Drew Smyly

With owner watching, gasping Phillies fall to .500 mark for the first time this season

With owner watching, gasping Phillies fall to .500 mark for the first time this season

WASHINGTON – The Phillies’ postseason hopes may have ended on Tuesday, but there is still intrigue in these final days of the season.

The Phillies have not had a winning season since 2011 and their chances of having one now are in serious peril after they staggered to their fifth straight loss on Wednesday night.

One day after sweeping the Phillies in a doubleheader and wrapping up a National League wild-card playoff spot, the Washington Nationals rallied to beat the Phils, 5-2. The loss dropped them to .500 for the first time this season at 79-79.

That’s right, after being above .500 all season — including 11 games over and 3 ½ games up in the NL East entering play on May 30 — the Phillies find themselves at the break-even point with just four games to play.

In other words, they need to win three of their last four games to finish with a winning record. That might seem trivial because you play for championships not simply winning records, but another losing season, in a year that started with so much hope and excitement, could hasten changes in the front office or manager’s chair.

The Phillies have lost seven of their last eight and nine of their last 12. That’s not a good look — especially with owner John Middleton taking a recent up-close look. He has been in attendance with front officials for the first four games of this series in Washington.

The Phillies have one more game to play in this series against the Nationals. Lefty Jason Vargas will go for his 100th career win against Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg on Thursday. Beating Strasburg will not be easy. The Nats are still playing with motivation as they look to sew up home-field advantage for the wild-card game next week. And Strasburg has more often than not been death on the Phillies. He is 13-2 with a 2.62 ERA in 26 career starts against the Phils. He's 17-6 with a 3.37 ERA this season. Those 17 wins are tied for the most in the NL.

The Phillies got a nice start from lefty Drew Smyly — 6 1/3 innings, two runs, no walks and 10 strikeouts.

The Nats rallied for two in the runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth against the Phillies’ bullpen to take a 5-2 lead. Defense did not help the Phils. Yan Gomes smashed a double by Rhys Hoskins (tough play, but not impossible) to fuel the Nats’ two-run seventh and Cesar Hernandez made a costly error in the two-run eighth.

Despite falling out of the playoff race the day before, manager Gabe Kapler said before the game that it was important to finish strong.

His team is not doing that.

Can it rally over the final four games and get that winning season?

Will it even matter for Kapler’s future?

“Absolutely, there’s a desire to have a winning season,” Kapler said. “It's important to me. It's important to this ball club. We're going to keep doing everything in our power to make that happen by preparing hard, by grinding every day.”

After finishing the series in Washington on Thursday afternoon, the Phillies finish with three games at home against the lowly Miami Marlins. Every team in the NL East has dominated the Marlins – except the Phillies. They are 7-9 against Miami.

Yes, the Phillies are out contention. Yes, they are stumbling to the finish line.

It’s not pretty.

But it’s still important. Evaluations are being made. Who stays? Who goes?

“I really love managing this club,” Kapler said before the game. “I love working for the people that I work for. That includes our general manager, it includes our ownership group, it includes our entire front office. And I'm not just working for them. I'm working for our player-development staff and our amateur scouting department. I work for everybody in this organization. Love that responsibility. I take it very seriously. Every single day I give every ounce of my energy to that responsibility and will continue to do that as long as I have this privilege.

“There's going to be time to reflect on my future when we get to the end of the season. Right now, my job is to continue to stay focused on managing the major-league club and devoting myself to the organization. I'm going to continue to do that through the end.”

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Indians' Shane Bieber pushes Phillies one step closer to the end

Indians' Shane Bieber pushes Phillies one step closer to the end

CLEVELAND — Time continues to run out for the Phillies.

They suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the Brewers hammered the Pittsburgh Pirates, 10-1.

These two outcomes dropped the Phillies five games back in the NL wild-card race with just 10 games to play. The math is against the Phillies. Their elimination number is down to five. If Milwaukee plays just .500 ball over its last eight games, the Phillies would have to go 10-0 just to tie. For a team that hasn’t won more than four games in a row all season, that’s bad news.

“We’ve got to win. Period,” Jay Bruce said. “Can’t worry about anything else. You listen. You read. You concern yourself too much about it and it doesn’t do any good. So we have to win and see what happens. There are no promises. But we know we can’t go where we want to go if we don’t win.”

The Phillies didn’t win Friday night because they did not get a good start from Drew Smyly and they did not hit Cleveland starter Shane Bieber.

The loss was the Phillies’ second in a row and it came with J.T. Realmuto, arguably the team’s MVP, getting the night off. Jean Segura also did not play because of a sore ankle.

Realmuto has carried the heaviest load of any catcher in baseball and manager Gabe Kapler decided to give him a recovery day on the opener of a crucial series. Kapler explained his reasons before the game (see story). Realmuto was not available before the game and he refused to speak with reporters after the game. He is expected to start behind the plate on Saturday night when Jason Vargas looks to stop the losing skid. Vargas has lasted just three innings in each of his last two starts.

Smyly allowed seven base runners and gave up four runs in the first two innings Friday night. He was gone after walking the first batter in the bottom of the third. The lefty appeared perturbed upon leaving the game, but it wasn’t with Kapler’s decision to pull him. The bullpen allowed just one run the rest of the way to keep the Phils in the game.

“I wasn’t upset,” Smyly said. “I was just upset with how the game went. I just wasn’t very good tonight at all. I wasn’t very good with my command and put the team in a hole.”

The Phillies got a two-run double from Maikel Franco, a late add to the starting lineup after Segura was scratched, in the fifth inning and that was the extent of their offense.

Bieber, a 24-year-old right-hander, scattered seven hits, walked none and struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings of work. He looked very much like the guy who was the MVP of the All-Star Game in July.

“He showed why he’s one of the best young pitchers in baseball,” Kapler said. “He brought his A-game tonight. He was able to execute all of his pitches, threw strikes, attacked the zone, and had some wipeout stuff below the zone.”

“He’s the true definition of a pitcher,” Bruce added. “He’s got good stuff, commands both sides of the plate and doesn’t give in. He’s very confident in every pitch he has. He did what he wanted tonight. He hit his spots, he got ahead, he finished guys with different pitches.”

Bieber, who is 15-7 with a 3.23 ERA this season, was a product of the 2016 draft. He went in the fourth round, which means there are 29 clubs out there kicking themselves for passing on him. The Phillies made four picks in that draft, including Mickey Moniak at No. 1 overall, before the Indians selected Bieber out of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Phils selected pitcher Kevin Gowdy, infielder Cole Stobbe and pitcher Jo Jo Romero with their next three picks. Moniak played at Double A this season and Romero pitched at Double A and Triple A. Gowdy missed time recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitched at Lakewood this season. Stobbe also played there. Moniak, Stobbe and Gowdy were all chosen out of high school.

A familiar name closed the door for the Indians. Carlos Carrasco, the former Phillies prospect who was traded for Cliff Lee a decade ago, got the final four outs for the save. Carrasco is one of the game’s best inspirational stories. He was treated for leukemia this summer and is back helping the Indians in a playoff chase.

The 91-win Indians are tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot.



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Drew Smyly puts Phillies in an early hole they can't overcome against Indians

Drew Smyly puts Phillies in an early hole they can't overcome against Indians

BOX SCORE 

CLEVELAND — The Phillies moved one step closer to being eliminated from postseason contention in a 5-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

The loss dropped the Phillies 4 ½ games out in the wild-card chase and they could be five out depending on the outcome of the Milwaukee-Pittsburgh game.

There are just 10 games remaining.

Like the Phillies, Cleveland is in must-win mode. The Indians (91-63) entered the night tied with Tampa Bay for the second American League wild-card spot.

The Phillies did not get a good start from lefty Drew Smyly.

The Indians, meanwhile, got a very good one from right-hander Shane Bieber. He gave up two runs over 7 1/3 innings.

The Phillies are 78-74. They need to win four of their final 10 games to have their first winning season since 2011.

Smyly’s night

It wasn’t good. He walked the first batter in the bottom of the third inning and was lifted by manager Gabe Kapler.

Smyly allowed the first four batters in the bottom of the first inning to reach base on a walk and three hits. Two of them scored. He gave up two more runs in the second inning. Both were unearned after a throwing error by Rhys Hoskins.

Smyly did not appear happy when Kapler pulled him from the game. But eight base runners in two-plus innings was a little much and the bullpen was able to settle things down and keep the game close.

Bieber’s night

The All-Star right-hander improved to 15-7 and lowered his ERA to 3.23.

He struck out seven and walked none. It was the eighth time this season that he’d registered at least seven strikeouts and no walks.

Bieber is a product of the 2016 draft. The Indians picked him in the fourth round out of the University of California, Santa Barbara. That was a notable draft for the Phillies because they had the first overall pick. They selected outfielder Mickey Moniak with that pick. The Phils picked pitcher Kevin Gowdy in the second round, infielder Cole Stobbe in the third round and pitcher Jo Jo Romero in the fourth round, 15 picks ahead of Bieber. Moniak played at Double A this season and Romero pitched at Double A and Triple A. Gowdy missed time recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitched at Lakewood this season. Stobbe also played there. Moniak, Stobbe and Gowdy were all chosen out of high school.

Carrasco comes up big

Carlos Carrasco, the former Phillies prospect who was traded to the Indians in the Cliff Lee deal a decade ago, registered a huge out when he retired Jay Bruce on a ground ball with runners on the corners to end the top of the eighth. Bruce could have tied the game with one swing, but Carrasco won the battle.

Carrasco is winning another battle, as well. He was treated for leukemia earlier this summer and has made it back to help the Indians’ playoff chase.

Carrasco stayed on for the ninth inning and got the save.

Scratched

Shortstop Jean Segura was a late scratch from the starting lineup. He has a sore left ankle. Maikel Franco was inserted into the lineup at third base and Scott Kingery moved over to shortstop. Franco drove in the Phillies’ runs with a double in the fifth.

Realmuto rests

Kapler gave J.T. Realmuto a rest at a crucial point of the season. The manager explained why (see story).

Up next

The series continues Saturday night. Jason Vargas (6-8, 4.48) pitches for the Phillies against Cleveland right-hander Zach Plesac (8-6, 3.64). Yes, he’s Dan’s nephew.



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