Hector Neris

Gabe Kapler takes blame for Phillies' loss, but Bryce Harper says, no, it's on him

Gabe Kapler takes blame for Phillies' loss, but Bryce Harper says, no, it's on him

There were some really entertaining moments for Phillies fans in Thursday night’s game.

To wit:

J.T. Realmuto battled through a 16-pitch at-bat in the first inning and fouled off 10 straight pitches. The crowd loved it and gave Realmuto a loud ovation even after he struck out.

And then, in a tie game in the top of the ninth inning, Nick Williams made one of the strongest and prettiest throws you’ll ever see to cut down a run from left field and give the Phillies life heading into the bottom of the ninth. Williams' throw registered at 95.5 mph, according to Statcast. To put that in perspective, neither starting pitcher threw a pitch that hard in a combined 12 2/3 innings.

But Realmuto’s grueling at-bat and Williams’ eye-popping hose work were merely footnotes to what turned out to be another bad night at the yard for the Phillies. Their 3-1 loss to the Miami Marlins in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park was their sixth defeat in the last eight games (see observations). After coming out of the gate with an 11-6 record and getting everybody pumped up, the Phils are now 13-12.

Manager Gabe Kapler wore this defeat for his decision to use reliever Hector Neris for a second inning of work. Neris, with significant help from Williams, got out of the ninth without giving up a run. He went back for the 10th and twice was one strike away from getting out of that inning. But he gave up a two-out double to Neil Walker on a 2-2 pitch then a two-run homer to Starlin Castro on a 2-2 pitch. Walker hit a splitter, Castro a fastball.

“I didn’t put Hector in the position to succeed right there,” Kapler said. “He’s been so good all year. I really wanted to lean on him. That’s on me. I trusted him and really wanted him to get through that second inning for us and felt really confident in him. But I knew what was best for Hector was to get him out after that first inning of work. That one is on me.

“I thought he was strong. He did a really good job getting through that first inning for us. At the same time, that was asking a lot from him and putting a lot of responsibility on him. I think I could’ve went to (Edubray) Ramos there and Ramos would’ve done a very nice job for us.”

As much as Kapler tried to take the blame, he was far from the engineer of this loss.

This one was on the offense. Aaron Nola pitched well in a duel against lefty Caleb Smith. Adam Morgan got another huge out. Seranthony Dominguez pitched around trouble and delivered a scoreless inning. So much lined up for the Phillies — if they only could have gotten a big hit.

This game was theirs to be had in the sixth inning. Andrew McCutchen led off with a double and moved to third on a fly ball by Realmuto. Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins then both popped up against the stingy Smith to end the threat.

An inning later, Cesar Hernandez doubled with one out and died on second when Sean Rodriguez and Williams struck out.

That's 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings.

Like Kapler, Harper raised his hand and took blame for the loss.

“It’s on me,” he said. “With a guy at third base, less than two outs, I’ve got to get that job done. We wouldn’t be in that predicament in that situation — Hector throws a scoreless one like he’s supposed to and we’re out of there. So I’ve got to be better personally. Guy on third, less than two outs, I’ve got to get the job done.”

Harper is 10 for 51 (.196) over his last 13 games and five of those hits came in one game last week in Denver.

But he wasn’t the only hitter who did not come through Thursday night. The Phils had just four hits. Their Nos. 2 through 5 hitters were 0 for 15 with a walk.

“There’s no question our lineup hasn’t been clicking like it can,” Kapler said. “We’ve been pretty beat up by injuries, but that’s no excuse. We can perform better at the plate.”

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Marlins 3, Phillies 1 (10 innings): This one is on the offense

Marlins 3, Phillies 1 (10 innings): This one is on the offense

BOX SCORE

This one is on the offense. The Phillies were held to just four hits in suffering a 3-1 loss in 10 innings to the Miami Marlins on Thursday night.

Starlin Castro broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run home run against Hector Neris in the top of the 10th to propel the Marlins to victory.

The Phillies’ Nos. 2 through 5 hitters went 0 for 15 with a walk.

With a chance to take control of the game, the Phils went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings.

The Phillies are now 13-12. They have lost six of their last eight.

Miami is 8-17.

The Phils are 2-2 against Miami.

The keys

• Nick Williams, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and stayed in to play left field, made what at the time was a game-saving throw to cut down a run at the plate and end the top of the ninth inning. Williams' perfect throw came in at 95.5 mph.

• Williams’ throw bailed out Hector Neris. Neris gave up a two-out double and a two-out homer in the 10th as the Marlins took the lead.

• Adam Morgan relieved Aaron Nola with two outs and runners on the corners in a tie game in the seventh. He retired pinch-hitter Isaac Galloway for one of the game’s biggest outs. Morgan has not given up a run in 10 1/3 innings (13 games) this season.

Starting pitching rules

Nola, who showed signs of putting it together in his previous start at Colorado, was very good in this one. He allowed just a run over 6 2/3 innings. He gave up seven hits, all singles, walked one and struck out four.

Miami lefty Caleb Smith was also very good, holding the Phillies to three hits and a run over six innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

Smith allowed a second-inning homer to Sean Rodriguez for the Phillies' lone run.

Sights and sounds

Though J.T. Realmuto did not get a hit in the first inning, he provided some entertainment for the crowd as he battled Miami lefty Smith through a fairly incredible 16-pitch at-bat. Realmuto fouled off 10 straight pitches before ultimately striking out, but the crowd appreciated the duel. The cheers became louder with each ball Realmuto fouled off and he received a loud ovation while walking back to the dugout at Smith prevailed.

Health check

Another injury for Roman Quinn. What it means for the Phillies’ outfield picture (see story).

Up next

Jerad Eickhoff makes his first home start of the season Friday night against Marlins’ right-hander Jose Urena.

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Countdown to Clearwater: 5 questions about Phillies pitchers

Countdown to Clearwater: 5 questions about Phillies pitchers

The Phillies open spring training in Clearwater, Florida next week. In preview, we take a look at five storylines:

Tuesday — Five new faces to watch 

Wednesday — Five questions on the position side 

Thursday — Five questions on the pitching side

Friday — Five prospects to watch

Saturday — Five people with something to prove

 Earl Weaver used to say the only thing that matters is what happens on that little hump out in the middle of the field. With that, we examine five pitching questions facing the Phillies as they head into camp:

Will they designate a closer?

With Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Neris and David Robertson, the Phillies have closer candidates, and it would not be a complete surprise to see someone take hold of the role as the season unfolds. But heading into camp, it seems as if the Phils will stay flexible, avoid hanging the label "closer" on any one guy, and play the matchup game in the late innings. That includes the ninth.

“We are likely to continue to use guys in a variety of roles late in the game,” general manager Matt Klentak said on the day he signed Robertson, who has three 30-plus save seasons in his career.

Nine different relievers recorded a save for the Phillies last season, led by Dominguez with 16. He certainly has the stuff to close, but he also has value as a kill shot when the game is on the line in the seventh or eighth inning. Neris had a few difficult months last season and ended up in the minors. But he was a beast after rediscovering his splitter and his confidence and struck out 35 of the 69 batters he faced over the final six weeks of the season.

Will Aaron Nola’s arbitration case cause problems?

Probably not. There were similar worries when Ryan Howard went to court over salary in 2008 and he ended up signing two long-term extensions with the club. Of course, he won his high profile, $10 million arbitration case after an MVP award and 105 homers and 285 RBIs the previous two seasons.

Nola's case will be heard on Feb. 14, the second day of official workouts, and he is expected to attend the hearing. The pitcher, eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, and his representatives are seeking $6.75 million. They will build their case around the pitcher’s third-place finish in the Cy Young voting last season. If that doesn’t convince the arbitration panel that he is worth the money, maybe these stats will: Nola finished fourth in the majors in ERA (2.37) and quality starts (25) and fifth in innings (212 1/3) and WHIP (0.97) in 2018.   

The Houston Astros paid Dallas Keuchel $7.25 million in his first arbitration year after he won the AL Cy Young in 2016 and Nola’s side sees that as a legitimate comparable. The Phillies’ offer of $4.5 million seems to be more in line with what Matt Harvey ($4.35 million) and Jacob deGrom ($4.05 million) got in their first year of arbitration.

This is business: A player looking to capitalize on a big year and a team trying to toe the industry line. It’s difficult to see there being a lot of fallout from a process that both sides understand so well. And, either way, the team is likely to explore a long-term extension with Nola in the near future and the pitcher would be very interested in that.

Are they done adding?

Clearly, the team thought it needed more starting pitching, hence the offers it made to lefty starters Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, both of whom signed elsewhere. The Phils could still look to fill their lefty void by signing someone like Keuchel to a short-term deal. The team has also continually monitored the market for closer Craig Kimbrel. Even if the Phils don’t add another reliever, they may have to subtract from a crowded bullpen before the spring is over. Tommy Hunter has been shopped for a deal. The construction of this pitching staff will continue through July and you’ll hear the name Madison Bumgarner a lot if the Phils are within striking distance.

Whither Eick?

Jerad Eickhoff was the team’s best starting pitcher in 2016, but he’s been plagued by injury the last two seasons. Off-season surgery to address a condition similar to carpal tunnel syndrome has Eickhoff back on track and ready to challenge for a rotation spot.

Who will step forward?

Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are all talented and they’ve all racked up valuable experience the last couple of seasons. Much of this team’s success will ride on one or two of these guys becoming consistently successful behind Nola and Jake Arrieta.

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