NEW YORK — This isn’t how the Phillies wanted to come home after spending nearly $170 million on free agents and hiring a bold new manager this offseason.
But here they are, heading into Thursday’s home opener with a 1-4 record, hitting .183 as a team, scoring 2.8 runs per game and striking out more than 11 times per game.
They’re also carrying a 5.56 team ERA.
Sure, it’s a super-small sample size. But new manager Gabe Kapler and his charges are not off to a good start and it will be interesting to see what kind of welcome they get from the home folk.
“I’m excited about going back to Philadelphia and I think our players are, too,” Kapler said after his club capped its season-opening trip with a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday (see breakdown). “I think the fans can be excited for the young product we’re putting on the field, some hitters who have been grinding through at-bats, and some good young arms. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The road trip wasn’t fun for the Phillies or Kapler. Several of the rookie manager’s moves backfired, including a couple of defensive calls in New York. On Tuesday night, the Phils could not turn a double play in the sixth inning because they were in a shift. It led to two runs and a 2-0 loss (see story).
On Wednesday, reliever Drew Hutchison, who picked up Aaron Nola after 87 pitches, gave up a killer two-run triple to No. 9 hitter Amed Rosario with two outs in the sixth. It broke a 2-2 tie. The triple came on a first-pitch slider and sailed over the head of rightfielder Nick Williams, who was playing extremely shallow — about 50 feet closer than normal, according to MLB Statcast. Kapler said Williams was told to play in that position because Hutchison’s slider often induced weak contact and the Phils didn’t wanted to give up a hit in front of the outfielder.
Kapler defended the defensive alignment.
“That ball was hit hard,” he said. “If he was playing back 25 feet, I’m not sure he catches that ball. It was over his head by a significant margin and we’re optimizing for the ball in front of us there. I trust our positioning right there.
“Some of these moves have not worked out in the short term. In the long term, we are very confident they will. I can’t express enough confidence that our strategies will pay dividends, but I understand in the short term they haven’t and that can be disappointing. I get it.”
Williams said he was not sure if he would have had a play on the ball if he were in normal position.
Hutchison got in a jam in that inning by his own doing. He issued a no-out walk and a two-out walk before Rosario’s dagger.
“I wasn’t sharp with the two walks,” he said. “I didn’t make pitches. I didn’t get the job done.”
Nola survived a rough first inning — 32 pitches, two walks, a single and a two-run homer — and pitched through the fifth. He said Kapler made the right move going to the bullpen.
The Phils have lost three in a row and scored just four runs in that span. They struck out 15 times Wednesday and 26 times in two games in New York.
Now, this show goes home.