Phillies

J.T. Realmuto believes Phillies’ front office will improve the club before trade deadline

J.T. Realmuto believes Phillies’ front office will improve the club before trade deadline

CLEVELAND – The Phillies come back from the All-Star break on Friday and face the most important week of their season.

Three games against the Washington Nationals, the team that has erased a 10-game deficit and overtaken the Phils for second place in the National League East standings, followed by four games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, owners of baseball’s best record.

If the Phils play well in those seven games, the front office could roll up its sleeves and get the team some help before the trade deadline.

If the Phils continue their nearly six-week flop, the front office could decide it’s not worth giving up young talent for a long-shot playoff run this season.

J.T. Realmuto believes the front office will be busy.

“I would be shocked if our front office didn’t believe we could make a run,” he said at All-Star Game festivities Monday. “I feel like with the team we have, if our front office doesn’t believe in us – I feel like the team they put together is pretty good with what we have right now even with the injuries and not performing as well as we should. I’m pretty sure they have confidence in us to go out and make a move and make us better.”

But Realmuto acknowledged that Phillies players need to do their part in the coming week or so.

“Especially the three against Washington,” he said. “Those are really important. We’re neck and neck with them for second place. We definitely need to create some distance and also gain some ground with Atlanta, so that’s a big series for us.

“The Dodgers coming in after what they did to us (three-game sweep) in L.A., obviously that will be an important series just to see how we match up with the best in the National League right now.”

The Phillies entered June leading the NL East by 3 games. They have plummeted to third place at the All-Star break, 6 ½ games behind the first-place Braves.

Injuries and underperformance have hit the Phillies hard. The underperformance can be seen on the All-Star roster. Just one Phillie. Who saw that coming when the team left Clearwater and got off to that hot start?

“There are teams here with a lot worse record than we have who have two or three all-stars,” Realmuto said. “Rhys (Hoskins) could be here, but first base is such a tough position. It doesn’t always match up, but I feel there’s definitely a lot of guys that can play better, including me, so there’s a little correlation to how we’re playing as a team.

“There are a lot of ways we can improve. We want to be at the top of the standings, there’s no doubt about that, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The front office is currently weighing the possibility of adding starting pitching help, bullpen help and a hitter. Phillies officials have checked in with every team that might be a seller.

Starting pitching might be the Phils’ biggest need. Even with Aaron Nola’s recent hot streak, the staff has been plagued by inconsistency and now struggling Jake Arrieta has a bone spur in his elbow that could impact his second-half availability.

“I feel like we can fill our (starting pitching) question mark just by pitching better,” Realmuto said. “We haven’t pitched to our abilities. I feel like the guys we have can get the job done, we just haven’t gotten there yet. We have a lot of work to do and we’ve got to get better on the mound, there’s no doubt about that. Not just starting pitching. We’ve got to do better in the bullpen and we’ve got to do better in the lineup.

“Just as a whole, we’ve got to do better.”

Realmuto, 28, arrives at his second straight All-Star Game riding a hot streak. The Phillies catcher is hitting .406 (13 for 32) with four doubles, six RBIs and seven runs scored in his last eight games. He played a big role in the Phillies’ winning two of three against the Mets over the weekend.

Now, halfway through his first season with the Phils, he gets to represent the team in Cleveland.

"It's an honor," he said.

He wouldn’t mind doing it again in future seasons. He has enjoyed his first season with the Phils and is open to signing a contract extension before he becomes a free agent after next season. Phillies management has made signing Realmuto a priority and though both sides like to keep things quite, you can bet they’ve explored extending the relationship.

“Everything I’ve experienced in Philadelphia has been awesome so I wouldn’t be opposed to spending the rest of my career there,” he said. “The timing doesn’t really matter for me. I just show up and play baseball every day. If an extension comes, it comes, whether it be tomorrow or in the off-season or next July, the timing doesn’t matter too much.”

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Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Where does one begin after a night like this?

With the offense that loaded the bases twice in the first three innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners?

With an infield that forgot how many outs there were in an almost comically ugly fourth inning?

With the bullpen currently filled with mostly fringe or inexperienced major-league relievers that turned a six-run game into a 13-run game and stood no chance against the Dodgers' potent lineup?

With the $330 million outfielder who has been outplayed by more than a few visiting superstars at Citizens Bank Park this season?

This 16-2 loss, this was the kind of game that left the manager, the players, the fans and the reporters with more questions than answers.

"It's certainly not encouraging," Gabe Kapler said when asked about the embarrassing performance.

The manager didn't do much expanding. He didn't need to. The fact is the 2019 Dodgers are worlds better than the 2019 Phillies. L.A.'s rotation goes five, six, seven deep. Their lineup can beat you with power, with plate selection, with contact or with small ball like they used in the fourth inning, when they perfectly executed a safety squeeze and a double-steal of second and home.

Facing Kershaw, you're not going into the game with huge expectations. The Phillies were +160 underdogs, one of the biggest underdog lines you will see for a baseball team playing at home. But this was still pathetic. Inexcusable. Baffling. Concerning.

Why is it that opposing offenses can come into this park and make it look small? Why is it that opposing hitters can take such advantage of these juiced baseballs but the Phillies cannot? Cody Bellinger had as many home runs in a three-inning span Monday as Harper has in his last 17 home games.

The Phillies have been outscored 34-8 by the Dodgers, the team every other club in the National League knows it probably must get through to make it to the World Series. What is the Phillies' goal at this point? Is it to chase the wild-card? Is it to make it to a one-game playoff, cross their fingers and call it a job well done?

That wasn't the goal in the spring, when this team had 90-plus win aspirations and looked like it might feature five All-Stars.

This is why the game isn't played on paper, they say.

"I think after yesterday's game everybody's real positive and after a game like tonight you feel like you got kicked in the teeth," said Jay Bruce, who stranded six runners. "You get to start over each day and you get to start a game at 0-0 and have an opportunity to win. We have to play better, for sure. But as poorly as we've played, we're still right there in the wild-card hunt and you never know what's going to happen in the division so we just need to play like we can and play more consistent baseball and see what happens. ... A night like tonight is tough but we get to come back tomorrow and do it again."

There weren't many players in the clubhouse when it opened. Harper was sitting right there waiting, like he always does, no matter the game's outcome. He deserves credit for that, even if some of his answers rang hollow.

Zach Eflin, who has allowed 22 runs in his last 20 innings, actually took some positives from his start.

"I really felt like I probably gave up only two hard-ish hit balls that (fourth) inning," he said. "But at the end of the day, I felt like I got better today. I thought me and J.T. (Realmuto) did a good job of mixing pitches and really getting my curveball and changeup over. So although the box score doesn't really look too good, I feel like I took a lot of positives from today.

"We're all calm. There's no need to panic. We know how good we're going to be and it's just going to take that one time, that one game that everything clicks and then it's going to be a fun rest of the year."

They're fine. Everything is fine. The season isn't deteriorating two weeks before the trade deadline.

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Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see

Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see

BOX SCORE

What a completely humiliating loss for the Phillies.

It wasn't just that they were blown out, 16-2, by the visiting Dodgers. It was the way it unfolded and the way it sounded.

The Dodgers, with so many of their fans chanting and cheering throughout the night, scored six runs in the Phillies' ugliest inning of the season, the top of the fourth Monday. 

They went single, RBI double, groundout, RBI single, walk, RBI single, safety squeeze RBI single, sacrifice, RBI single, double steal of 2nd and home.

The Dodgers' catcher, Austin Barnes, laid down the successful squeeze. Cesar Hernandez was shifted all the way toward the second base bag and had no chance to scamper to first in time to receive the throw from Zach Eflin. A few batters later, it was again the catcher Barnes who stole home.

And that wasn't even the worst look of the inning. When Eflin struck out Alex Verdugo for the third out, the Phillies were so out of it that the entire infield appeared to not know it was the third out. Realmuto trickled the ball back to the pitcher, Eflin and his fielders stood around, and then after a few seconds, all realized in unison the inning was over and walked toward the dugout. 

The boos just rained down.

You can't blame Phillies fans at this point. They've been watching bad baseball for six weeks. An offense that can't consistently pick up the big hit, a rotation that can't get six innings deep nearly enough, a bullpen that can't protect leads.

It all bubbled to the surface Monday in an ugly loss, the kind of loss one would hope leads to a team meeting or a tough conversation or something that shows these coaches and players are taking the mounting losses personally.

And it got even worse

The Dodgers later added four homers, two by Cody Bellinger. Bellinger had as many home runs at CBP Monday as Bryce Harper has in his last 17 home games.

And still, it got worse. In the eighth inning, Yacksel Rios was ejected for hitting Justin Turner after Verdugo's homer, Edgar Garcia couldn't get a third out, the Dodgers scored five more runs and the Phillies were forced to insert Roman Quinn to pitch ... with the bases loaded. Quinn did get the inning-ending flyout before allowing two more runs in the ninth.

The Phillies are 48-46. Tomorrow night is Vince Velasquez against Walker Buehler.

Missed opportunities

The Phillies loaded the bases in the first and third innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners. Jay Bruce was the main culprit, flying out to end the first and striking out on three pitches with one out and the sacks full in the third.

The Phillies reached base twice via error against Kershaw in the third inning. When you're facing a Hall of Fame pitcher, you have to cash in when you get the chance. The Phillies couldn't. You almost knew before the Dodgers even crossed the plate that this would be costly.

Segura dinged?

Jean Segura was limping in the field in the top of the ninth and again after his groundout in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Gabe Kapler said after the game that Segura was being examined but had no further update. We'll know more Tuesday.

Up next

The Phillies again miss NL All-Star starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, but that just means they get the rest of the Dodgers' strong rotation.

Tuesday night at 7:05 — Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.63) vs. Walker Buehler (8-1, 3.46)

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Nick Pivetta (4-4, 5.81) vs. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.82)

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) vs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65)

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