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

BOX SCORE

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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This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

Everyone is disappointed that the 2020 MLB season didn't start on time — owners, executives, managers and coaches, players and of course the fans who have been longing for baseball's return. There are so many intriguing storylines surrounding the Phillies. We were all so excited to watch this season play out.

The players themselves are all undoubtedly bummed. But this indefinite delay has to be especially frustrating for these five Phillies.

Rhys Hoskins

I can't imagine anyone was more anxious to get back to work in 2020 than Hoskins. The second half of his 2019 season was brutal. He hit .180 with just nine HR and 26 RBI in 71 games following the All-Star break. You could see that prolonged slump taking its toll on Hoskins. He wore the frustration outwardly on a nightly basis. For a guy who has experienced success at every stop of his baseball career, his struggles last season had to be confusing. What am I doing wrong? How can I get this fixed? Will I ever break out of this slump?

Hoskins spent a lot of time in the offseason adjusting his mental and physical approach at the plate. He admitted he was thinking too much last year. He worked with new hitting coach Joe Dillon, lowering his hands and opening his stance. He was eager to get back to being a force in the middle of the Phillies batting order, eager to prove that the second half of 2019 was a fluke. He wanted to get back to being one of the premiere sluggers in the National League.

But now Hoskins waits just like the rest of us to find out when (or if) he'll get that opportunity.

Jake Arrieta

This is the final year of the three-year, $75 million contract that Arrieta signed with the Phillies prior to the 2018 season. He'd be the first one to tell you that the Phillies haven't gotten their money's worth on that deal. Arrieta battled injuries and inconsistency in his first two seasons in Philadelphia. He pitched through a knee injury that required surgery in 2018, finishing that season with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts. His 2019 season was cut short due to surgery in August to clean out a bone spur in his right elbow. He posted a 4.64 ERA in 24 starts before he was shut down.

The 34-year old Arrieta has hardly resembled the guy who won a World Series and Cy Young Award with the Cubs. But this spring he said he's 100 percent healthy and ready to make the type of impact the Phillies bargained for when they signed him to that big contract. Arrieta looked sharp in spring training. He was going to slot into the third spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. A big year from Arrieta would do wonders for the Phillies' playoff chances. It would also put him in a great position as he ventures back into free agency following the 2020 season.

Bryce Harper

A lot of signs pointed to Harper having a monster 2020 season. He had a full offseason and spring training to focus solely on baseball as opposed to a year ago when he didn't know which team he'd be playing for or where his family would be living until the end of February. He was settled in playing with his new team and living in his new city. And perhaps maybe most telling, he was tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. Harper hit .500 with three doubles, three HR and 11 RBI in eight exhibition games. He was locked and loaded for the regular season.

But now Harper's potential MVP caliber season has been put on hold. If there is a 2020 season, it almost certainly won't be 162 games. Which means we won't find out what numbers he was capable of putting up in his second season with the Phillies. At 27 years old, Harper still has plenty of his prime years ahead of him. But this one could have been special. Hopefully it still can be.

Zach Eflin

Of all the Phillies starting pitchers, Eflin may be best positioned to make 'the leap' in 2020. The righthander is coming off an uneven 2019 season, posting a 10-13 record with a 4.13 ERA. It was a year full of ups (a pair of complete games) and downs (a July demotion to the bullpen). Eflin's skill set didn't mesh with how former pitching coach Chris Young wanted pitchers to attack hitters. Young stressed the importance of throwing fastballs up in the zone. Eflin is most effective when he relies on his sinker.

New pitching coach Bryan Price wants Eflin and the rest of the Phillies starters to pitch to their strengths. Price preaches efficiency, he wants Eflin to use his sinker early in the count to get ground ball outs. This appears to be a perfect union of coach and player. Eflin turns 26 on Wednesday, he enters his fifth big league season with 74 career starts under his belt. A lot of evidence suggests he may be poised for a career year.

Scott Kingery

After bouncing all over the diamond during his first two seasons with the Phillies, it looks like Kingery will finally get the chance to settle in at his natural position of second base this year. He played mostly shortstop, center field and third base in his first two major league seasons with cameos at second base, left field and right field. He's been valuable in that super utility role but he's mentioned his desire to play second base regularly. With Didi Gregorius at shortstop and Jean Segura playing third base during spring training, Kingery appears to be penciled in as the starter at second base.

Kingery's offensive numbers improved significantly from 2018 to 2019. He hit .258 last season with 34 doubles and 19 home runs, up from .226 with 23 doubles and eight HR in 2018. Being more comfortable at his natural position in the field should only enhance his production at the plate. Kingery bulked up in the offseason in hopes of taking his game to the next level. Time will tell if he gets the chance to do so.

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How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

There’s few things Phillies fans enjoy more than a comeback, walk-off win against the Mets. So make sure to give yourself a smile by watching just that on NBC Sports Philadelphia today. 

Specifically, we’re bringing you a 5-4 win from June of last season that ended with a Jay Bruce RBI double in the bottom of the 10th. But it was the play of Jean Segura that night that got the Phillies into a position to win it. The then-Phillies shortstop hit a solo home run off future and past teammate Jason Vargas (what a Phillies career he had) in the bottom of the 6th to cut the deficit to 4-1. In the 7th, Segura connected off Seth Lugo for a game-tying 2-run single.

That game proved to be a positive moment in a below-average season for the veteran infielder. In his 1st campaign with the Phillies, the walk and strikeout averse Segura hit .280. That’s 24 points lower than he batted with the Mariners the year before. His home runs only improved from 10 to 12, despite moving from cavernous T-Mobile Park to the much more long-ball conducive Citizens Bank Park.
    
All signs point to Segura moving from shortstop to 2nd base when regular season baseball takes place with Didi Gregorius signed in the offseason to play shortstop. While the returns on the infield realignment remain to be seen, Segura’s impact needs to be most felt at the plate and in the Phillies lineup.
    
So was last season the beginning of a decline for the recently-turned 30-year old Segura? Or just a slight dip for a player that hit .300 or better in each of the previous three seasons? 
    
A reason for optimism is Segura’s assertion that he entered spring training in February in much better shape than the previous season. That said, we don’t definitively know how this current hiatus will impact that physical conditioning. Pessimists will point out that history (not including the late 80s to the early 2000s) suggests players don’t get better as they enter their 30s.
    
Ultimately, it will add to the degree of difficulty for the Phillies to get where they want to go this season if Segura is not a .300 hitter that sets the table for the heart of the lineup.

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