Phillies

Phillies avoid status quo with Gabe Kapler hire

Phillies avoid status quo with Gabe Kapler hire

Gabe Kapler’s formal introduction to Philadelphia will come later this week following the conclusion of the World Series.

His informal indoctrination as Phillies manager came Monday afternoon when he stepped off the plane at Philadelphia International Airport and was greeted by the city’s unofficial welcoming committee — "Johnny Airport" himself, John Clark.

Kidding aside, Kapler’s impact on the Phillies is a story on its first page, let alone chapter. With no previous track record as a major-league manager or coach to rely upon, we’re basically all guessing what Kapler brings to the table. 

So what can we reasonably take away from the Kapler hire right now? 

• Status quo simply will not do for the Phillies anymore. There was a time, not that long ago, when the organization likely would have hired Dusty Wathan as the next manager. He’s been a good soldier for the club at the minor-league level, winning games while developing some of the talent that has now arrived at the big-league level (more on him here). I actually think those factors worked against Wathan this time around. Starting with managing partner John Middleton and working down to GM Matt Klentak, the mandate for a fresh approach has been made clear. You could argue that the three most prominent roles in the organization — team president, general manager and manager — are now helmed by three men (Andy MacPhail, Klentak and Gabe Kapler) who had no ties to the organization as early as two and a half years ago.

• The front office wants more say in the day-to-day roster usage and game management. That doesn’t mean that Pete Mackanin did not use analytics in creating lineups or managing the pitching staff. It also should not be interpreted to mean that Kapler is just turning his lineup card over to the club’s recently bolstered analytics department and calling it a day. But I think it’s safe to assume that the days of starting Cameron Perkins as a leadoff hitter six times in a season are gone. It’s just logical to have a manager and front office as united as possible on how the roster is being deployed.

• It’s a low-risk, high-reward hire. Hiring a manager is an uncertain endeavor, a fact more crystallized when the selection has no prior experience at the big-league level. It’s possible that Kapler’s methods, whatever they might be, will not be received by the players. Then again, Kapler may be a revelation, a force of nature the likes of which has never be seen in the Phillies' dugout. Either way, managers are not forever. They are replaced with relative ease. More importantly, Kapler is not going to deliver Sixto Sanchez to the big leagues fully healthy and dominating the competition. And Kapler is not going to help Mickey Moniak take the steps necessary to develop into the player the Phillies dreamt of when taking the high school product first overall. It’s in individuals like that where the Phillies’ future success or failure ultimately lies.

So basically, we’ll have to wait and see with Gabe Kapler. It may work. It may not. The only thing we can truly count on in this world is "Johnny Airport."

Phillies use bats to rebound from debacle for doubleheader split with Mets

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Phillies use bats to rebound from debacle for doubleheader split with Mets

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The Phillies were able to flush a horrendous performance in the opener and come back and win the second game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets on Thursday night.

Zach Eflin pitched 6 2/3 innings and Rhys Hoskins clubbed a three-run homer to lead an 9-6 victory.

The win came on the heels of an ugly 24-4 loss in the first game. The Phillies made four errors in the game and their pitchers were charged with 11 earned runs. The Mets had 11 extra-base hits in the opener, including three homers, against five Phillies pitchers, two of which were position players.

Phillies pitching held the Mets to nine hits in the nightcap. They had 25 in the opener.

By coming back and earning a split in the doubleheader, the second-place Phils were able to pick up a half-game on first-place Atlanta in the NL East standings. The Braves' lead is 1½ games. 

Things did not get off to a promising start in the second game as Eflin allowed three straight doubles and two runs to open the game.

The right-hander got things in order after that. He rattled off five straight scoreless innings before the Mets scored twice in the seventh and manager Gabe Kapler went to his bullpen. Luis Garcia and Victor Arano were effective and Seranthony Dominguez cleaned up a little mess in the ninth to close it out with a strikeout of dangerous Jose Bautista with two men on base and the Mets down by three.

Hoskins homered in the first game but also made a costly error in the Mets’ 10-run fifth inning.

After the Mets scored twice in the first inning of the second game, Hoskins clubbed a three-run homer against Steven Matz in the bottom of the inning to put the Phils ahead. They never relinquished the lead.

Hoskins has three homers in the last four games and 25 on the season.

Scott Kingery, who limbered up with some time on the mound in the first game, started at shortstop and clubbed a solo homer in the second inning.

The Phillies had 14 hits. Wilson Ramos had his second three-hit night in as many games since joining the club. Hoskins, Kingery, Nick Williams and Cesar Hernandez all had two apiece.

Eflin is 9-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 17 starts.

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Gabe Kapler defends it all after one of the ugliest Phillies' losses you'll ever see

Gabe Kapler defends it all after one of the ugliest Phillies' losses you'll ever see

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On Sunday night, the Phillies and New York Mets will travel upstate to Williamsport to play a regular-season game in front of a few thousand Little Leaguers. It’s all part of a Major League Baseball initiative to inspire young players to excel in the game, reach for the stars and maybe get to the big leagues.

MLB better hope that the brand of ball played in the nationally televised game will be better than what masqueraded as baseball at the highest level early Thursday night.

The Phillies, a sloppy defensive team to begin with, played error-filled ball in the first game of a doubleheader and came away with an eyesore of a 24-4 loss (see first take). The Phillies’ performance ranged from ugly to embarrassing to comical as the team made four errors, gave up 11 unearned runs and resorted to using two position players on the mound to cover the final three innings of the blowout.

Oft-injured outfielder Roman Quinn gave up six hits and seven runs in 1 2/3 innings and infielder Scott Kingery allowed four hits and two runs before the game mercifully ended.

During his stint as a mop-up reliever, Kingery lobbed the ball so slowly that it did not register on the stadium radar gun. Mets hitters dug in and teed off. Players in the Mets’ dugout giggled. Fans, who had booed earlier in the day, also giggled. The whole thing, frankly, was an embarrassment to the sport.

But Phillies manager Gabe Kapler managed to keep it all in perspective, especially as it pertained to his use, or non-use, of the bullpen.

“You guys are going to spin this however you want, but the fact of the matter is, in the fifth inning when we're down 11 runs, we started to prepare for the second game,” he said. “We used strategy to best position the Phillies to win baseball games. We're going to continue to do that. My job is to protect the Phillies. That's it. That's what I did.

“Our best relievers are not excited about coming into those kind of games, those lopsided games. On the flip side, a couple position players enjoyed it. A 24-4 game and a 5-4 game both count as a loss. And so our strategy is to be best positioned to win the next baseball game. If we end up using Luis (Garcia) or (Victor) Arano, they're going to be less effective in the second game. [Quinn and Kingery] got through it safely. We're in a much better position to win Game 2 as a result.”

Kapler defended his use of Quinn, who has missed significant time in his career with a series of injuries.

“I don't have any concerns for Roman throwing the ball 78 miles an hour because that's what he does every day when he plays catch,” Kapler said. “I don't have any concerns for Scotty doing the same thing. It's a strategy decision because we're trying to make the playoffs, we're trying to win the National League East, and the game was out of hand. We now have a bullpen that we can use effectively in Game 2 of this doubleheader.

“Down the road, we're going to look back on this and it's just going to be a time when we got our asses kicked and we had position players on the mound.”

Kapler was asked if that is what fans really want to see, a couple of position players throwing batting practice. The Phillies entered the game with eight relievers and used just two for an inning apiece before Quinn took the mound.

“I think they were probably more entertained than they have been, frankly,” he said. “I would bet that it is more entertaining to watch what we just saw than in the same kind of blowout game one of our relievers that we see regularly.”

Maikel Franco made a pair of errors at third base in the opener. Catcher Jorge Alfaro made a throwing error and leftfielder Rhys Hoskins dropped a ball for another error. All the errors led to runs. Rookie starter Ranger Suarez gave up eight runs, four of which were unearned. Mark Leiter Jr. gave up four hits, including a grand slam, and seven runs in one inning, but all were unearned as the Phils made a pair of errors behind him.

Poor defense is nothing new for these Phillies. They entered the first game of the doubleheader ranked second to last in the majors in defensive runs saved (minus-85), according to Fangraphs. Only Baltimore at minus-95 was worse.

The four errors gave the Phils 92 on the season, tying them with St. Louis for most in the majors.

“We didn't play good defense,” Kapler said. “We put a little additional pressure on our pitchers to get additional outs. These are major-league hitters. They're going to eventually drive the baseball and that's what they did.”

The Mets had 25 hits in the first game. Eleven of the hits, including three homers, were for extra bases.

All four of the Phillies’ runs in the first game came on solo homers by Hoskins, Franco, Alfaro and Nick Williams.

The loss left the Phillies at 66-54 heading into the nightcap.

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