Phillies

Clearwater chronicles: Rhys Hoskins hurting, Andrew McCutchen to lead off

Clearwater chronicles: Rhys Hoskins hurting, Andrew McCutchen to lead off

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Lots of newsy notes from Phillies camp this morning.

Let’s get to it:

• Rhys Hoskins has a sore left shoulder. Manager Gabe Kapler said it was nothing serious. Hoskins was not in the lineup Wednesday, but he did participate in fielding drills. He is expected to play over the weekend and be ready for opening day.

Hoskins said he tweaked the shoulder taking an awkward swing on Sunday. He was confident the issue would clear up quickly. An MRI revealed no structural damage.

“There are no concerns about him starting the season,” Kapler said. “We’ll give him a couple of days to let things calm down. We have him penciled into the last couple of spring training games.”

The Phillies play their last two games in Florida on Sunday and Monday in Clearwater. Opening day in March 28.

• Kapler revealed that Andrew McCutchen will open the season as the team’s leadoff man. Cesar Hernandez, who led off extensively last season, will likely hit sixth or seventh, Kapler said.

McCutchen has 1,282 plate appearances as a leadoff man in his career. His on-base percentage in that spot is .367. McCutchen has hit most in the No. 3 spot — 3,861 plate appearances.

“I talked to both guys,” Kapler said. “The likelihood is we’re going to start the season with McCutchen at the top of the lineup. I love his profile up there. I love his ability to see pitches. I love his history of on-base.”

Using McCutchen in the leadoff spot also gives Kapler some matchup flexibility in the middle of the lineup as he doesn’t have to hit Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and McCutchen (all right-handed hitters) in consecutive spots.

“I like the idea of Odubel (Herrera) and Cesar in the middle to give us a little mix and match," Kapler said.

Kapler juggled his lineup often last season. He hopes to avoid that this season.

“One of the things I’m committed to going forward is trying to create some consistency for these guys, especially because they have the capability to really flourish in these lineups spots,” Kapler said.

Hernandez is OK with batting in the middle of the order.

“He’d like to settle in to one spot and I want to respect that,” Kapler said. “I’m not saying it will always happen, but I will do everything I can to respect that. He’s a veteran player and we’ll do whatever we can to make him comfortable.”

• The Phillies do not have a pure backup first baseman for Hoskins. In the event Hoskins needed relief, Maikel Franco would move over from third base and Scott Kingery would fill that spot. Franco will get some reps at first base Friday night against the Yankees in Tampa.

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Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Needing to capitalize on every game against a bad team in a 60-game season, the Phillies are off to a 1-3 start against the Marlins and Orioles. They have two more games with the Orioles Wednesday and Thursday, then seven straight games against the Marlins from Sept. 10-14 in Miami.

The Phillies have dug themselves a hole in which even going 6-3 in those remaining games against two of baseball's least talented teams would result in them finishing just 7-6 against the Marlins and Orioles. NL East and AL East teams entered this season knowing they'd need to clean up on Miami and Baltimore given the strength of the other eight teams, ranging from World Series contenders like the Yankees to clubs in the 85-win range like the Phillies, Mets and Blue Jays.

The Marlins and Orioles have just been better than the Phillies pitchers they're facing. It's the biggest reason why the Phils continue to struggle against bad teams. Do they have better players? Of course. But the gap in talent shrinks when you're forced to use some of your least reliable players (e.g. relievers) every night. You need your bullpen every night. You can't hide it. The Phillies continue to lose these games in the middle innings.

In the four games against the Fish and O's, Phillies starting pitchers have a 5.14 ERA. The bullpen has a 9.00 ERA. The Phillies' offense has averaged 6.0 runs, homered eight times and hit .246/.355/.493 in those four games. It's not at all on the offense, which last season averaged more than 5.5 runs per game against the Marlins and lost the series. The Phillies have already lost games this season when scoring six and nine runs. Even the two times the Phils scored double-digit runs, they had to sweat it out a bit, allowing seven and eight.

That late-season seven-game series in Miami will be another challenge. Because of the postponements, the Phillies will end up playing seven of the 10 games against the Marlins on the road, even if they'll spend a few as the home team in a road park. That seven-game series is smack-dab in the middle of a stretch when the Phillies play 33 games in 29 days. Some of these guys will be running on fumes. Think of how frequently Hector Neris will have to appear in games for the Phillies to hold on to victories.

The Phillies went 33-29 last season against teams under .500. That's OK but not good enough and certainly not an indicator of a contending team. The Marlins and Orioles are actually both over .500 right now, as is every team the Phillies have faced so far. 

One-fifth of the Phillies' season is complete and they are 5-7. You simply need to play .500 baseball to make the playoffs this season. The top two teams in each division, plus the teams with the next two best records in each league make the postseason in this year's 16-team field. Right now, the final team in the NL would be the Brewers at 7-8. The final AL team would be the Orioles at 8-7.

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Joe Girardi after sloppy Phillies’ loss: 'In a lot of ways, we gave it away'

Joe Girardi after sloppy Phillies’ loss: 'In a lot of ways, we gave it away'

There were times Tuesday night when the Phillies produced in the clutch.

And there were times when they tripped all over themselves and looked like the Keystone Kops.

In the end, the Phillies could not play over their sloppiness. They played poorly in the field in the late innings and, of course, their punching-bag bullpen (10.19 ERA) coughed it up once again. The result was the craziest and most demoralizing loss of the Joe Girardi era, a 10-9 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

“We kept coming back but weren’t able to close out the deal,” Girardi said afterward. “We had our chances. We made some mistakes that really cost us. I thought our guys did a great job offensively battling back. Unfortunately, we were one hit short. It’s just frustrating. That’s a game that I thought in a lot of ways, we gave it away.”

Let’s count the ways that the Phillies gave it away.

Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler could not protect a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning.

Reliever Tommy Hunter came into a tie game in the seventh and allowed three hits and two runs to the first three batters.

The Phillies took the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on a pair of homers by Bryce Harper (two-run shot) and Segura (solo shot).

That was clutch.

Hector Neris was called on to close out the one-run lead in the top of the ninth, but he couldn’t do it. He allowed the tying run then was charged with two more when third baseman Segura tripped over the pitcher’s mound while tracking a pop up that would have been the third out.

No problem. Didi Gregorius tied the game at 8-8 with a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies still had life despite Neris' blown save.

Under MLB’s new COVID protocols, both teams started the 10thinning with a runner on second base.

The Orioles scored quickly when Austin Hays — and we’re not making this up — stroked a leadoff, two-run, inside-the-park homer. Phillies centerfielder Roman Quinn tried to make a charging, diving catch on the ball. He missed it and it rolled to the warning track as Hays circled the bases.

The Phils got one back in the bottom of the 10th, but left two men in scoring position.

Not enough.

Painful loss.

Sloppy loss.

The plays involving Segura and Quinn led to four runs.

Segura called off first baseman Rhys Hoskins on Pedro Severino’s pop up in the middle of the infield. It should have been Hoskins’ ball.

“I think that’s probably the inexperience of Jean at third,” Girardi said. “He’s used to being at shortstop and taking charge. It hurt us tonight.

“Hector was a little off. I know he’s frustrated about it. But through all that, we still had a chance. We blew a pop up.”

Hoskins called for the ball. In retrospect, he said he believed he should have yelled louder.

“I heard something from my right and typically those guys take priority over the first baseman,” Hoskins said. “I just need to be louder. I probably called it a little too early.”

In the 10th, Quinn should have conceded the hit to Hays and played the ball on one hop.

“The effort is great,” Girardi said. “But it turns into two runs where you have a chance to only give up one. That’s kind of frustrating.”

Deolis Guerra gave up the inside-the-parker.

Harper witnessed the ball get by Quinn from right field.

“You love the hustle,” Harper said. “You love the effort. You never want to take that away from Q because he plays a great centerfield. But we have to be a little bit smarter. I had to learn that as well when I was playing right field coming up. I’d wanted to get every ball for my pitchers. But that’s a spot, with a guy on second, where you have to keep the ball in front of you and hopefully keep that double play in order so they hopefully score just one run.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda and we might have been tied going into the 11th. Like I said, I love the effort from Q. But that’s definitely a ball we’ve got to keep in front and I think he knows that.”

Twelve games — or 20 percent — into the 60-game sprint, the Phillies are 5-7.

They have two more with the Orioles in this series. The O’s are 8-7 after losing 108 games last season.

“We’ve got to win games,” Harper said. “This is win or go home, pretty much. With a 60-game schedule, we can’t make mistakes. We’ve got to count on the guys we know we can count on. It’s tough to go into the inning with a lead and lose a ballgame.”

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