Phillies

Source: Matt Stairs heads West for new coaching gig

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Source: Matt Stairs heads West for new coaching gig

While Pete Mackanin and Larry Bowa are staying in the Phillies' organization, Matt Stairs is not. 

Stairs will be hired as the San Diego Padres' hitting coach, a source tells NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Stairs was the Phillies' hitting coach last season after spending time in their broadcast booth the previous three years. He'll now work with a Padres offense that scored just 604 runs in 2017 — 35 fewer than any team in the majors and 86 fewer than the Phillies.

When Mackanin was reassigned to the Phillies' front office, the organization told the members of his coaching staff that they were free to seek other opportunities. Both Mackanin and former bench coach Larry Bowa will serve as special advisors to GM Matt Klentak.

The Phillies have one of three managerial vacancies across baseball. The Yankees and Nationals are also searching for managers after surprisingly firing Joe Girardi and Dusty Baker.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, the Phils are down to two finalists and a long shot in their manager search.

Still ignoring the standings? 1st-place Phillies think you should stop

Still ignoring the standings? 1st-place Phillies think you should stop

The only thing more common for the 2018 Phillies than a rain delay is a dominant start from Aaron Nola.

On Saturday, they got both. Two more rain delays (that mercilessly lasted only 33 minutes) and another master's class from Nola.

If you're searching for reasons how or why the Phillies are in first place on Memorial Day Weekend, Nola tops the list.

The Phillies' ace pitched another gem in Saturday's 2-1 win over the Blue Jays, holding them hitless until there were two outs in the seventh inning (see first take). Entering the seventh, Toronto hadn't hit a ball to the outfield or farther than 150 feet.

"He just continues to be creative," Gabe Kapler said. "He continues to refine his arsenal. His curveball just seems to keep getting better. He knows how to mix his pitches. He was tremendous."

The big spot in the game came with two outs, two on and Russell Martin at the plate in the seventh. Martin, hitting just .154, worked a tough AB and singled between third and short to tie the game. It made Kapler's decision a heck of a lot easier because Nola was at a career-high 113 pitches and no manager wants to have to make the call whether to let his guy chase the no-no or remove him for big-picture, health reasons.

"When I went out there to talk to him, I just wanted to make sure that he was OK," Kapler said. "His eyes looked great. I thought he executed in that at-bat very well. Really wanted to give him a chance to get through that inning. He earned it. He was special today."

The Phillies, as a team, have been special more often than not this season. They’re 29-20, one game off of their start in 2011. Pretty incredible when you consider all the differences between this team and that team in terms of experience, payroll and expectations.

The Braves have lost two in a row in Boston, so when the Phillies take the field at 1:35 p.m. Sunday behind Nick Pivetta, they'll do so as a team alone in first place. A team that has allowed fewer runs than every National League club except the Cubs.

"It's early, but I think it's well-earned, you know," said Nick Williams, who was Mr. Clutch again with another pinch-hit homer, his MLB-leading third. "We've got a great group of guys. Young guys, hungry. These guys love winning. It's addicting."

We've reached checkpoint territory — 50 games in, Memorial Day Weekend, about one-third of the way into the season. Being in first place on May 26 means nothing other than you've played well for seven weeks. But next time someone says "Nobody's watching the standings yet," Kapler says don't buy it.

"I think it means a lot to the team and I think it means a lot to the clubhouse," the manager said. "Don’t let anyone tell you they aren’t paying attention to the standings in May. I don’t think that’s true of any baseball man that I’ve been around or any baseball fan that I’ve been around. You pay attention, you care and it means something. It’s special. Being in first place at any point is special and now we’re in late-May and early-June. That feels really good."

As for Nola, he's now pitched the Phillies to a 4-1 record when he starts after a loss. That's exactly what you want out of your ace.

You also want him to dominate at home, which Nola has. To that point, so has Jake Arrieta. Those two combined have made 11 starts at home and are 8-0 with a 1.47 ERA and .197 opponents' batting average.

Even the biggest optimist wouldn't have drawn that up.

"Those guys are pitching their butts off and it helps us want to help those guys back," Williams said.

"Nola's been amazing every single time, man. You can see greatness every time he's on."

A near no-hitter and pinch-hit blast sends Phillies into 1st place

A near no-hitter and pinch-hit blast sends Phillies into 1st place

BOX SCORE

Nick Williams did it again.

Coming off the bench to lead off the eighth inning of a tie game, Williams deposited another pinch-hit home run to the deepest part of Citizens Bank Park in left-center-field.

It was Williams' MLB-leading third pinch-hit home run. He also leads the majors in extra-base hits (4) and RBI (8) off the bench. He's 9 for 19 as a pinch-hitter this season and 11 for 22 the last two.

"Honestly, I've been doing a really good job of closing my eyes and swinging," Williams joked after the game.

The 2-1 victory, which makes the Phillies 29-20, unfortunately, did not go to Aaron Nola, who had a no-hitter snapped with two outs in the seventh inning of perhaps his most dominant performance to date (see story). Instead, the win went to Seranthony Dominguez, his first as a big-leaguer.

This was the fifth start by Nola this season following a Phillies loss and they're 4-1 in those games.

Williams and Franco
Williams' pinch-hit homer came off Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini. The Phillies were just glad to get Jaime Garcia out of the game. Garcia, the veteran southpaw Phillies fans will remember vividly from Game 3 of the 2011 NLDS, allowed one run over seven innings and needed just 73 pitches as the Phils made quick outs in succession.

Toronto's bullpen is reeling and is the facet of this series the Phillies need to take advantage of after falling just short in the series opener.

Maikel Franco provided the first run with a solo homer to left to begin the fifth inning. Franco has eight home runs, two more than he had at this point a year ago.

Dominguez delivers again
How nice is it to have a go-to reliever like this? Relieving Nola in the seventh, Dominguez ended the Phillies' jam by inducing a groundout on two pitches.

He followed with a scoreless eighth inning.

In nine appearances in the majors, Dominguez has pitched 10⅓ scoreless innings with two hits allowed, no walks and 10 strikeouts. The Phillies have won every game he's entered.

Luis Garcia picked up the save.

Up next
The Phils-Jays series concludes Sunday at 1:35 p.m. when Nick Pivetta (4-2, 3.23) opposes former Phillies left-hander J.A. Happ (6-3, 3.97).

Happ has settled in with Toronto, where he's the ace of the staff. Since the start of 2016, Happ is 36-18 with a 3.43 ERA in 399⅓ innings.