Phillies

The lights are dimming for Phillies after 5th straight loss with Aaron Nola on the mound

The lights are dimming for Phillies after 5th straight loss with Aaron Nola on the mound

If the Phillies are packing their bags and heading home in two weeks — as seems likely now — there will be a handful of reasons why they failed to make the playoffs for an eighth straight season.

Let’s see, they didn’t get enough from the two through five spots in the starting rotation, key players, from Andrew McCutchen to just about everyone in the bullpen, got hurt, management did not land a difference-making arm at the trade deadline, and the offense was grossly inconsistent.

There are other reasons but those are some of the biggies.

And if you’re looking for one more, this is a big one, too:

The Phillies are winless in Aaron Nola’s last five starts, a span that started August 25 in Miami and culminated Saturday night when the right-hander delivered seven innings of one-run ball only to see his team suffer a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox in front of 40,688 at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils have 15 games left.

They are 3 ½ games out of the second NL wild-card spot behind Milwaukee and the New York Mets. The Brewers are one game back, the Mets are three back. Oh, yeah, and the Phils are in fourth place in the NL East.

“I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say we have a bunch of time left because we really don't,” Nola said after the game. “We have 15 games left. It's a good bit, but it's really not that much. We're not going to hang our heads on this one. You never know what can happen. We just have to take care of business tomorrow.”

The Phillies will send Jason Vargas to the mound against Rick Porcello in the finale of the quick, two-game interleague series.

Phillies hitters will need to do more damage against Porcello than they did lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. He struck out 12 in 6 2/3 innings. He threw 105 pitches and got 19 —19 — swings-and-misses, 16 of them on an outstanding changeup.

The only run that Rodriguez allowed came in the bottom of the seventh when he issued a two-out walk to Maikel Franco with the bases loaded.

The Phillies had just five hits (four singles) on the night and were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. They got a runner to second with no outs in the eighth but Boston reliever Matt Barnes retired J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery to end the threat.

Hoskins put a charge in the ball to right-center, but it died in Jackie Bradley Jr.’s glove.

“I thought I got it enough to at least get it over his head,” Hoskins said.

Ultimately, the Phillies lost it when Hector Neris allowed two singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the ninth.

Hoskins acknowledged that the lights are dimming for the Phillies, who need to go at least 6-9 in their final 15 games to have a winning season.

“It’s go time, right?” he said. “Every loss feels heavier and every win feels a lot better. A big one tomorrow to obviously try to split a series, try to create some momentum to go on the road. We know the teams that we’re playing are good, but again I’ll just kind of reiterate: if we can play our game and obviously pitch the way we did tonight and hit the way we know we can we believe and are confident that we can beat anybody.”

Nola has pitched three gems and had two poor outings in his five-start winless streak. In the gems, the Phillies have just not scored runs for him. In this one, he gave up just four hits and struck out nine in seven innings.

“It's frustrating not winning in general, whoever is on the mound,” Nola said. “It was a hard-fought game right there. Every win matters right now.”

Nola’s next start is slated to be Thursday in Atlanta. Will the Phils even be worth mentioning in the race by then?

“We’ve got to find a way to scratch out runs for Nola,” manager Gabe Kapler said.



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Gabe Kapler recalls the challenge of his final days in Philadelphia

Gabe Kapler recalls the challenge of his final days in Philadelphia

SAN DIEGO — The beginning wasn’t easy for Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia and neither was the end. He was booed before managing his first game in Citizens Bank Park in 2018. Eighteen months later, he twisted in the wind for 10 days as Phillies ownership pondered whether to bring him back for the 2020 season or let him go.

Eventually, Kapler was fired but he wasn’t out of work long as the San Francisco Giants hired him to manage their club in November.

At the winter meetings Tuesday, Kapler recalled waiting for John Middleton’s verdict over those uncomfortable final 10 days in Philadelphia.

“Those ten days were challenging because I definitely wanted the opportunity to continue to manage the Phillies,” Kapler said. “I wanted to see the work that we put in, and I wanted to see it through the finish line. In my mind, that finish line was still in the future and in the distance, and I think there's going to be a lot of great things accomplished in Philadelphia next year.

“But it was difficult, and sometimes there's a real silver lining to those situations. I think the Philadelphia Phillies got a great manager in Joe Girardi in place, and I think I have an opportunity to manage a club that I'm incredibly excited about, and the people that I'm working with, I'm really excited about as well. So I think, interestingly, even though it was challenging, those 10 days, it worked out pretty well for the Phillies, and I think it worked out really well for the Giants as well.”

Kapler was asked what he said to Middleton upon learning that he would not return to manage the Phillies.

“The last words were 'thank you for the opportunity,' ” he said.

Kapler was asked how he might have been able to save his job in Philadelphia.

“Probably win more baseball games,” he said.

Kapler’s record in Philadelphia was 161-163. He learned a lot in those two seasons.

“I think the thing that stands out to me is I'm excited about getting every possible strategic advantage as a manager and as part of a coaching staff,” Kapler said. “I think that one of the things that I learned is that sometimes those small strategic advantages come at the expense of some confidence from a player.

“So I think I did a better job in 2019 than I did in 2018 of blending those two things, blending the small strategic advantages with the confidence level of the players, and I think I'm going to do a better job having learned some of those lessons in '18, in 2020, without overcorrecting. I think that's an important part as well. Bringing it back to the middle is important, too, after an overcorrection is made.

“So, specifically, it's just striking the right balance between getting small strategic advantages and confidence levels of players.”

Kapler will be back in Philadelphia with the Giants August 7-10 — unless he sneaks into town earlier for one of his favorite steaks at Suraya.

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Phillies fans, you're gonna love Didi Gregorius based on his Twitter personality

didi-emojis.jpg
USA Today Images/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Phillies fans, you're gonna love Didi Gregorius based on his Twitter personality

MLB free agency is in full swing and the newest addition to the Phillies, Didi Gregorius, has quite the personality on Twitter.

More specifically, he really enjoys tweeting after his team wins ... especially with emojis.

It almost feels like Groundhog Day scrolling through his feed. And by the looks of things, he rarely forgets.

Take a look:

Of course, these are only a few of the many he has tweeted out. If you have the time though, look at the rest — there are definitely some hidden gems.

Will he continue this tradition with his new club? Will we be able to see tweets from him stating that the bullpen was worth four fire emojis? What emojis will he assign for Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins and the rest of the team?

These are the hard-hitting questions we want answered right after the news of a signing breaks — but we'll just have to wait and see once Spring Training comes to a close in a few months.

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