Phillies

Heck of a win for Phillies over Cubs, but some drama can be avoided

Heck of a win for Phillies over Cubs, but some drama can be avoided

CHICAGO — When a team goes into Wrigley Field and outlasts a first-place Chicago Cubs club in 10 innings, it’s a heck of a win.

And there’s no doubt the Phillies enjoyed that kind of a win Monday night. They fell behind early, rallied for a lead, gave it away, tied the game, and finally went ahead for good on a solo homer by J.T. Realmuto with two outs in the 10th inning.

The 5-4 win over the Cubs was the Phillies’ fourth in a row and it left them at a season-best nine games over .500 (see observations).

The Phillies got strong performances from several corners of their roster. Most notable was Realmuto, who shined at the plate and behind it.

But if the Phillies were completely honest with themselves as they headed for the team bus after the game, they would have admitted that the victory was actually more difficult than it should have been.

On a night when the Phillies made two excellent defensive plays to cut down runs at the plate in the early innings, they played a ragged eighth inning and that allowed the Cubs to rally for three runs and take a 4-3 lead. Only a one-out double by Maikel Franco, a huge, two-out walk by Andrew McCutchen (after being down 0-2) and a game-tying bloop single by Jean Segura saved the Phillies in the top of the ninth. They came all the way back on Realmuto’s homer in the 10th — five innings after he made a defensive gem on the receiving end of a Bryce Harper strike to the plate (see video).

“We talked about us acquiring the best all-around catcher in the game and it’s hard for me to imagine there’s a better one out there,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the game.

Prior to this victory, the Phils had been 0-14 when trailing after eight innings.

Again, a heck of a win.

But that eighth inning was troubling.

First of all, reliever Seranthony Dominguez had trouble throwing strikes in his second inning of work. He walked two and both came around to score on a one-out triple by Daniel Descalso.

Second, there was the defense — not so much Segura’s errant throw that bounced off of Descalso and allowed him to score the go-ahead run, but what preceded that.

Descalso’s triple split the gap between leftfielder McCutchen and centerfielder Odubel Herrera. Off the bat, the ball looked like it should have been caught for the second out of the inning. Next thing you knew, it was rolling toward the wall.

“I’ve got to catch that ball,” McCutchen said after the game. “It’s a ball I know I can catch if I stay on my route.”

Kapler called the play a “communication challenge” between McCutchen and Herrera. He went on to acknowledge that while the play was not routine, “with a little better communication, that ball is caught.”

McCutchen looked to be in control of the play until Herrera came into the picture. McCutchen said he had a bead on the ball but had to “veer off” his route because he feared colliding with Herrera.

“We have to do a better job communicating,” McCutchen said. “We’re still learning each other. Once [Herrera] knows I can get that ball, he doesn’t have to go 100 percent to get it. Those balls can’t hit the ground.”

And when they do, three runs can score in the blink of an eye.

In this case, it all conspired against Jake Arrieta. He was on his way to getting the win in his Wrigley Field return before the fateful eighth.

Dominguez was in the game for a second inning because he had a strong, 1-2-3 seventh and Kapler was trying to pick his spot with Pat Neshek. Neshek warmed up but never came in as Dominguez unraveled. After the game, Kapler revealed that Neshek was a little sore before the game. That’s why Kapler did not use him to close out the 10th after the Phils got the lead. Juan Nicasio got a double-play ball to end the game.

It was a hard-fought win for the Phils with a couple of big hits putting them over the top. But it was probably more hard-fought than it needed to be. McCutchen was right: Those balls can’t hit the ground.

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Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

The Phillies finally added a reliever, agreeing this week to a minor-league deal with former Nationals closer Drew Storen, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Storen had some really good seasons with the Nationals at the beginning of the decade. From 2010-15, he had a 3.02 ERA in 355 appearances, most of which were high-leverage.

He had an unceremonious exit from D.C. after two poor postseason showings. He allowed the game-tying and game-winning runs to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS, and allowed a game-tying run in the 2014 NLDS as well.

When the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies for Nick Pivetta in the summer of 2015, it led to the narrative that Storen's confidence was shaken and he was never the same.

Storen was traded to Toronto a calendar year after the Nats got Papelbon, and he's since spent time in the organizations of the Blue Jays, Reds and Royals. He underwent Tommy John surgery late in 2017 and has barely pitched the last two seasons, making just nine appearances in the minors with the Royals, all at Double A.

Storen is a classic buy-low reliever. Maybe things click in spring training and he makes the team and can provide the Phillies another quality right-handed relief option. The odds are probably against it, but the Phillies do have plenty of open roles in their bullpen.

The big wild-card in the Phils' bullpen is Seranthony Dominguez, who missed most of last season with arm injuries but could be a much-needed and useful weapon if he can revert to his 2018 form.

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J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

More than once last summer, J.T. Realmuto expressed his affection for Philadelphia and said he’d one day be up for signing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies.

The specter of his upcoming salary arbitration hearing hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not at all,” he said before the 116th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday night. “Anybody who knows about the arbitration process knows it’s business. It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not going to be any hard feelings there. So I feel like we’re at the same place we were two or three months ago as far as with the contract extension.”

Before the two sides go to work on a long-term contract extension, Realmuto is likely to play the 2020 season on a one-year contract. Barring an unlikely settlement, Realmuto will have his 2020 salary decided by an arbitration panel next month. He is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies’ arbitration offer is $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides then pick one number or the other.

Realmuto knows the game. He went to arbitration with the Miami Marlins two years ago and lost.

“I have a good understanding of the process,” he said. “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There are no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as baseball’s best catcher while making $5.9 million. He was an All-Star. He was the catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He threw out 37 runners trying to steal, the most in the majors.

Realmuto’s 2019 season put him in a good position to win his arbitration case.

But he made it clear that this is about more than just himself.

"It’s not me against the Phillies,” he said. “It’s the system that we’re trying to fight right now.  I’m trying to go out and set a precedent for future catchers in the game and I feel like I had a season worthy of doing that so I’m going to fight for that.

"This is not because the Phillies didn’t give us a chance to come to an agreement. We’re fighting for a cause, fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers have not been treated well in the arbitration process and we feel like this is an opportunity to advance that for the catchers. Just being able to fight for those guys is something I take pride in. I believe in fighting for future generations and I’m excited to do it."

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established in mid-February, the Phillies are expected to initiate talks on an extension that would begin at the start of the 2021 season. Those talks should commence during spring training. A contract extension is expected to cover up to five seasons with an average annual value of over $20 million.

Realmuto, who was honored as the PSWA’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, was joined by new Phillies manager Joe Girardi at the banquet.

“I’m really excited to play for him,” Realmuto said. “I feel like he’s got a lot of feel. He knows exactly what he wants to do as a manager and has a lot of confidence and he’ll be able to instill that confidence in us.”

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