Phillies

Jorge Alfaro over Wilson Ramos? Carlos Santana over Justin Bour? Gabe Kapler has his reasons

Jorge Alfaro over Wilson Ramos? Carlos Santana over Justin Bour? Gabe Kapler has his reasons

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.”

OK.

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.

Or Bour.

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.

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O-H, yeah, Bryce Harper gives Indians fans a little something to remember him by

O-H, yeah, Bryce Harper gives Indians fans a little something to remember him by

CLEVELAND — Bryce Harper knows how to play a crowd. He’s done it all season at Citizens Bank Park with his pre-game bow to the fans in the right-field seats followed by his heaving of a warm-up ball into the upper deck.

The fans love it.

They love it even more when he hits home runs.

Harper belted his 33rd homer of the season to lead a 9-4 Phillies’ win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night. The home run was an impressive one, a three-run shot that put the Phils ahead, 5-4, with one out in the fifth inning.

The Phillies have played 153 games and they are in the midst of an 11-game road trip. At this time of year, the days seem to become a blur. Sometimes players don’t even know what day it is, or what city they’re waking up in. All they know is that there is another game to play.

But Harper was keenly aware of his surroundings Saturday night, keenly aware of what state he was in. As he crossed home plate after his go-ahead homer, he raised his arms and made the "O-H” sign above his head. And as he spoke with reporters after the game, he wore an Ohio State cap — backwards, of course.

“Big win for the Bucks today,” he said of the 76-5 whooping that Ohio State’s football team put on Miami of Ohio.

Harper’s wife, Kayla, played soccer at Ohio State. That was the birth of his fandom.

The fans in Cleveland appreciated the love that Harper showed for the Buckeyes.

They just would have preferred that he’d done it after, say, a harmless single.

Phillies starter Jason Vargas really appreciated the homer. He gave up four runs in the first two innings — two were unearned after Jean Segura’s error in the first inning — but kept his club in the game until the bats got going in the middle innings. Vargas pitched 6 2/3 bullpen-saving innings and ended up with his first win since July 28, when he was a member of the Mets.

Brad Miller hit the first of his two homers in the fourth inning and Harper put the Phils ahead with his three-run shot in the fifth. Harper’s homer was preceded by hits from Adam Haseley and J.T. Realmuto. 

With his team up, 4-2, Cleveland manager Terry Francona brought in lefty Oliver Perez to face Harper. Perez had retired Harper the night before. This time, Harper fouled off five pitches before hitting the ninth pitch, a full-count slider, over the wall in right field.

“It’s nice to be able to stay competitive and keep us in position to get back into the game and then, golly, I mean I can’t say that I’ve seen a more professional at-bat than the one Harper had against Perez right there,” Vargas said. “I think that any time you see an at-bat like that from your main guy, it’s just — he really didn’t give in and he really made the effort to stay in the at-bat and do everything he could do to get his pitch and he really capitalized and made a difference for us.”

Harper has 15 homers and 36 RBIs in his last 40 games.

“He has been tremendous in the second half of the season for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We win when Harper hits.

“That nine-pitch at-bat felt determined to me. Like he was determined not to fail. He was determined to put the ball in play and put it in play hard. He just did a good job of getting up underneath that baseball and putting it in the air.”

The Phils hit four homers on the night and they got excellent work from the bullpen, which has a 2.69 ERA — second-best in baseball — over the last 20 games.

A smiling Vargas stood in the dugout and greeted reliever Jared Hughes when he retired dangerous Francisco Lindor to end the seventh.

The victory was the 99th of Vargas’ career and it kept the Phils mathematically alive in the NL wild-card race at five games back with nine to play.

Vargas, 36, intends to pitch next season — the Phillies hold a $6 million option on his contract, though it’s unclear if they will pick that up — but he would prefer to get his 100th win before then.

He lines up to make one more start this season.

“I’d definitely like to get it sooner than later, obviously, but I’ve gone this long without having 100,” Vargas said. “It will be nice when it comes and hopefully it comes. It would definitely be a nice thing to have.”

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Bryce Harper hits go-ahead home run as Phillies power past Indians

Bryce Harper hits go-ahead home run as Phillies power past Indians

BOX SCORE 

CLEVELAND — The math says the Phillies still have a chance at making the postseason.

But sitting five games back in the National League wild-card race with just nine games remaining has turned them into spoilers.

With that, the Phils threw a little hurdle in the way of the Cleveland Indians with a 9-4 win on Saturday night.

The 91-win Indians entered the night tied with Tampa Bay for the second American League wild-card spot. They had won five in a row.

The Phils trailed 4-1 after two innings, but they came back to take the lead on the strength of home runs by Brad Miller and Bryce Harper. Harper’s three-run shot in the fifth gave the Phillies the lead.

Jay Bruce and Miller — he blasted his second homer of the game in the ninth — padded the lead with solo homers.

Jason Vargas gave a tired bullpen a break with 6 2/3 strong innings.

The Phillies are 79-74. They need to win three of their final nine games to have their first winning season since 2011.

Vargas’ night

The veteran lefty came into the game with a 7.17 ERA in his previous five starts and he lasted just three innings in his previous two.

Vargas survived a costly error in the first inning and held the Indians to four runs, two of which were unearned. His fastball topped out in the mid-80s, but he was able to change speeds off of that on his way to eight strikeouts. His changeup was a good pitch.

The win was Vargas’ first since July 28, when he was with the Mets. He has 99 career wins.

Good job by the ‘pen

Jared Hughes, Jose Alvarez and Edgar Garcia teamed on 2 1/3 scoreless innings to protect the lead.

Over the last 20 games, the Phillies’ bullpen has posted a 2.69 ERA. That’s second-best in the majors over that span.

Win the battle

On Friday night, lefty reliever Oliver Perez came out of the bullpen and retired Bryce Harper on a ground ball. Cleveland manager Terry Francona went back to Perez when Harper came up with two men on base and one out in the fifth inning. This time, Harper won a long, nine-pitch battle against Perez. He fouled off five pitches before clubbing a full-count slider over the wall in right-center. The three-run homer gave the Phillies a 5-4 lead. Jay Bruce lengthened the lead to 6-4 with a solo homer later in the inning. Bruce, who has missed time with an elbow injury, has just two hits since the All-Star break. Both are homers.

Harper has 33 homers on the season.

No excuse

Shortstop Jean Segura committed a first-inning error that eventually cost Vargas two runs. Cleveland leadoff man Francisco Lindor hit a ground ball right at Segura and he made a low throw across the diamond that Rhys Hoskins could not pull out of the dirt. It was a play that a top defensive first baseman makes, but that’s not the point. The error was completely avoidable and never would have happened if Segura had not been so nonchalant in flipping his throw across the diamond. His lack of intensity on the play cost the team two runs.

Later in the game, Segura made an excellent play when he ranged behind the second-base bag, spun and fired to first base to get Franmil Reyes. Segura can do it when he wants to.

Up next

Vince Velasquez (7-7, 4.89) gets the ball in Sunday night’s series finale. He will go up against Cleveland right-hander Adam Plutko (7-4, 4.34).

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