ATLANTA — Gabe Kapler’s first series as Phillies manager … uh, not good.
As if Thursday’s opening day loss in which Kapler quick-hooked Aaron Nola only to see the bullpen blow a five-run lead didn't make your eyes burn enough, check out the embarrassment that unfolded under the big top Saturday night.
The Phillies suffered a 15-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves. They made four errors and had two wild pitches. They used a position player on the mound. And, after the game, they were publicly chastised by a major league umpire.
“Whoever is at fault for not doing their job on the Phillies side should have to answer to Major League Baseball,” crew chief Jerry Layne said.
Layne was referring to the events that led up to reliever Hoby Milner being summoned into the game in the third inning without throwing a legitimate warm-up pitch. Kapler went to the mound to take out Vince Velasquez. He waved Milner in. But Milner never got the word he was going into the game.
Milner scurried to the bullpen mound and tried to squeeze in a few tosses, but the delay rankled the Braves. Their manager, Brian Snitker, was ejected. He thought Milner should not have been allowed any warm-up pitches once he entered the game. Layne allowed him five because he said he didn’t want Milner to get hurt.
Kapler, who often describes himself as a “relentless communicator,” took the blame for the communication breakdown between the dugout and the bullpen that left him waving for a reliever who still had his warm-up jacket on.
“Any time we have a miscommunication it's my responsibility so I take full responsibility for it,” Kapler said.
He would not go into specifics about the breakdown.
“I’m taking accountability for it,” he said. “It’s an indication that I need to do a better job and I will. One of the things that I pride myself on is being an excellent communicator and doing so relentlessly. I will continue to strive for excellence in that regard. Miscommunications are simply unacceptable no matter where they occur.”
Milner, a likable, 27-year-old Texan who had the difficult task of being called upon to face dangerous Freddie Freeman three times in the series, got caught in the middle of it all.
“It was just a miscommunication between the pitching coach and the bullpen coach,” he said. “It was just a miscommunication on the phone, I guess.”
Kapler said Milner warmed up earlier in the game. Milner said he did not. Upon learning that Kapler wanted him in the game, Milner made a few throws before angry third base umpire Greg Gibson demanded he come in the game.
“By the time Freeman stepped in the box, I was good,” Milner said.
By MLB rule, the clubhouse is supposed to open to reporters 10 minutes after the final out. The Phillies clubhouse did not open until 19 minutes after the game and Kapler seemed a little shellshocked when he met reporters.
He was asked how he thought his first series would be viewed.
“I’m remaining 100 percent positive,” he said. “I believe in this club. I believe in the men in this clubhouse. I believe in our coaching staff and there’s no chance I’m going to let three games, two of them tough, derail what we're trying to do and that’s get to the postseason in 2018, which I believe we will do.”