Phillies give one away to Nationals with poor defense and walks

Phillies give one away to Nationals with poor defense and walks

WASHINGTON — After five games, you have to love this new Phillies’ offense. It’s powerful. It’s prolific. It’s capable of grinding through big deficits.

On Wednesday, the Phillies fell behind by four runs early in the game, but by the middle of the eighth inning were up by two runs, thanks mostly to a booming three-run double by Andrew McCutchen in that frame.

The Phils were six outs away from winning their fifth straight game out of the gate and solidifying themselves as the best story in baseball when all of a sudden it turned into 2018 again.

The Phils were the worst defensive team in the majors last year and they were the worst defensive team on the field Wednesday. They made three errors on the day en route to a disappointing 9-8 loss to the Washington Nationals (see observations). 

No one expected the Phils to go 162-0, but they should be 5-0.

They gave this one away.

They were betrayed by their defense when first baseman Rhys Hoskins missed a throw from reliever Seranthony Dominguez that would have ended the bottom of the eighth. Dominguez' throw sailed right past Hoskins and that allowed the tying run to scamper home.

An inning later, reliever David Robertson allowed a single and three straight walks and the Nats danced off the field with the win.

Again, the Phils gave this one away.

It started with Hoskins’ error.

“Human error,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Hoskins made no excuses.

“Have to catch it,” he said. “I missed it. Can't happen.”

Dominguez, who was shaky and had previously allowed a run in the inning, appeared to get Adam Eaton on a soft tapper in front of the mound. Dominguez retrieved the ball and appeared to have trouble getting a grip before throwing to first. Hoskins, shockingly, failed to get leather on the ball.

Did Dominguez’ hesitation affect Hoskins’ read on the play? Did the ball tail on him? Did he lose the ball in the late-day shadows?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

“He hesitated a little bit but I still had plenty of time to catch the ball,” Hoskins said. “I clanked it.”

Last year, the Phillies made 123 errors, second most in the majors, and ranked last with minus-146 defensive runs saved.

They surely have cleaned up a lot of those issues with the offseason acquisitions of shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto, not to mention the move of Hoskins from left field to his natural spot at first base. But, ironically, all three players made errors Wednesday. They were the Phillies’ first three errors of the season.

In addition to the poor defense, the Phillies were plagued by poor control and command on the mound. Aaron Nola lasted just three innings, walked two and made mistakes over plate that resulted in four extra-base hits, including three homers and an early four-run deficit. And Robertson, obviously, had his issues.

“One thing that stands out to me today is that we had three players not have their best games in Aaron, Rhys and David,” Kapler said. “But they’re all three guys that I would push all my chips in right now that are going to help us win a ton of baseball games and be at the central point of those wins. They didn’t have their best days today. I acknowledge that. We move on.”

On the plus side, the offense racked up another big number. The Phils have scored at least eight runs four times in the first five games.

“There’s a lot to be happy about,” Hoskins said of the Phillies’ start. “But it never feels good to leave a city knowing we could have had one more. We’ll be better. We’ll learn from what we did today and be ready for Friday.”

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Heck of a win for Phillies over Cubs, but some drama can be avoided

Heck of a win for Phillies over Cubs, but some drama can be avoided

CHICAGO — When a team goes into Wrigley Field and outlasts a first-place Chicago Cubs club in 10 innings, it’s a heck of a win.

And there’s no doubt the Phillies enjoyed that kind of a win Monday night. They fell behind early, rallied for a lead, gave it away, tied the game, and finally went ahead for good on a solo homer by J.T. Realmuto with two outs in the 10th inning.

The 5-4 win over the Cubs was the Phillies’ fourth in a row and it left them at a season-best nine games over .500 (see observations).

The Phillies got strong performances from several corners of their roster. Most notable was Realmuto, who shined at the plate and behind it.

But if the Phillies were completely honest with themselves as they headed for the team bus after the game, they would have admitted that the victory was actually more difficult than it should have been.

On a night when the Phillies made two excellent defensive plays to cut down runs at the plate in the early innings, they played a ragged eighth inning and that allowed the Cubs to rally for three runs and take a 4-3 lead. Only a one-out double by Maikel Franco, a huge, two-out walk by Andrew McCutchen (after being down 0-2) and a game-tying bloop single by Jean Segura saved the Phillies in the top of the ninth. They came all the way back on Realmuto’s homer in the 10th — five innings after he made a defensive gem on the receiving end of a Bryce Harper strike to the plate (see video).

“We talked about us acquiring the best all-around catcher in the game and it’s hard for me to imagine there’s a better one out there,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the game.

Prior to this victory, the Phils had been 0-14 when trailing after eight innings.

Again, a heck of a win.

But that eighth inning was troubling.

First of all, reliever Seranthony Dominguez had trouble throwing strikes in his second inning of work. He walked two and both came around to score on a one-out triple by Daniel Descalso.

Second, there was the defense — not so much Segura’s errant throw that bounced off of Descalso and allowed him to score the go-ahead run, but what preceded that.

Descalso’s triple split the gap between leftfielder McCutchen and centerfielder Odubel Herrera. Off the bat, the ball looked like it should have been caught for the second out of the inning. Next thing you knew, it was rolling toward the wall.

“I’ve got to catch that ball,” McCutchen said after the game. “It’s a ball I know I can catch if I stay on my route.”

Kapler called the play a “communication challenge” between McCutchen and Herrera. He went on to acknowledge that while the play was not routine, “with a little better communication, that ball is caught.”

McCutchen looked to be in control of the play until Herrera came into the picture. McCutchen said he had a bead on the ball but had to “veer off” his route because he feared colliding with Herrera.

“We have to do a better job communicating,” McCutchen said. “We’re still learning each other. Once [Herrera] knows I can get that ball, he doesn’t have to go 100 percent to get it. Those balls can’t hit the ground.”

And when they do, three runs can score in the blink of an eye.

In this case, it all conspired against Jake Arrieta. He was on his way to getting the win in his Wrigley Field return before the fateful eighth.

Dominguez was in the game for a second inning because he had a strong, 1-2-3 seventh and Kapler was trying to pick his spot with Pat Neshek. Neshek warmed up but never came in as Dominguez unraveled. After the game, Kapler revealed that Neshek was a little sore before the game. That’s why Kapler did not use him to close out the 10th after the Phils got the lead. Juan Nicasio got a double-play ball to end the game.

It was a hard-fought win for the Phils with a couple of big hits putting them over the top. But it was probably more hard-fought than it needed to be. McCutchen was right: Those balls can’t hit the ground.

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Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings): J.T. Realmuto does it all in wacky and wild win at Wrigley Field

Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings): J.T. Realmuto does it all in wacky and wild win at Wrigley Field


CHICAGO — J.T. Realmuto was a standout offensively and defensively in leading the Phillies to a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday night.

Realmuto was the ultimate hero with a tie-breaking homer in the top of the 10th inning.

Earlier in the game, he drove in the Phils’ first run and made a nice play at the plate to help cut down a run.

Seranthony Dominguez blew a two-run lead as the Cubs surged to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth.

The Phils tied the game on a two-out hit by Jean Segura in the top of the ninth.

Jake Arrieta pitched six innings of one-run ball in his return to Wrigley Field.

The Phils have won four in a row. They are 28-19.

The Cubs are 27-18.

The keys

• Maikel Franco stroked a one-out double in the top of the ninth and Andrew McCutchen came back from being down 0-2 to draw a big two-out walk before Segura tied the game with a bloop single to right.

• Dominguez could not throw strikes in the eighth, his second inning of work. He walked two and they both scored on a game-tying triple by Daniel Descalso. Descalso scored the go-ahead run on an error by Segura. Ultimately, Segura atoned.

• Juan Nicasio got a huge double-play ball to earn the save.

• The Phillies kept the game close in the early innings by playing excellent defense. They cut down runners at the plate in the second and fifth innings. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez made a nice, charging play and throw to get a force at the plate in the second inning. In the fifth, the Cubs loaded the bases against Arrieta with one out on a double, a walk and a single. Arrieta then got Albert Almora Jr. to hit a fly ball to rightfielder Bryce Harper. Anthony Rizzo tagged on the play, but Harper cut him down with a strong throw to catcher Realmuto. The throw was slightly up the line. Realmuto made an athletic play to step up on the ball and sweep back with the tag to get Rizzo for the third out.

• Moments after Harper’s throw (and Realmuto’s tag) ended the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies rallied for three two-out runs in the top of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead. Cubs’ starter Yu Darvish walked two batters, including Harper, in the inning and Realmuto and Hernandez had the big hits, both with two outs. Realmuto got the Phils on the board with an RBI single and Hernandez stroked a two-run triple down the right-field line to put the Phils ahead.

Arrieta's night

The veteran right-hander made his first start against the Cubs, the team with which he won a Cy Young Award and a World Series. He has now faced all 30 teams in his career.

Arrieta was not at his sharpest — he allowed 10 base runners over six innings — but he got important outs when he had to and was the beneficiary of some excellent defense. He allowed just one run over six innings and struck out four.

Sights and sounds

The Wrigley Field crowd saluted Arrieta with a standing ovation as he reached the batter’s box in the top of the third inning. Arrieta tipped his cap in appreciation.

Health check

Victor Arano’s sore elbow is not getting better. What does it mean? (see story)

Up next

Zach Eflin (5-4, 2.89) opposes lefty Jose Quintana (4-3, 3.68) on Tuesday night.

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