Phillies

No need to overanalyze the decisions in Phillies' rough 7th inning

No need to overanalyze the decisions in Phillies' rough 7th inning

Gabe Kapler made his way into the clubhouse and went right to Jose Alvarez.

The Phillies' manager patted the reliever on the back and sort of shrugged his shoulders as Alvarez turned in his chair, nodded his head and smiled.

It's as if the two mutually understood: Hey, that's baseball.

Kapler liked how the Phillies handled a seventh inning that ended up going awry Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Holding a 3-1 lead, the Phillies allowed three two-out runs in the frame and lost to the Reds, 4-3, preventing them from sweeping Cincinnati (see observations).

In control for most of the day, Aaron Nola was pulled during the seventh inning with two runners aboard and two outs. He had just walked pinch-hitter Josh VanMeter on four consecutive balls and his pitch count had climbed to 104.

"I thought he looked really good for most of the game. Even in that inning, I thought he looked really good," Kapler said. "It was nearing the end of our comfort level of how it relates to how deep he can go with his pitches. He was sitting in the 100s with some outs that we needed to get. I think that's the first thing that went into it. A little uncharacteristic on the base on balls and it was the right spot in the lineup for Alvarez at that point."

In came the left-hander, who induced a soft grounder off the bat of righty-swinging pinch-hitter Nick Senzel. The high chopper fell perfectly between Maikel Franco and Jean Segura for an infield single. More often than not, the Phillies will take that type of contact. Anybody would. On the very next pitch, Joey Votto served a two-run single to center field. Just like that, the lead was gone and so were Nola's chances at winning.

Alvarez, who threw only four pitches, suffered the loss when Vince Velasquez entered and allowed an inherited runner to score.

"We understood the possibility that they might pop Senzel there, which they did," Kapler said, breaking down the inning. "Alvarez was able to execute his pitch and get a weak ground ball and, to Votto, also some weak contact to the middle of the field. I think that whole sequence was fairly well executed.

"From the way baseball works, sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. That's how I think about that inning."

It's easy to judge the situation by the results. The Phillies lost and the box score says it was because of a three-run seventh inning for the Reds. But Kapler and the Phillies won't analyze the situation as some sort of massive meltdown because, in reality, it wasn't.

"I should have finished the seventh inning," Nola said. "I shouldn't have walked that guy. That can't happen right there. I've got two outs. I mean, walking the pinch-hitter on four pitches — that's tough."

However, there's no denying the Phillies could have done more and should have won the game, which would have given them a season-best five-game winning streak. The Phillies reached base just once against Reds relief pitching, which spun together 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. Bryce Harper unsuccessfully tried to steal home in the fifth inning with Rhys Hoskins at the plate looking to cushion the 3-1 lead (see story).

The overlying theme of Sunday, though, was the Phillies had a difficult seventh inning and are severely limited in the bullpen. There was no Adam Morgan for the lefties. There was no Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez or David Robertson to follow. Seven relievers are currently on the injured list.

The Phillies have to make due for now and failed to do so in one game Sunday. Over 162 games, that will happen sometimes.

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Even young Phillies fans are letting the Astros have it

Even young Phillies fans are letting the Astros have it

This Astros madness isn't going away anytime soon. In a weird way, it's made baseball so much more interesting at this time of year with players around the league speaking out in a way they haven't before.

Could this be a seminal moment in the honesty of the professional baseball player? It's easier to be this open when everyone agrees with you, but if the result is on-camera honesty from even a few more players — stars or not — baseball will be better for it. One of the major reasons for the NBA's popularity is that you can have an off-court conversation every day of the year. There's so much drama. Baseball doesn't really have that, especially from its stars and especially when games aren't being played.

At Phillies camp Tuesday morning, John Clark noticed this hilarious sign from a young fan:

The William Hill sportsbook on Monday set its over/under on Astros beanings at 83.5. Seems very low. The Astros were hit by a pitch 66 times in 2019 and this would be only 18 more. Based on how angry the rest of the league is, based on how much respect almost every interviewed player is saying he's lost for the Astros ... how can you not lean over?

Now, the under could hit if MLB makes clear that it will be harshly punishing any pitcher who intentionally hits an Astro. But that would open up two giant cans of worms. Players will flip out that they're being suspended while the Astros got off scot free. And managers and pitching coaches will be furious that they can't pitch inside because of the risk of unintentionally hitting an Astro.

The 2020 season will be so fascinating. The Astros might be better off going full NWO and embracing the hate. What other choice do they have?

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Phillies Talk podcast: Let's pick a batting order

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Phillies Talk podcast: Let's pick a batting order

The Phillies' first exhibition game is Saturday and we should see plenty of different lineups throughout spring training. On the latest Phillies Talk podcast, Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman pick their batting orders.

• Early thoughts on Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, Jake Arrieta

• The guys choose their ideal opening day batting order(s)

• Is this Astros fallout crazier than we even anticipated?

• What should have been the punishment for Astros players?

• Would Ricky Bo plunk an Astro?

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