers — if Hernandez or Rodriguez make the appropriate decisions on the balls hit to them, perhaps Arrieta gets out of the third inning allowing one or no runs rather than three. But Arrieta also just was not sharp. He walked four and hit a batter.

How they scored

The Phillies' only runs came on Jean Segura's first-inning home run (No. 3) and McCutchen's RBI single in the seventh. 

Segura and J.T. Realmuto had multi-hit games. Realmuto has been impressive in every way in his first season as a Phillie except in the power department. He's been sitting on four home runs since April 26. But everything else Realmuto has done — clutch hitting, defense, baserunning, game-calling — has helped the Phils win.

Up next

The four-game series ends Thursday at 1:05 p.m. when Zach Eflin (5-3, 2.47) opposes Zach Davies (4-0, 1.54).

Then come the Rockies for three games.

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Why it was Nick Williams packing his bags to make room for Scott Kingery

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Why it was Nick Williams packing his bags to make room for Scott Kingery

It was expected that when Scott Kingery returned from a month-long stint on the injured list with a hamstring injury, one of the Phillies’ veteran utilitymen would be the roster casualty. 

But it was Nick Williams packing his bags Sunday morning to make room on the active roster for Kingery, not Phil Gosselin or Sean Rodriguez. 

Williams was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he will get regular at-bats. He has not played much for the Phillies, starting just eight of their 45 games. As a pinch-hitter, he is 6 for 33 (.182) with one extra-base hit and 10 strikeouts. 

Williams knew when the Phillies signed Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper that playing time in the outfield would be hard to come by. The Phillies do not consider Williams an option in center field, so when Odubel Herrera was shelved by a hamstring strain, McCutchen shifted to center and Williams played left field. 

Kingery, in his first game back from the IL, made his first career start Sunday in center field against Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland. 

Aside from getting Williams more reps at Triple A, optioning him also prevents another team from claiming Rodriguez or Gosselin on waivers. Both are out of options and would have had to be designated for assignment before being sent to the minors. 

Gosselin is 9 for 37 (.243) on the season but has had good swings lately. Of his last 10 plate appearances, one was a rocket line drive snagged by the opposing pitcher and two were deep flyballs he just missed.

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The thoughts and sounds behind Bryce Harper's jaw-dropping home run

The thoughts and sounds behind Bryce Harper's jaw-dropping home run

Aaron Nola had no chance at seeing where the ball landed.

Not many did, unless you were a fan leisurely strolling through the center-field concourse and enjoying the amenities of Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park.

"I think it went over the stadium, from where I was sitting," Nola said. "It was a long one."

That's how powerfully Bryce Harper struck his first-inning home run in the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see observations). The ball left his bat at 114.1 miles per hour, traveled 466 feet and cleared the brick walls in center field.

It was loud and it made the sellout crowd of 42,354 fans louder.

"I think just as a fan, you just stop and watch the distance of the ball," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I don't think we saw a ball go that far to center field all year last year and certainly not this year. That's rare territory. Pretty impressive."

Harper pounced on a first-pitch fastball from Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela. The swing consisted of everything you want to see from Harper, who is 5 for 15 (.333) over his last four games with the homer and three doubles.

He's staying back and driving the ball.

"I think he's beginning to feel it," Kapler said. "I think part of that comes from the work he's been doing with [hitting coach] John Mallee, specifically being a little bit taller on his backside and his hands being a little bit closer to his body."

Harper didn't want to make too much about the distance of his home run. He remembered some advice from a former manager and five-time All-Star.

"Matt Williams always used to tell me, 'It's not how far, it's how many you hit,'" Harper said. "I'm just trying to go about it the right way every single day, doing things out there that help this team win. Just putting the bat to the ball and trying to win games.

Harper has eight home runs and 28 RBIs in 45 games. He has a .371 on-base percentage and is second in baseball to only Mike Trout with 34 walks.

However, he's hitting .230 and was 10 for his last 70 (.143) prior to this 5-for-15 stretch. The Phillies are seeing positive signs, though, from Harper's swing.

"We all believed he was going to break out of what he was in," Nola said. "Guy works hard, works hard at what he does. We've all seen what he's done in his career. Nobody is pressing over him, we know he's the gamer that he is and he does a lot to help the team.

On Saturday, it was a walk, a double and vicious contact on the first pitch he saw.

"I think Harp is best when he's gap to gap," Kapler said. "Every once in a while, he's out in front and pulls the ball down the line. He's at his best when he's hitting high line drives into the gaps, and the ones that he gets just underneath go into the seats or in this case, over everything in center field."

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