Jim Salisbury

Phillies' series loss to Rockies gnaws at Gabe Kapler

Phillies' series loss to Rockies gnaws at Gabe Kapler

DENVER — The Phillies’ offense, pretty much nonexistent for much of the day, began to stir with two outs in the ninth inning. One hit. A second hit and a run. A third hit. Suddenly it’s a three-run game and there are runners on second and third.

In the on-deck circle, Bryce Harper motioned to hitting coach John Mallee and asked to look at a sheet of paper bearing some intel on Colorado reliever Wade Davis.

All the Phillies needed was for Cesar Hernandez to reach base for Harper to get a chance with the bases loaded in Coors Field, the place where anything can and often does happen. You could almost hear Harper saying, “Get me to the plate, boys,” as Ryan Howard did one long ago October in the same ballpark.

Harper never made it out of the on-deck circle. Davis retired Hernandez and the Phillies trudged back to the clubhouse with a 4-1 loss (see observations), their third in four days in the series and seventh in their last eight games at Coors Field, dating to September of last season.

“I think we can play better than we did in this series,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

The Phils pretty much gave away Friday night’s 12-inning game by going 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position and leaving 19 men on base.

And, on Sunday, they had just two hits over the first 8 2/3 innings and Hernandez committed a costly base-running blunder in the fourth inning when the Rockies were leading just 1-0.

“It was a big play,” Kapler said. “It’s a play that can’t happen.”

The Phils were looking at having runners on first and second with one out against Jon Gray after the Rockies muffed a force out at second. The ball got away from second baseman Garrett Hampson as Hernandez slid into second. Umpire Joe West flashed the safe sign. However, Hernandez did not see the loose ball (which was in front of him) nor did he see West’s signal. He started walking back to the dugout and eventually was tagged for the second out. It cost the Phils a run, and maybe more, because Maikel Franco followed with a double.

“It’s ultimately my fault,” Hernandez said. “I know better. I should have stayed on the base until I was 100 percent sure if I was out or safe. I just assumed I was out. It's a learning experience for me. Hopefully it won't happen again.”

Both Hernandez and Kapler said they wished West had voiced his call as well as signaled it.

“That always helps,” Hernandez said. “But, again, it’s not his fault. It’s mine.”

Said Kapler: “Joe did not say anything verbally. He held his hands out (safe sign). You always like, when you can get it, a demonstrative call one way or the other; I’m definitely not calling out Joe for anything in this particular case. I think this is something that Cesar has to be responsible for. If Cesar was standing right next to me, he’d tell you stay on the base until you’re absolutely certain what the call is.”

Hernandez has recently started to heat up after a slow start. However, he went hitless in five at-bats Sunday and did not look good in one of his two strikeouts. He was about to be pushed for work before Scott Kingery suffered a hamstring strain in this series and went on the disabled list.

About the only bright spot Sunday was starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, who allowed four runs in six innings, a solid performance in Coors Field and against a team that boasts the beast of Charlie Blackmon. He had 10 hits, including two triples and two homers, in the four games to raise his average from .219 to .286 and his OPS from .567 to .802.

The Phillies jetted to New York after the game. They play the Mets in Citi Field the next three nights.

Kapler wasn’t planning on kicking back with a scotch on the flight.

“We’ve got a lot to think about on this plane ride and we’re going to go through everything and be prepared to come out and beat the Mets,” he said.

He was asked to expound on what needed to be thought about.

“I think it’s more postmortem from this series, some of the things we could have done differently,” he said. “Take some time. I’d love to be able to tell you exactly what those things are, but that’s why you get on the plane and think about them.”

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Rockies 4, Phillies 1: Phillies' offense doesn't show up until it's too late in series finale

Rockies 4, Phillies 1: Phillies' offense doesn't show up until it's too late in series finale

BOX SCORE 

DENVER — The Phillies capped an unpleasant visit to Coors Field with a 4-1 loss on Sunday afternoon.

The offense produced just five hits and three of them came with two outs in the ninth as the Phils rallied for their only run. Colorado's Wade Davis retired Cesar Hernandez with two men on base to end the game.

The Phils lost three of four in the series and head to New York at 12-9.

The Phils are 5-13 against the Rockies since the start of the 2017 season. They have lost seven of the eight games that they’ve played at Coors Field since last September and been outscored 58-21.

The keys

• Two hits through 8 2/3 innings in Coors Field. That won't do it.

• Colorado starter Jon Gray kept the Phillies' hitters off-balance with a fastball that reached 97 mph and a slider/curveball mix that produced 13 swings and misses. Gray allowed just one hit over six shutout innings. He walked four and struck out five.

• With the Phillies down 1-0 in the fourth inning, Hernandez made a base-running blunder that ultimately cost his team a run. Hernandez had reached second in a muffed force play but did not notice that the ball had come loose and walked off the field toward the dugout and was tagged out.

Eickhoff’s day

Jerad Eickhoff had a solid outing in his first start of the season. He gave up just one run through five innings then paid for a couple of no-out walks en route to giving up three runs in the sixth. 

Like Aaron Nola the night before, Eickhoff got some big outs with runners on base. He did not get enough run support to pitch over the sixth inning. After the two walks, he gave up a single and a two-run double as Colorado built its lead to 4-0 in that frame. In all, Eickhoff allowed seven hits and four walks over six innings. He struck out eight.

Missing pop

Cleanup man Rhys Hoskins had three hits on Friday night and three more on Saturday before a hitless day in the series finale. He has gone seven games without an extra-base hit.

Phillie killer

Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon entered the four-game series hitting .219 with a .567 OPS. He ended the series hitting .286 with a .802 OPS. He had 10 hits, including two doubles and two triples, in 18 at-bats.

For his career, Blackmon is 56 for 161 (.348) with 10 homers and 23 RBIs against the Phils.

Health check

After an MRI, Phillies officials have determined that Scott Kingery’s hamstring strain is mild. There is still no timetable for his return. He suffered the injury Friday night.

Up next

The Phils visit Citi Field for the first time in the new season for a three-game series against the Mets (11-10) beginning on Monday night. Jake Arrieta looks to continue his strong start in the opener against Steven Matz. The Phils hung eight runs on Matz in the first inning of a game in Philadelphia last week. Zach Eflin pitches Tuesday night against Zack Wheeler and Vince Velasquez on Wednesday night against Jason Vargas.

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A step forward for Aaron Nola and a dream come true for Phil Gosselin

A step forward for Aaron Nola and a dream come true for Phil Gosselin

DENVER — Phil Gosselin had been here before, just not in front of 40,530 fans.

“I’ve been up with the bases loaded a lot for the Phillies,” he said late Saturday night in the visiting clubhouse at Coors Field. “It was just in my backyard as a kid and it didn’t really count.”

This one counted.

“It felt good to come through,” he said with a smile.

Gosselin grew up in West Chester, saw his first big-league game at Veterans Stadium wearing a Scott Rolen shirt, and went on to star at Malvern Prep and the University of Virginia. All these years later, after stops on the big-league trail in Atlanta, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Texas, Gosselin helped the team he grew up rooting for — the team that he says made him fall in love with baseball — win a game.

The 30-year-old infielder clubbed a three-run double in the fourth inning to give the Phils a lead that they never relinquished in an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies (see observations).

What would that little kid in the backyard think now?

“He would think it was all a dream, to be honest,” Gosselin said. “It was always a goal of mine. I never thought I was that great. I never thought I’d be in the big leagues, if I’m being honest. It was one of those pinch-yourself kind of moments.”

Gosselin signed a minor-league deal with the Phils in December and was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday. He got the start, his first with the Phils, at shortstop after the team placed Scott Kingery and Jean Segura on the injured list earlier Saturday (see story). Both have hamstring injuries. Gosselin will likely play shortstop until Segura is eligible to come off the IL next weekend. Kingery will need more time than that.

Gosselin’s three-run double, coupled with Bryce Harper’s three-run home run late in the game, helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola on a night when the right-hander showed signs of being his old self after a rough start to the season. Gosselin’s no-out double was a long fly ball to right-center that kept carrying and carrying before hitting the top of the wall.

“I wasn’t sure if it was going to get off the wall or not,” he said. “I was talking to it the whole way. Luckily, I got enough of it.”

One night earlier, Gosselin entered the game after Kingery injured himself. He stroked a two-out single in the top of the 12th and came around to score on a double by Harper. For a few moments, it looked as if he was going to be one of the stars of an extra-innings win. Then Charlie Blackmon ended all the Phillies’ feel-good storylines with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning and Gosselin’s hit was just a footnote to what manager Gabe Kapler called a “brutal” loss.

“Good organizations, teams that win, have guys like Gosselin come up and perform in big moments,” Kapler said. “You can't win a lot of games, you can't go to the postseason, unless you have guys from the minor leagues come up and perform. Your non-roster guy that gets a big hit for you. He's been swinging the bat really well. He's earned the right to keep rolling.

“I can only imagine what it's like to grow up in the Philadelphia area as a die-hard Phillies fan and then to come through like he did. He must be on top of the world right now.”

Even beyond the victory, which improved the Phils to 12-8, there was something important to feel good about. Nola had struggled in his previous outings. Though he allowed 10 base runners in 5 2/3 innings, he battled, made big pitches and got big outs — he had nine strikeouts — at crucial junctures of the game.

“His back was against the wall early on,” Kapler said. “He's just a fighter. Nothing fazes Aaron Nola. I know that this has been tough to struggle a little bit. But he showed you why he is such a strong performer. He's able to withstand some of that pressure.

“It was really comforting to see him come out and perform like that for us.”

Nola’s fastball reached 95 mph and his curveball got better and better as the night went on.

“I didn’t get a 1-2-3 inning all night,” Nola said. “There was always traffic on base so I had to bear down and focus on making quality pitches.”

Something to build on?

“Absolutely,” Nola said.

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