Phillies

Gabe Kapler says players could have been more engaged during Phillies' 2018 collapse

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Gabe Kapler says players could have been more engaged during Phillies' 2018 collapse

CLEARWATER, Fla. — As the Phillies limped to the finish line with 20 losses in the final 28 games last season, some players basically checked out.

"I think in September our players could have been more engaged," manager Gabe Kapler confirmed to reporters in Jupiter, Fla., on Monday. "With the players I thought could have been more engaged, those conversations were had. I addressed every situation that clearly needed to be addressed last year in appropriate settings."

Kapler spoke in response to an ESPN story that told of how Carlos Santana smashed a television at Citizens Bank Park after seeing a couple of teammates playing a video game during a ballgame against the Atlanta Braves on the final weekend of the season.

Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta did not deny that some team members played video games in the clubhouse last season. He added that he did not believe video games were played during games.

Kapler said he was unaware of any of his players playing video games while the baseball game was in progress — "That's unacceptable, 100 percent," he said — but he did not deny that Santana trashed some equipment in the video room.

"In the middle of the summer, the chemistry of the clubhouse was very good," said Kapler, whose club was in first place in the NL East in early August. "As we struggled at the end, understandably, tensions ran high. When that happens, players tend to react. 

"Carlos became frustrated as happens in high-tension situations. He responded by smashing up some TVs. I don't think that's uncommon. I don't think it's uncommon to see players get frustrated in high-tension situations. That happens in every clubhouse environment. "

Kapler said he spoke personally with Santana after the incident and addressed the team in a meeting. The manager opened spring training last month by saying he planned on having more clubhouse boundaries in his second season.

"We are putting steps in place to ensure that when tensions run high again, players communicate and look out for each other," Kapler said. "I care deeply about our clubhouse culture and we are collectively doing everything we can to continue to monitor these situations, and to improve that."

On Monday, Rhys Hoskins defended his manager and said the incident involving the video games and Santana's reaction was not a poor reflection on Kapler's leadership.

What does Kapler think?

"When things aren't going the way that they should, it is always my responsibility to step up and be accountable for those things," Kapler said. "And I will do that in this situation as well."

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Bryce Harper plays MLB The Show 19 on NBC's 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'

Bryce Harper plays MLB The Show 19 on NBC's 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'

With the Phillies in New York this week playing a drama-filled series against the Mets, Bryce Harper paid a visit to NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

Harper's segment aired Wednesday night, a little over an hour after Rhys Hoskins purposefully strolled around the Citi Field bases following a statement home run off of Mets pitcher Jacob Rhame (see story).

So it's fitting Harper and Fallon duked it out in a Home Run Derby on MLB The Show 19, the video game in which the Phillies' 13-year, $330 million man dons the cover.

Fallon tried rattling Harper. Not happening.

"You suck, you suck, you suck," Fallon said in the slugger's face.

"That's fine," Harper said. "I heard it a lot worse last night."

Fallon used Aaron Judge in Yankee Stadium … no advantage there.

Harper went with the sly move of knocking the controller out of Fallon's hands.

It sort of worked.

Ultimately, Harper's visit to Fallon was not victorious. But it did go better than Gritty's trip.

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Rhys Hoskins, Phillies get their retaliation against Mets in an even more satisfying way

Rhys Hoskins, Phillies get their retaliation against Mets in an even more satisfying way

NEW YORK — Roman Quinn's groin strain aside, the Phillies needed a night like this. 

They blanked the Mets, 6-0, Wednesday for their first shutout win of the season (see observations).

They finally cashed in with runners in scoring position to break the game open, something they failed to do for most of their 2-5 road trip through Colorado and New York.

They got a strong starting pitching performance from Vince Velasquez and solid work from four different relievers who took down an inning apiece.

And they had their dramatic moment late in the game when Rhys Hoskins exacted revenge on fringe major-league pitcher Jacob Rhame 24 hours after seeing two high-90s fastballs whiz past his head. Hoskins took Rhame deep to left field ... and then took his time strolling the bases.

Hoskins' trot around the bases needs to be seen in entirety to fully appreciate.

"Oh yeah, I enjoyed the moment," he said postgame. "I just enjoyed the moment. I think to put an exclamation point on a win like that when we really needed it, I think that's what everyone in here is most excited about."

The situation was reminiscent of Chase Utley vs. Jonathan Sanchez in San Francisco in the summer of 2009. Sanchez threw a ball over Utley's head, earned a glare from the stoic second baseman, and Utley homered a few pitches later.

"If a ball goes over your head the night before, the best way to get back at the pitcher is to put the ball in the seats," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think it was worthy of Rhys having that moment and soaking it all in. He deserved that. He earned it."

Did Hoskins care that the Mets may take offense? Hoskins isn't one for one-word answers, but he was in this case.

"No," he said flatly.

Does he care that there seems to be some bad blood brewing between the Phillies and Mets?

"I think that's what a rivalry is," he said. "I think there's always going to be a little bit of bad blood in a rivalry."

The home run was Hoskins' seventh of the season. It gave the Phillies the last word in a series they lost, and it gives the Mets a little something to chew on during the two-month period before these teams meet again.

The Quinn injury was a sour subplot on an otherwise cathartic evening for the Phillies. He strained his groin legging out a perfectly executed safety squeeze, which enabled the Phillies to expand their lead in the eighth inning. The guy just can't catch a break. Injury after injury. On top of the 3-for-25 start to the season, which included 14 strikeouts.

"I ran out there and I just couldn't believe it," Kapler said of watching Quinn get hurt again. "He's worked so hard to get back. I really feel for Roman. It's nothing he's doing. His body's just not responding. We keep thinking about different ways we can keep him healthy and all he wants to do is get going and stay going. It's tough. I really want the best for Roman."

The Phillies over this last week dealt with injuries, flat offensive performances, a blown extra-inning lead with one strike remaining, an ejection to their best player and two near misses on beanballs. It all came without the respite of an off day. 

"This was a long, hard road trip," Kapler understated. 

Now the Phillies come back home to take on the Marlins for four games. Success against the Marlins may determine this tight NL East. The division has played out as expected through the season's first month. The Phillies, Mets, Braves and Nationals are separated by 1½ games and the Marlins are already 10 games under .500.

Between the Marlins series, an off-day Monday, two games with the offensively-challenged Tigers and another off-day, the Phillies have a chance to quickly put the frustrations of this road trip behind them. If they take care of the business they should take care of.

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