WASHINGTON — Lots of folks asking questions about Gabe Kapler’s starting lineup Tuesday night.
The Phillies manager played Carlos Santana at first base over Justin Bour.
And he started Jorge Alfaro behind the plate over newcomer Wilson Ramos.
OK, some explanations from Kapler.
First, a week-old one on the Santana-Bour question:
“Santana's going to play every day,” Kapler said after Bour joined the club in a trade from Miami last week. “Santana's going to play regularly.
“Bour is going to be a weapon off the bench for us. Santana's going to play every day.”
And now for Kapler’s decision to start Alfaro over Ramos on Tuesday night against the Nationals.
“There are a number of things involved here,” Kapler said before the game.
“First, Alfaro has a history of success against [Tanner] Roark.
“Second, Ramos is coming off a long stint on the DL and we have ridden him pretty hard the last couple of days. Two consecutive days off is going to give him a chance to repair his body.
“Third, we have a bit of a slippery, rainy day today and when it comes to Ramos, we’re really concerned with how we’re going to manage his health through the end of the season and into October and so all of those reasons are why we thought it made sense to have Alfaro in there.
“And, I guess, finally, I think [starting pitcher Vince Velasquez] and Alfaro have a pretty good rapport.”
Ramos missed six weeks with a hamstring strain before the Phillies activated him last week. He has seven hits, including four doubles and a triple, in 17 at-bats with the club. It is reasonable to wonder why he wasn’t in the lineup. And Kapler’s answer was reasonable, as well.
Alfaro is hitting .251 with a .700 OPS and 120 strikeouts in 295 at-bats, but, as Kapler pointed out, he does have some success against Roark. He was 5 for 7 with a double and a homer against the Washington starter. Ramos was 0 for 3 against Roark. The two are former teammates with Washington.
Bour was just 6 for 31 (.194) against Roark, but half of his hits were homers. He had nine strikeouts.
Santana was 2 for 7 with a triple against Roark.
Santana, in the first year of a three-year, $60 million contract, is one of the most polarizing players on the club. His supporters, which include the front office and Kapler, love the way he works counts and gets on base. It fits the style of play management is dedicated to. Santana's on-base percentage is .351 (third best on the club) and his 69 RBIs are second most on the club.
Santana’s detractors see his .218 batting average and want more.
As with the Alfaro-Ramos decision, it is completely reasonable to question Kapler’s decision to go with Santana over Bour.
But Kapler makes out the lineup. And he’s given his reasons.