Phillies

Gabe Kapler takes blame for Phillies' loss, but Bryce Harper says, no, it's on him

Gabe Kapler takes blame for Phillies' loss, but Bryce Harper says, no, it's on him

There were some really entertaining moments for Phillies fans in Thursday night’s game.

To wit:

J.T. Realmuto battled through a 16-pitch at-bat in the first inning and fouled off 10 straight pitches. The crowd loved it and gave Realmuto a loud ovation even after he struck out.

And then, in a tie game in the top of the ninth inning, Nick Williams made one of the strongest and prettiest throws you’ll ever see to cut down a run from left field and give the Phillies life heading into the bottom of the ninth. Williams' throw registered at 95.5 mph, according to Statcast. To put that in perspective, neither starting pitcher threw a pitch that hard in a combined 12 2/3 innings.

But Realmuto’s grueling at-bat and Williams’ eye-popping hose work were merely footnotes to what turned out to be another bad night at the yard for the Phillies. Their 3-1 loss to the Miami Marlins in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park was their sixth defeat in the last eight games (see observations). After coming out of the gate with an 11-6 record and getting everybody pumped up, the Phils are now 13-12.

Manager Gabe Kapler wore this defeat for his decision to use reliever Hector Neris for a second inning of work. Neris, with significant help from Williams, got out of the ninth without giving up a run. He went back for the 10th and twice was one strike away from getting out of that inning. But he gave up a two-out double to Neil Walker on a 2-2 pitch then a two-run homer to Starlin Castro on a 2-2 pitch. Walker hit a splitter, Castro a fastball.

“I didn’t put Hector in the position to succeed right there,” Kapler said. “He’s been so good all year. I really wanted to lean on him. That’s on me. I trusted him and really wanted him to get through that second inning for us and felt really confident in him. But I knew what was best for Hector was to get him out after that first inning of work. That one is on me.

“I thought he was strong. He did a really good job getting through that first inning for us. At the same time, that was asking a lot from him and putting a lot of responsibility on him. I think I could’ve went to (Edubray) Ramos there and Ramos would’ve done a very nice job for us.”

As much as Kapler tried to take the blame, he was far from the engineer of this loss.

This one was on the offense. Aaron Nola pitched well in a duel against lefty Caleb Smith. Adam Morgan got another huge out. Seranthony Dominguez pitched around trouble and delivered a scoreless inning. So much lined up for the Phillies — if they only could have gotten a big hit.

This game was theirs to be had in the sixth inning. Andrew McCutchen led off with a double and moved to third on a fly ball by Realmuto. Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins then both popped up against the stingy Smith to end the threat.

An inning later, Cesar Hernandez doubled with one out and died on second when Sean Rodriguez and Williams struck out.

That's 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings.

Like Kapler, Harper raised his hand and took blame for the loss.

“It’s on me,” he said. “With a guy at third base, less than two outs, I’ve got to get that job done. We wouldn’t be in that predicament in that situation — Hector throws a scoreless one like he’s supposed to and we’re out of there. So I’ve got to be better personally. Guy on third, less than two outs, I’ve got to get the job done.”

Harper is 10 for 51 (.196) over his last 13 games and five of those hits came in one game last week in Denver.

But he wasn’t the only hitter who did not come through Thursday night. The Phils had just four hits. Their Nos. 2 through 5 hitters were 0 for 15 with a walk.

“There’s no question our lineup hasn’t been clicking like it can,” Kapler said. “We’ve been pretty beat up by injuries, but that’s no excuse. We can perform better at the plate.”

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Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

SAN DIEGO — A year ago, Phillies officials left the winter meetings with much of their offseason work still in front of them.
 
Manny Machado was still a front-burner free-agent item. Bryce Harper was still in the background and J.T. Realmuto was headed to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York … anywhere but Philadelphia.
 
You know the rest of the story.
 
Spring training had already begun by the time the Phillies settled their offseason last year. A year later, Phillies officials departed the winter meetings on Thursday with their heavy offseason lifting complete.

The Phils signed free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract last week and free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal at the meetings this week. The signings left the Phils about $5 million under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for the coming season and the club will be mindful of that. It’s likely — though not certain — that any further moves the Phillies make will qualify as tweaks.
 
Here are a few things to keep an eye on over the remainder of the offseason.

The starting rotation

Aaron Nola and Wheeler give the Phillies a “1 and a 1-A,” as manager Joe Girardi said.

Jake Arrieta is healthy and will be ready to go Day 1 of camp and Zach Eflin will hold down a job. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are slated to battle for the fifth job, though it would not be surprising to see the Phils bring back Drew Smyly on a minor-league deal to join the fight. The Phils were keeping an eye on Rick Porcello to see where his market was headed, but he signed for one year and $10 million with the Mets. Lefty Wade Miley could be someone to keep an eye on, depending where his market goes. The Phils are committed to having top prospect Spencer Howard start the season in Triple A, but he could have a major impact as the season goes on. The Phils will watch Howard’s workload — because of injury, he pitched under 100 innings last year — so adding bargain depth is a must.

The bullpen

At the moment, it looks like a fairly unchanged unit. The Phils are banking on Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez being healthy again and Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez and Ranger Suarez carrying a heavy load again. Pivetta, Velasquez or both could be used in the ‘pen, depending on the depth that is added in the rotation. If the Phils want to push the tax, they could make a play for former Yankee Dellin Betances. Someone from the system like Garrett Cleavinger or Connor Brogdon could surprise in spring training. How about Tommy Hunter? The Phils put a lot of time into his rehab after elbow surgery last year. Could he be a fit on a bargain deal? Ditto for Jared Hughes and Mike Morin.

The bench

Former All-Star and .300 hitter Josh Harrison has been signed on a minor-league deal. He can play anywhere and figures to have a good chance to make the club. Phil Gosselin, another jack of all trades, is coming back on a minor-league deal and the team has shown some interest in free agent Matt Szczur. Brad Miller remains a free agent and a potentially good fit. Jay Bruce will add power off the bench. Andrew Knapp returns as backup catcher but it would not be surprising to see the Phils sign one or two more veteran catchers to push for work and add depth. Remember, Girardi has said he’d like to keep Realmuto to between 120 and 130 games so he is fresh in October. “That’s where the prize is,” Girardi said. Austin Romine would have been a nice fit, but he signed with Detroit. 

Trades

While it appears as if most of the team’s major moves are done, general manager Matt Klentak and his group will continue to stay engaged on the trade front and you never know if one could materialize. Nick Williams could be dealt. Miami has long liked him. Velasquez could be dealt for some salary relief, particularly if the Phils are able to add starting pitching depth. The Phils would surely listen on Jean Segura, but he has three years and $45 million left on his deal so that would not be easy.
 
Could the Phils make a major trade?
 
After seeing the Realmuto deal come together so quickly last February, it can’t be ruled out. Even something crazy is possible. By crazy we mean Kris Bryant. Yes, he’d be a nice fit as the Phils make a quick push at a title before he becomes a free agent. But it’s a real long shot and it would probably cost top prospect Alec Bohm, and it would definitely push the Phillies over the luxury tax threshold, though managing partner John Middleton has said he would go over it for the right championship-caliber opportunity. Maybe that’s Bryant. There will continue to be buzz about him and the Phillies will continue to be connected to him as long as there is.
 
J.A. Happ could be another guy to watch on the trade front. The Phils made him an offer last winter and he signed with the Yankees. The Yanks are now eager to move his $17 million salary and might attach a good prospect to the package to help make the deal. Happ would put the Phillies over the tax, but, given the Phils’ need for more pitching, it might it be worth rolling the dice on the left-hander having a bounce-back year if and only if the Yanks attach a good prospect or two to the deal. 

What about Herrera?

The end of the winter meetings begins to put spring training in focus and the Phillies have a big decision to make before then: Do they bring Odubel Herrera to camp? Do they release him? The Phils would eat most of his salary to trade him, but there has been no interest.
 
We dealt with the Herrera situation more deeply in this story.

Realmuto's extension

Sometime before spring training, the Phils are expected to pursue a contract extension with Realmuto.

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At the Yard podcast: Ken Rosenthal joins to talk Phillies, Kris Bryant, Anthoy Rendon

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At the Yard podcast: Ken Rosenthal joins to talk Phillies, Kris Bryant, Anthoy Rendon

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman are joined by special guest Ken Rosenthal to talk Phillies and wrap up the Winter Meetings on the At the Yard podcast.

• Ken and Jim on the crazy week it was in San Diego

• Could we soon see a $500 million contract?

• Fallout of Rendon choosing the Angels

• Ken Rosenthal's thoughts on Phillies' offseason so far

• Phils have added more than Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius

• What's next for Phils with Winter Meetings in the rearview?

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19