Phillies

Gabe Kapler defends it all after one of the ugliest Phillies' losses you'll ever see

Gabe Kapler defends it all after one of the ugliest Phillies' losses you'll ever see

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On Sunday night, the Phillies and New York Mets will travel upstate to Williamsport to play a regular-season game in front of a few thousand Little Leaguers. It’s all part of a Major League Baseball initiative to inspire young players to excel in the game, reach for the stars and maybe get to the big leagues.

MLB better hope that the brand of ball played in the nationally televised game will be better than what masqueraded as baseball at the highest level early Thursday night.

The Phillies, a sloppy defensive team to begin with, played error-filled ball in the first game of a doubleheader and came away with an eyesore of a 24-4 loss (see first take). The Phillies’ performance ranged from ugly to embarrassing to comical as the team made four errors, gave up 11 unearned runs and resorted to using two position players on the mound to cover the final three innings of the blowout.

Oft-injured outfielder Roman Quinn gave up six hits and seven runs in 1 2/3 innings and infielder Scott Kingery allowed four hits and two runs before the game mercifully ended.

During his stint as a mop-up reliever, Kingery lobbed the ball so slowly that it did not register on the stadium radar gun. Mets hitters dug in and teed off. Players in the Mets’ dugout giggled. Fans, who had booed earlier in the day, also giggled. The whole thing, frankly, was an embarrassment to the sport.

But Phillies manager Gabe Kapler managed to keep it all in perspective, especially as it pertained to his use, or non-use, of the bullpen.

“You guys are going to spin this however you want, but the fact of the matter is, in the fifth inning when we're down 11 runs, we started to prepare for the second game,” he said. “We used strategy to best position the Phillies to win baseball games. We're going to continue to do that. My job is to protect the Phillies. That's it. That's what I did.

“Our best relievers are not excited about coming into those kind of games, those lopsided games. On the flip side, a couple position players enjoyed it. A 24-4 game and a 5-4 game both count as a loss. And so our strategy is to be best positioned to win the next baseball game. If we end up using Luis (Garcia) or (Victor) Arano, they're going to be less effective in the second game. [Quinn and Kingery] got through it safely. We're in a much better position to win Game 2 as a result.”

Kapler defended his use of Quinn, who has missed significant time in his career with a series of injuries.

“I don't have any concerns for Roman throwing the ball 78 miles an hour because that's what he does every day when he plays catch,” Kapler said. “I don't have any concerns for Scotty doing the same thing. It's a strategy decision because we're trying to make the playoffs, we're trying to win the National League East, and the game was out of hand. We now have a bullpen that we can use effectively in Game 2 of this doubleheader.

“Down the road, we're going to look back on this and it's just going to be a time when we got our asses kicked and we had position players on the mound.”

Kapler was asked if that is what fans really want to see, a couple of position players throwing batting practice. The Phillies entered the game with eight relievers and used just two for an inning apiece before Quinn took the mound.

“I think they were probably more entertained than they have been, frankly,” he said. “I would bet that it is more entertaining to watch what we just saw than in the same kind of blowout game one of our relievers that we see regularly.”

Maikel Franco made a pair of errors at third base in the opener. Catcher Jorge Alfaro made a throwing error and leftfielder Rhys Hoskins dropped a ball for another error. All the errors led to runs. Rookie starter Ranger Suarez gave up eight runs, four of which were unearned. Mark Leiter Jr. gave up four hits, including a grand slam, and seven runs in one inning, but all were unearned as the Phils made a pair of errors behind him.

Poor defense is nothing new for these Phillies. They entered the first game of the doubleheader ranked second to last in the majors in defensive runs saved (minus-85), according to Fangraphs. Only Baltimore at minus-95 was worse.

The four errors gave the Phils 92 on the season, tying them with St. Louis for most in the majors.

“We didn't play good defense,” Kapler said. “We put a little additional pressure on our pitchers to get additional outs. These are major-league hitters. They're going to eventually drive the baseball and that's what they did.”

The Mets had 25 hits in the first game. Eleven of the hits, including three homers, were for extra bases.

All four of the Phillies’ runs in the first game came on solo homers by Hoskins, Franco, Alfaro and Nick Williams.

The Phillies rebounded to win the nightcap, 9-6 (see story).

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American Century Championship 2020: Odds, live stream, TV info, player list, schedule

American Century Championship 2020: Odds, live stream, TV info, player list, schedule

In the 2007 offseason, Jimmy Rollins famously said the Phillies were the “team to beat”. Those comments became the motto that helped catapult the Phillies to five straight postseason appearances, including a 2008 World Series title. Guys like Rollins, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino were a big reason for that success.

Well, the band is back together.

This time they’ll be paired together on the golf course starting Friday at the American Century Championship in Nevada. This is the first time Utley is taking part in the celebrity event. Other first timers include Chiefs quarterback and new $503 million dollar man Patrick Mahomes.

William Hill Sportsbook in Nevada has placed odds on this weekend’s festivities and the trio of former Phillies are not getting much respect. Then again, for most participants this tournament is all fun and games. Utley has odds of 300-1 ($100 wager will pay $30,000) while Victorino is listed at 1500-1 ($100 wager will pay $150,000). Rollins is part of the field at 50-1 ($100 wager will pay $5,000).

American Century Championship TV, live stream and time

Friday: First round coverage -- 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBC Sports app
Saturday: Second round coverage -- 3 p.m. ET on NBC10, NBC Sports app
Sunday: Final round coverage -- 3 p.m. ET on NBC 10, NBC Sports app

Unfortunately, Rollins, Utley and Victorino don’t stand much of a chance against opponents like former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and two-time defending champion of this event Tony Romo. Romo is an excellent NFL broadcaster and highly skilled golfer who has played in four PGA events so it’s no surprise he’s the even money favorite. He also has zero Super Bowl appearances (just stating the facts). Former Cardinals and A’s pitcher and three-time champion of the American Century Championship Mark Mulder is the second choice on the board at 13/5.

Charles Barkley is an annual participant at this weekend’s events. Sir Charles and his awkward golf swing are a long shot with odds of 7500-1. I think it’s safe to say save your money. Nonetheless, this event is always fun seeing all the celebrities having a good time on the links. Who doesn’t like Steph Curry draining 3’s into the boats docked alongside Lake Tahoe?

American Century Championship selected odds (via William Hill Sportsbook)

  • Tony Romo - EVEN
  • Mark Mulder - 13/5
  • Mardy Fish - 15/2
  • John Smoltz - 17/2
  • Stephen Curry - 12/1
  • Derek Lowe - 15/1
  • Aaron Rodgers - 100/1
  • Chase Utley - 300/1
  • Patrick Mahomes - 400/1
  • Roger Clemens - 500/1
  • Oscar De La Hoya - 500/1
  • Shane Victorino - 1500/1
  • Sean Payton - 2000/1
  • James Blake - 3000/1
  • Field - 50/1

American Century Championship first round pairings, tee times

1st tee

  • 1:55 p.m. ET: Oscar De La Hoya, Michael Peña, Kira K. Dixon
  • 2:05 p.m.: Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams, Patrick Peterson
  • 2:15 p.m.: Jerome Bettis, Eddie George, Terrell Davis
  • 2:25 p.m: Mardy Fish, Canelo Álvarez, James Blake
  • 2:35 p.m.: Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Charles Barkley
  • 2:45 p.m.: Steve Young, Anthony Lynn, Mike Vrabel
  • 2:55 p.m.: Cooper Kupp, Adam Thielen, Case Keenum
  • 3:05 p.m.: Stephen Curry, Dell Curry, Aaron Rodgers
  • 3:15 p.m: Tony Romo, Larry Fitzgerald, Jerry Rice
  • 3:25 p.m.: John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens
  • 3:35 p.m.: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino
  • 3:45 p.m.: Mark Mulder, Jack Wagner, Derek Lowe

10th tee

  • 1:50 p.m. ET: Doug Flutie, Jim McMahon
  • 2:00 p.m.: Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus, Bret Baier
  • 2:10 p.m.: Kyle WIlliams, AJ Hawk, Brandon McManus
  • 2:20 p.m.: Reggie Bush, Carson Palmer, Marcus Allen
  • 2:30 p.m.: Joe Buck, Jay Bilas, Vinny Del Negro
  • 2:40 p.m.: Tim Brown, Andre Reed, Ozzie Smith
  • 2:50 p.m.: Eric Weddle, Kyle Fuller, Troy Mullins
  • 3:00 p.m: TIm Wakefield, Kevin Millar, Brian McCann
  • 3:10 p.m.: Miles Teller, Chace Crawford, Kathryn Tappen
  • 3:20 p.m.: Charles Woodson, Kyle Rudolph, DeMarcus Ware
  • 3:30 p.m.: Alfonso Ribeiro, Rob Riggle, Ray Romano
  • 3:40 p.m.: Larry the Cable Guy, Brian Baumgartner, John O'Hurley

Joe Girardi's Phillies lineup is nearly set, except for one outfield question mark

Joe Girardi's Phillies lineup is nearly set, except for one outfield question mark

The start of the Phillies' abbreviated 2020 season is two weeks away, and manager Joe Girardi has a pretty good idea of what his team's Opening Day defensive alignment will look like.  

J.T. Realmuto will be behind the plate, presumably catching Aaron Nola. Jean Segura will likely be the starting third baseman, next to new shortstop Didi Gregorius. Now healthy after a wicked bout with COVID-19, Scott Kingery projects as the starting second baseman. Rhys Hoskins will play first base. Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper are locked in at the corner outfield spots. 

That leaves center field as the only position up for grabs. 

Second-year player Adam Haseley and fourth-year veteran Roman Quinn are the primary candidates. 

The 24-year old Haseley was the 8th overall pick of the 2017 MLB draft and quickly climbed through the Phillies minor league system. He played 67 games last season as a rookie and showed flashes of being a productive big league outfielder, hitting .266 with 14 doubles, five home runs, and 26 RBI. He also made a handful of spectacular defensive plays.

Quinn, 27, has long tantalized the front office and fans alike with his immense talent. His blazing speed makes him a weapon on the basepaths and allows him to cover a ton of ground in the outfield. He also has a fair amount of pop, collecting 20 extra-base hits in 139 at-bats the last two seasons. But injuries have been a common theme throughout Quinn's professional career. He's never been able to stay healthy long enough to show what he's capable of over the course of a full season. 

Quinn and Haseley competed for the center field job during spring training in Clearwater and will continue to do so over the next two weeks of training camp at Citizens Bank Park. The manager isn't in a rush to name a starter.

"My mind is really open with that spot," Girardi told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Michael Barkann earlier this week. "If one guy emerges, it's one guy. If it's a platoon, it's a platoon. If one guy plays more than the other, we have that.

"The big thing is we get production out of center field, that's what I'm looking for. And that doesn't necessarily mean home runs, it could mean getting on base and scoring runs and a lot of different things including really good defense. I'm just going to let it play out and see who rises to the top here." 

Whoever plays center field will likely be hitting towards the bottom of the batting order. There won't be a ton of pressure to put up big offensive numbers. 

There is one other possibility to consider when it comes to the center field situation: Odubel Herrera.

The 28-year old Herrera isn't currently on the Phillies' 60-man summer camp roster, but he could be added at any point. GM Matt Klentak didn't rule out that scenario last week. 

On Thursday's 'Phillies Return to Play' show, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury indicated Herrera could still be an option if neither Haseley or Quinn play well enough to claim the job. 

There are a lot of question marks at the moment when it comes to the Phillies' center field job. Girardi is hopeful one of the candidates will step up over the next couple of weeks and provide some answers.

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