Phillies

Phillies' series loss to Rockies gnaws at Gabe Kapler

Phillies' series loss to Rockies gnaws at Gabe Kapler

DENVER — The Phillies’ offense, pretty much nonexistent for much of the day, began to stir with two outs in the ninth inning. One hit. A second hit and a run. A third hit. Suddenly it’s a three-run game and there are runners on second and third.

In the on-deck circle, Bryce Harper motioned to hitting coach John Mallee and asked to look at a sheet of paper bearing some intel on Colorado reliever Wade Davis.

All the Phillies needed was for Cesar Hernandez to reach base for Harper to get a chance with the bases loaded in Coors Field, the place where anything can and often does happen. You could almost hear Harper saying, “Get me to the plate, boys,” as Ryan Howard did one long ago October in the same ballpark.

Harper never made it out of the on-deck circle. Davis retired Hernandez and the Phillies trudged back to the clubhouse with a 4-1 loss (see observations), their third in four days in the series and seventh in their last eight games at Coors Field, dating to September of last season.

“I think we can play better than we did in this series,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

The Phils pretty much gave away Friday night’s 12-inning game by going 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position and leaving 19 men on base.

And, on Sunday, they had just two hits over the first 8 2/3 innings and Hernandez committed a costly base-running blunder in the fourth inning when the Rockies were leading just 1-0.

“It was a big play,” Kapler said. “It’s a play that can’t happen.”

The Phils were looking at having runners on first and second with one out against Jon Gray after the Rockies muffed a force out at second. The ball got away from second baseman Garrett Hampson as Hernandez slid into second. Umpire Joe West flashed the safe sign. However, Hernandez did not see the loose ball (which was in front of him) nor did he see West’s signal. He started walking back to the dugout and eventually was tagged for the second out. It cost the Phils a run, and maybe more, because Maikel Franco followed with a double.

“It’s ultimately my fault,” Hernandez said. “I know better. I should have stayed on the base until I was 100 percent sure if I was out or safe. I just assumed I was out. It's a learning experience for me. Hopefully it won't happen again.”

Both Hernandez and Kapler said they wished West had voiced his call as well as signaled it.

“That always helps,” Hernandez said. “But, again, it’s not his fault. It’s mine.”

Said Kapler: “Joe did not say anything verbally. He held his hands out (safe sign). You always like, when you can get it, a demonstrative call one way or the other; I’m definitely not calling out Joe for anything in this particular case. I think this is something that Cesar has to be responsible for. If Cesar was standing right next to me, he’d tell you stay on the base until you’re absolutely certain what the call is.”

Hernandez has recently started to heat up after a slow start. However, he went hitless in five at-bats Sunday and did not look good in one of his two strikeouts. He was about to be pushed for work before Scott Kingery suffered a hamstring strain in this series and went on the disabled list.

About the only bright spot Sunday was starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, who allowed four runs in six innings, a solid performance in Coors Field and against a team that boasts the beast of Charlie Blackmon. He had 10 hits, including two triples and two homers, in the four games to raise his average from .219 to .286 and his OPS from .567 to .802.

The Phillies jetted to New York after the game. They play the Mets in Citi Field the next three nights.

Kapler wasn’t planning on kicking back with a scotch on the flight.

“We’ve got a lot to think about on this plane ride and we’re going to go through everything and be prepared to come out and beat the Mets,” he said.

He was asked to expound on what needed to be thought about.

“I think it’s more postmortem from this series, some of the things we could have done differently,” he said. “Take some time. I’d love to be able to tell you exactly what those things are, but that’s why you get on the plane and think about them.”

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Vince Velasquez stars in relief role, Pat Neshek heads home with an injury

Vince Velasquez stars in relief role, Pat Neshek heads home with an injury

MILWAUKEE — Nothing turns a frown upside down quite like two scoreless innings, four strikeouts, 97 mph on the radar gun, a pitching victory and a team victory.

Vince Velasquez began his day at Miller Park on Friday feeling irked that he was being sent to the bullpen on his first day off the injured list. His day began to get better after he had a little air-clearing meeting with manager Gabe Kapler and it ended with a blast of euphoria when he turned out to be one of the stars of the Phillies’ 6-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“Great time,” Velasquez said after his first relief appearance of the season. “Great time.”

Velasquez entered a tie game in the fifth and survived a walk and a hit to the first two batters on his way to two scoreless innings. The enigmatic right-hander wasn’t the only bullpen star. He combined with Edgar Garcia, Adam Morgan, Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris (three Ks) on six shutout innings after Jerad Eickhoff departed after three innings.

There was some bad news out of the bullpen. Veteran right-hander Pat Neshek’s tumultuous week concluded with his feeling a pop in his shoulder while playing catch before the game. He is headed home to Philadelphia to be checked. He will go in the injured list and the Phils will add a pitcher for Saturday’s game.

The Phils’ bullpen has carried a heavy load lately. The six innings pitched Friday night upped its total to 47 1/3 innings over the last 12 games. That’s the third-most in the majors over that span. The relievers have recorded a 3.61 ERA over that span.

After the game, Kapler was asked if he was concerned about the number of innings — both in the short-term and cumulatively — that the bullpen was being forced to pick up because the starters aren’t getting deep into games. He did not directly answer the question.

“I think what inspires me is that we’ve leaned on them and they continue to bounce back and be resilient and today they won the baseball game for us,” he said.

The bullpen had some help in winning the baseball game.

On defense, catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura combined to cut down a run at the plate to help Velasquez get out of the fifth. It was a huge play and the Phils took the lead the next inning. Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins all had big, run-scoring hits to help the Phils tie and take control of the game.

But Kapler was right. The work of the bullpen was huge, especially against a team that outscored the Phils 22-6 over the final three games of a four-game series last week in Philadelphia.

Velasquez gave the ‘pen a huge lift.

“Wow,” Kapler said. “Especially in the second inning of work. He was just electric and as good as we’ve seen him. The fastball was exploding like we’ve seen in some starts, but I can’t remember the last time it looked that good. The second inning of work was really impressive.”

Could Velasquez continue to be a bullpen weapon?

“I think that remains to be seen because like I said earlier, I’d like to see how he responds tomorrow and how his body bounces back,” Kapler said. “I will say this: there was a little bit of a delivery change in the second inning. He used his backside a little bit more effectively and really drove his momentum towards home plate. The ball was just jumping out of his hand tremendously.”

Realmuto said Velasquez has the stuff to succeed in any role. But as a reliever …

“I think he has the stuff to succeed whether we throw him out there as a starter, throw him out there as a middle relief guy, late-inning guy,” Realmuto said. “He's got the stuff to play anywhere, you know? He's got the stuff to get through the lineup multiple times and then the role like tonight, his stuff just plays up. Coming into the middle of the game like that, it's hard to get on time for stuff like that when they haven't seen it yet, so I feel like he can succeed in any role we put him in.

“He was huge for us today. He came out throwing bullets. It's fun to be back there catching him again. Obviously saw how much life he had on his fastball. I felt like after his first hitter, he really honed in on it and just let it rip. It was huge for us.”

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Phillies 6, Brewers 4: Vince Velasquez leads big effort by the bullpen

Phillies 6, Brewers 4: Vince Velasquez leads big effort by the bullpen

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE — The Phillies' hard-working bullpen delivered six shutout innings Friday night to help the team win the opener of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-4, at Miller Park.

The Phils' bullpen has picked up 47 1/3 innings in the last 12 games.

Vince Velasquez made his first appearance of the season out of the bullpen and delivered two scoreless innings. Edgar Garcia, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris (three K's) picked up the rest of the relief innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff failed to make it past the third inning.

Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins had big hits to put the Phils over the top.

The Phils are 3-2 on this seven-game trip. They are 30-21 overall.

• Harper tied the game with a double in the fifth, McCutchen put the Phils up by a run with a double in the sixth and Hoskins' ended a 15-game home run drought with an important one in the seventh.

• Velasquez entered a tie game in the fifth. He allowed a walk and a hit to the first two batters he faced then struck out four of the next five to finish with two scoreless frames. His shutdown work and the Phils' offense earned him the win.

• J.T Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura hooked up for a big defensive play to end the fifth inning. The Brewers tried to execute a double steal and the catcher and shortstop both delivered perfect throws to cut the run and keep the game tied. The Phils took the lead in the next inning.

Eickhoff's night

Eickhoff gave up five hits, a walk and four runs over three innings. Four of the hits were for extra bases and two of them were homers. He has given up seven homers in his last three starts after giving up none in his first four.

Eickhoff had some bad luck in the first inning as Ryan Braun reached on a swinging bunt with two outs. Mike Moustakas then hopped on a curveball and stroked it for an RBI double.

Eickhoff gave up three damaging hits on fastballs, none of which were above 91 mph. Orlando Arcia hit one for a solo homer in the second. Christian Yelich hit a 3-2 fastball for his 20th homer in the third and Yasmani Grandal clubbed a 2-2 fastball for an RBI double after a two-out walk in the third.

Over his last three starts, Eickhoff has been tagged for 17 hits and 13 runs in 12 innings.

What's up with Pat?

Pat Neshek did not appear happy as he left the field after working out with the rest of the relievers late in the afternoon. He clearly was not available to pitch as he did not even report to the bullpen for the game. It's not immediately clear what the issue was.

(Update: Neshek has a sore shoulder and is headed back to Philadelphia, manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. He will go on the 10-day injured list.)

Transaction

Velasquez was activated from the IL and assigned to the bullpen, at least for the next few days. He or Nick Pivetta will start Tuesday. All the details here.

Health check

Roman Quinn has recovered from his groin strain. He is doing all baseball drills and working toward starting a minor-league rehabilitation assignment late next week, according to Kapler.

Up next

Jake Arrieta (4-4, 3.77) opposes Jhoulys Chacin (3-5, 4.65) on Saturday afternoon.