MIAMI — The Phillies return home to Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.
Cesar Hernandez will probably get a painfully warm Philadelphia greeting from the fans.
“Yeah, I expect,” he said.
Hernandez was not the reason that the Phillies lost two of three over the weekend in Miami. He was not the reason they lost the series finale, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon. In fact, he scored one of the team’s runs after a two-out single in the sixth inning.
But Hernandez was still a major subplot in the loss as what has been a season-long issue for this team reared its head again.
That base hit that Hernandez had in the sixth inning? It should have been a double. He thought the ball was going to be a homer so he did not run hard out of the box. By the time he realized it was going to stay in the park, it was too late to make it to second. It was an egregious mistake in a scoreless game when a base hit could have put a run on the board.
As it turned out, Rhys Hoskins got Hernandez off the hook with a two-run homer. Hernandez thanked Hoskins for that — twice — once at home plate and once while running out to the field in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Hernandez’ lack of hustle did not sit well with manager Gabe Kapler.
“Totally unacceptable baserunning play,” Kapler said through clenched jaw. “It was addressed on the bench. I had a conversation with Cesar after the game. He understands it's unacceptable. There's no excuse for it. We have some strong veteran leaders in the clubhouse who will address it, as well.”
One day earlier, Kapler had talked about accountability after sending Nick Pivetta to the minors. Kapler said he thought Pivetta needed to be more accountable, to “look in the mirror.”
Hernandez is not the first Phillie to come up short in the hustle department this season. Jean Segura and Maikel Franco were violators. Franco was held accountable with a benching.
Did Kapler consider removing Hernandez from the game?
“It's just an unacceptable base running play,” was Kapler’s answer to that question.
Deciding whether or not to pull Hernandez is a question complicated by the Phils’ place in the standings — they are in a playoff race and need wins — and the fact that they have a weak bench. Would it have been fair to the rest of the team to subtract the starting second baseman (and endure the dropoff in talent) from a game the team needed to win?
“I think it's really important that we bust our asses out of the batter's box,” Kapler said. “We're not sure if the ball is going to go out of the ballpark. It's really important that we give every ounce of energy on that play. Even at the expense of making a bang-bang play at second base. We need a single to score that run. Obviously, Rhys was able to bail us all out. He hit a big home run for us. But we have to find a way to get to second base on that play.”
Hernandez was contrite after the game.
“It was obviously a mistake," he said, "but the thing about this team is that we try to pick each other up. You watched the game and you saw what happened. I was obviously thankful to Rhys that he was able to pick me up there.”
Hoskins said players in the clubhouse hold each other accountable.
He added that Hernandez did not need a strong reprimand.
“Cesar doesn’t need to be talked to,” Hoskins said. “I don’t think he’s someone that doesn’t play the game the right way. He just had a little brain fart. Had a little lapse in judgment. Thank goodness it didn’t hurt us.
“I didn’t say anything to him on the field. He came up to me. That showed everybody he’s accountable. That type of player knows (he made a mistake). My bet is it doesn’t happen again.”
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