Cesar Hernandez

Phillies offense hits rock bottom, Gabe Kapler says hitting coach is connecting with team

Phillies offense hits rock bottom, Gabe Kapler says hitting coach is connecting with team

SAN FRANCISCO — John Middleton must have wanted to throw a brick through his television screen watching this one.

Think about it. The Phillies owner spent over $400 million and gave up a top pitching prospect to add talent over the winter. The idea was for the Phillies to make a big surge in the standings and go out and get that one finishing piece at the trade deadline. You know, someone like Madison Bumgarner.

But by the time the deadline came around, the underperforming Phillies had so many holes that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to cripple the farm system to add one pitcher when they really needed three of them. And besides, Bumgarner stayed put as the San Francisco Giants made a July charge into playoff contention.

So there they were Thursday night, the underachieving Phillies squaring off against Bumgarner in the first game of an important four-game series. The Phillies needed a win to stop a blood letting that started with consecutive losses in Arizona the previous two nights. What they got was another in a series of embarrassing defeats. The Phils were held to one hit — one stinking hit — and had just three base runners in a hang-your-head, 5-0 loss to the Giants (see observations).

The loss was the Phillies’ third in a row and sixth in the last nine games. They had entered the day tied for the second NL wild-card spot, but are now off the pace by a half-game. At 59-56, they have the same record as the New York Mets, who once appeared to be dead and buried in the standings but have rallied into contention with 13 wins in the last 14 games. The Phils, 26-33 since ending the month of May up by three games in the NL East, are going in the opposite direction and could be alone in fourth place in the division by the end of play Friday night.

How do you stop this spiral?

“By believing in our players, but keeping the mood light but focused, by never panicking and by trusting that the talent is in this room — and we believe it is,” manager Gabe Kapler said after his team’s latest defeat. “These guys know how good they are and we know that their true talent is going to rise to the top.”

The only thing that rose Thursday night was Mr. Middleton's ire.

The Giants came into the game having just been swept in three games by the Washington Nationals. Bumgarner needed to be a stopper and he was. He featured mostly fastballs and cutters. The fastball topped out at just 92 mph but that and good location on the pitch was enough to hold the Phils to one hit over seven innings. He walked one and struck out three. Cesar Heranandez had the Phillies’ only hit, a pinch-hit single with one out in the sixth inning.

“Bumgarner had a fastball, it wasn’t a high velocity fastball, but it certainly was heavy and he was able to put the ball where he wanted to put it in keeping our hitters off balance,” Kapler said. “On the flip side, we didn’t make him work hard enough. It’s as simple as that. We have to make good pitchers work hard and fight for every inch and we weren’t able to run his pitch count up at all and he stayed efficient and attacked the strike zone and we weren’t able to make the adjustment.”

Bumgarner got 21 called strikes.

“He was locating,” Kapler said. “Our guys were prepared to attack the fastball and the cutter and Bumgarner was putting it where he wanted to put it.

“At the same time, we have to find ways to scratch and claw to reach base and we weren’t able to do that. It’s not acceptable.”

The Phils have had huge problems hitting with runners in scoring position the last two weeks. They’ve scored one run the last two games and that came on a ninth-inning solo homer by Bryce Harper when the club was already down 6-0 to Arizona on Wednesday night.

The offense has been inconsistent all season, but its recent struggles are reason to wonder if hitting coach John Mallee is connecting with the hitters and if his message is getting through.

Kapler was asked if it was.

“Yes,” he said, offering nothing else on the topic.

Offense wasn’t the only thing that went wrong for the Phillies. The usually dependable Aaron Nola had a difficult start. He gave up three runs in the third inning and there was no coming back from that, not with this offense.

“He had a hard time commanding the fastball in the third inning, a hard time putting hitters away,” Kapler said. “It wasn’t his best outing.”

He wasn’t the Lone Ranger in that regard.

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Giants 5, Phillies 0: One hit, one stinking hit, in third straight loss

Giants 5, Phillies 0: One hit, one stinking hit, in third straight loss

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This was not pretty.

Aaron Nola had a rare off night and the Phillies’ bats had another poor night. The result was an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.

The Phillies had just one hit and three base runners in the game.

Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner tied Phillies hitters in knots. He did not allow a hit until there was one out in the sixth inning and he finished with seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball.

Pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez had the Phillies’ only hit, a single.

Bumgarner relied heavily on a four-seam fastball and a cutter, but he was not overpowering. His best fastball was 92 mph and the pitch averaged 90 mph. He struck out just three. He threw 85 pitches and got 21 called strikes.

Mike Yastrzemski led the Giants with a two-run double and a solo homer.

The loss was the Phillies’ third in a row — all on this road trip — and sixth in the last nine games. They had entered the day tied for the second NL wild-card spot, but are now off the pace by a half-game. At 59-56, they have the same record as the New York Mets, who were once dead and buried in the standings but have rallied into contention with 13 wins in the last 14 games. The Phils are going in the opposite direction (see story).

Bad offense

The Phils have scored one run in the last two games and that came on a Bryce Harper homer in the ninth inning Wednesday night after the Phils had already been down, 6-0.

Nola's night

The right-hander entered the game with a 1.91 ERA and 10.71 strikeouts per nine innings in his previous nine starts. Nola was tagged for seven hits and three runs in five innings. He allowed four straight hits, capped by Yastrzemski’s two-run double, and three runs in the third inning. Nola walked two and struck out three.

Not a fan

The Giants’ home park at 24 Willie Mays Plaza is one of the most beautiful in baseball, but Nola is probably not a fan. In three career starts in the place, he is 0-2 with an 8.77 ERA. He has allowed 13 earned runs and 24 hits in 13 1/3 innings.

Sloppy sixth

Catcher Andrew Knapp made a throwing error and Nick Pivetta walked two and threw a wild pitch that resulted in a run.

Tough out

Bumgarner is a very good hitting pitcher. He hit his 18th career homer earlier this season. Bumgarner gave Nola fits in two plate appearances. He finished a nine-pitch at-bat with a single to help fuel a three-run rally in the third inning and he worked a six-pitch walk in the fourth inning.

Kingery's defense

One night after costing the Phils a run with a defensive miscue at third base, Scott Kingery started at second base, his best position, and made two defensive gems, one on a tag play, one on a slow ground ball.

Transaction

The Phillies activated Jay Bruce from the injured list and sent Adam Haseley to Triple A. Manager Gabe Kapler explained why the Phillies subtracted a hot bat.

Up next

Lefty Drew Smyly (2-6, 7.01) opposes Giants right-hander Tyler Beede (3-6, 5.38) on Friday night.

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Phillies 10, Giants 2: First series win against team with winning record in two months

Phillies 10, Giants 2: First series win against team with winning record in two months

BOX SCORE

The Phillies broke out the lumber and rolled to a 10-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday afternoon.

The Phillies took two of three games from the Giants, who are 55-54.

The series win was the Phillies’ first against a team with a winning record in two months. The Phils took two of three from the San Diego Padres from June 3-5. The Padres entered that series with a winning record.

The Phillies, who entered the day a half-game out of the second NL wild-card spot, are 57-51.

Despite the victory and a 12-hit offensive attack, there was reason for concern for the Phillies. Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta failed to get an out in the fifth inning in a blowout. He has been pitching with a bone spur in his right elbow and getting through the middle innings has been a major issue for him. One has to wonder how much longer can he continue to pitch. Time will tell.

Arrieta's day

He was good for four innings as his team built a 9-0 lead. He allowed just two hits, a walk and no runs over that span. Arrieta was unable to stick around for five innings and get the win. The first three batters of the fifth reached base on an error and two singles and manager Gabe Kapler went to the bullpen.

Arrieta’s fastball was 93 mph in the early innings. It was down to 90 mph in the fifth.

Stars being stars

One day after general manager Matt Klentak said the team needed its star players to lead a stretch-drive surge, J.T. Realmuto delivered a single, a double and a three-run homer. He also scored three runs.

Realmuto is 9 for 20 over the last five games. Three of those hits are homers and two are doubles.

Slump buster

The Phillies could really use Scott Kingery to get hot. He hit just .192 (19 for 99) in July and the Phils missed his bat. He hit leadoff most of the month. Kapler has used Kingery in the No. 6 spot in the batting order the last two games. Kingery responded with three hits, including a two-run single, on Thursday.

Cesar Hernandez batted leadoff and had a big day with a two-run double and a homer.

Dickerson, Vargas due on Friday

Outfielder Corey Dickerson and pitcher Jason Vargas, both acquired in trades this week, will join the team Friday for the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox. Vargas will be the Phillies’ starting pitcher against Chicago’s Ivan Nova on Friday night.

The Phillies will have to make two roster moves to open spots for Dickerson and Vargas.


Neris begins suspension

The Phillies played down a man as reliever Hector Neris began serving a three-game suspension. The Phils will have to play with 24 men on Friday and Saturday, as well.

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