j.p. crawford

Phillies' relievers let the club down again in tough loss to Cardinals

Phillies' relievers let the club down again in tough loss to Cardinals

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The pregame talk centered around the Phillies’ beleaguered bullpen. Both manager Gabe Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak expressed confidence in the unit (see story).

Well …

Said bullpen gave up three killer runs in the late innings in a 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Tommy Hunter let a two-run lead get away in the top of the seventh inning as the Cardinals took a 6-4 lead. The Phillies rallied to tie the game on a two-run double by Rhys Hoskins in the bottom of the eighth. Hoskins hit a 101-mph fastball from Jordan Hicks. The Cardinals, however, went ahead for good on a two-out solo homer by Matt Carpenter against Seranthony Dominguez in the top of the ninth. Carpenter hit an 0-2 fastball that registered 98 mph. Dominguez threw all fastballs in the showdown and Carpenter was waiting for one.

Vince Velasquez turned in a solid start for the Phillies and exited with one out in the seventh inning, two men on base and a two-run lead. Hunter came on and got the second out of the inning. However, he then allowed three straight hits, including a pair of two-run doubles, as the Cardinals tied the game then took the lead.

Hunter, signed to a two-year, $18 million contract in the offseason, left the mound to boos after the frame.

The Phillies’ bullpen has been among the worst in baseball in June. It has a 6.17 ERA in the month and has given up 64 hits in 54 innings.

The Phillies scored single runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings in building a 4-2 lead. Carlos Santana drove in two runs with a ground out in the first inning and a solo homer in the fifth. Odubel Herrera continued to heat up with a solo homer in the third, his fourth long ball in the last five games. Cesar Hernandez drew a one-out, bases-loaded walk for a run in the fourth. The Phils had two more shots to get more runs against Luke Weaver in the inning but Hoskins popped up and Herrera took a called third strike as the Phils left the bases full.

Velasquez gave up just two runs, both on solo homers, through the first six innings. He got the first out in the seventh then did Hunter no favors by giving up a single and hitting a batter to put two runners on base as Kapler went to the bullpen.

Before the game, Kapler proclaimed that Dominguez would be available. Kapler likes to use him in the game’s biggest moment, but in this case he went to Hunter, probably because the right-hander features a cutter that works well against left-handed hitters. Carpenter, a left-handed hitter, tied the game with a two-out double. He hit a 1-0 curveball. Two batters later, Jose Martinez clubbed a two-run double to put the Cards ahead.

Dominguez came into the game in the ninth and struck out the first two batters before Carpenter stroked another big hit to break the tie and send the Phillies to a demoralizing loss.

Crawford exits
J.P. Crawford, who started at third base, was plunked on the left hand by a pitch in the fourth inning. He stayed in the game briefly then was replaced by Maikel Franco. Kapler said after the game that Crawford suffered a fracture and will miss four to six weeks.

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Phillies get 13 strikeouts from Nick Pivetta, luck in 10th inning for win

Phillies get 13 strikeouts from Nick Pivetta, luck in 10th inning for win

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From a terrible and inexcusable loss to a dramatic win ... what a night for the Phillies.

They rallied for a 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Aaron Altherr's two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning Monday night.

Altherr's hit got a lot of people off the hook.

The Phillies led, 4-0, after the first inning and had only four hits the rest of the way.

The Cardinals came all the way back in a bizarre ninth inning and went ahead on a solo homer by Tommy Pham against Jake Thompson in the top of the 10th.

The Phillies should have won this one earlier (see story).

With two outs in the top of the ninth, Victor Arano registered the team’s 18th strikeout of the game. It should have ended the game and given the Phils a 4-2 win. The pitch, however, a slider in the dirt, got by catcher Andrew Knapp, scoring a run from third and keeping the inning alive for pinch-hitter Kolten Wong to tie the game with a single against Adam Morgan.

Rhys Hoskins started the Phillies' rally in the bottom of the 10th inning with a single.

The win improved the Phillies to 38-32 and a NL-best 23-12 at home.

The Phils came out of the chute with four runs in the first inning against Miles Mikolas. 

Nick Pivetta struck out a career-high 13 in 7 1/3 innings of work. Right-handed reliever Edubray Ramos picked up Pivetta with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth. With the game on the line, Ramos registered two huge strikeouts to preserve a two-run lead.

Arano was called on to pitch the ninth. He, too, faced a second-and-third jam with one out. He essentially pitched out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts but the one that would have ended the game went for a wild pitch. It gave the Cardinals life and they capitalized.

In case you’re wondering, bullpen ace Seranthony Dominguez was not available after throwing 52 pitches the previous two days.

Pivetta had struggled in his previous three starts this month. He’d lost all three and given up 13 runs in 14 innings.

This one was a different story. The right-hander had dominant stuff from the beginning. He threw 108 pitches and got 21 swinging strikes, 11 on his curveball and seven on his four-seam fastball, which topped out at 97.6 miles per hour.

A day after scoring 10 runs in Milwaukee, the Phillies scored four times in the first inning. Three of the runs came on a home run by Odubel Herrera after Mikolas allowed a leadoff single to Cesar Hernandez and a walk to Hoskins.

Herrera’s bat has really come alive after a hellacious slump that dropped him from a league-best .361 to .283 in a 23-game span. Over his last five games, he has nine hits, including three home runs.

Knapp drove in the Phillies’ fourth run.

Rightfielder Nick Williams was forced to leave the game in the eighth inning when Matt Carpenter’s double clanged off the wall and struck Williams in the face, drawing blood (see video).

Vince Velasquez will look to follow up last week’s gem against Colorado in the second game of the series on Tuesday night.

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Why Phillies want Scott Kingery at shortstop despite defensive issues

Why Phillies want Scott Kingery at shortstop despite defensive issues

These four games the Phillies have played against the Brewers over the last week have been eye-opening. They've shown just how far the 2018 club is from contending with the NL's best on a nightly basis.

In the span of seven days, the Phillies have allowed 12, 12 and 13 runs to the Brewers. They salvaged a one-run win last Sunday but have been outscored in the four games 40-13.

The Brewers are much better offensively. They're better defensively, especially with how the Phils have fielded lately. 

Jake Arrieta took all the blame after Friday's 13-2 loss, refusing to criticize his defense. But there was more than enough blame to go around, with Scott Kingery committing two errors, Rhys Hoskins dropping a flyball and J.P. Crawford making an errant throw. With the four errors, the Phillies lead the National League with 54 and Arrieta has allowed the most unearned runs in the NL with 11.

Phillies fans are extra frustrated with the defense lately because of the perception that all three young infielders are playing out of position. Hoskins came up as a first baseman and is playing left field. Crawford came up as a shortstop and is starting at third base in place of Maikel Franco, who's being phased out. Kingery has been at shortstop every day after playing just two games there in the minors.

But this is where manager Gabe Kapler cites the future, when contending is more realistic for the Phillies than it is in 2018.

"I don't think there's anything dramatic we do (defensively), we don't try anything crazy," Kapler told reporters. "We understand that our players are young, that they're developing, they're learning positions. They've also played fantastic at times, specifically J.P. and Scotty playing well on the left side of the diamond, showing people they can and will continue to do that."

With Kingery hitting .219/.275/.333 with seven errors, the natural question the last six weeks has been why the Phillies aren't playing him at his natural position? It's relevant in terms of the day-to-day of this team, but Kapler and the front office are looking at the big picture, which is Kingery's long-term future, not a game in Milwaukee in mid-June.

"I think if you put him at second base, ideally that would probably be the most comfortable landing spot for him," Kapler said. "But I don't think Scott Kingery is the type of personality that needs to be coddled. I think he's the type of personality that thrives on being challenged. And I don't think that looking at some struggles is the way to analyze this properly. I think the way to analyze this properly is to ask, 'Is this young man getting better because of this experience?' 

"I think the answer to that is yes. Is he strong mentally, tough physically and capable of handling this challenge? I think the answer is yes. At the end of the day do we think he's going to be one of our better players for many years to come because of this experience? The answer is yes." 

So that's why Kingery is at short. It's clear from Kapler's answers that the Phillies view Kingery as the better long-term option at shortstop, and it's clear from Kapler's actions that he views Kingery as the better option right now. It's also abundantly clear that Crawford is being valued at third base ahead of Franco.

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