Luis Garcia

Matt Klentak, Gabe Kapler agree on how Phillies should use Seranthony Dominguez

Matt Klentak, Gabe Kapler agree on how Phillies should use Seranthony Dominguez

Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler are in lock-step agreement when it comes to how bullpen weapon Seranthony Dominguez has been deployed.

Kapler, the Phillies skipper, hasn’t ruled out using Dominguez as a classic, ninth-inning closer someday. But he prefers to use the hard-throwing right-hander as a kill shot in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth inning, whenever he determines the game to be on the line.

Klentak, the general manager, shares that philosophy and that’s not a surprise. Their shared baseball ideals and a dedication to new-school practices made Kapler an attractive choice when Klentak went searching for a new manager after last season.

“The argument against (using Dominguez exclusively in the ninth inning) is that the ninth inning is not always the highest-leverage situation,” Klentak said Tuesday afternoon. “You can blow a save in the seventh or the eighth or the ninth. Emotionally, it stings more when it happens in the ninth because you feel like you're right there. You're just about to win the game. But if you never get to the ninth inning with a lead in the first place, you never have a chance to win that game. So sometimes using your best relievers earlier in the game is what makes the most sense.”

By all indications, the Phillies are trying to come up with a dependable ninth-inning man from their current bullpen mix. That would allow Kapler to continue to use Dominguez as a wild card. Luis Garcia and Hector Neris got looks in the ninth. Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano will get some looks there. Pat Neshek might get an occasional call there when he returns. Down the road, others will get a look.

The NL East rival Washington Nationals went out and traded for a closer, Kelvin Herrera, on Monday. Klentak would not say whether he was in the mix for Herrera, but he did not rule out trading for bullpen help in the coming weeks — if the Phillies remain in the hunt.

“There's been a handful of [trade] conversations,” Klentak said. “I wouldn't say that the trade market has been hot at this point. Once you get through the draft, those conversations start. It's the proverbial feeling-out process, but I guess every once and a while that might lead to something.”

Before making a trade, Klentak will first try to fill bullpen holes from within. He mentioned that Neshek could be the biggest bullpen acquisition in the game once he’s ready (see story).

“First and foremost, we really do like and trust the group of relievers that we have,” he said. “I am well aware that to date we have not settled on a single closer. I think at some point we might. If organically it works and that's the way things shake out, I think we're open to that. If we had Brad Lidge on this team, he would close. If we had Billy Wagner on this team, he would close. If we had Jonathan Papelbon on this team, he would close. We don't have one of those guys. So we're making due with what we have, which is a pretty good group. Guys like Arano, Dominguez, Ramos — these guys are having, quietly or not-so-quietly, some really good years. Tommy Hunter is having, arguably, the best year of his career right now.

“That doesn't minimize the fact that we've had some really tough losses, some really deflating ninth-inning meltdowns. But the group itself is really talented and we're confident in it. I think at some point in the near future we're going to get Pat Neshek back, who while not a traditional closer, is probably as good a bullpen arm as a team is going to add in the next six weeks. We will see what's available in the trade market — which players are available, what the costs are. We will probably look at that in free agency as well. But we have to maintain the proper perspective on any potential acquisition.”

That perspective involves weighing where the Phillies are in the standings, how realistic their chances at making the postseason are and what the cost in prospects surrendered would be. Despite the improvements the Phillies have made this season, the front office is still in a building mode and it does not want to mortgage the future.

More on the Phillies

Scott Kingery, Aaron Nola spark early lead as Phillies hang on late

Scott Kingery, Aaron Nola spark early lead as Phillies hang on late

BOX SCORE

The Phillies rode an early long ball by Scott Kingery and the right arm of Aaron Nola to a more-difficult-than-it-should-have-been 5-4 win over the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.

The victory gave the Phillies back-to-back wins for the first time since May 16-17 at Baltimore. 

Nola and Colorado right-hander Jon Gray hooked up in a brisk pitchers' duel. They each struck out 10.

The Phillies didn’t do a whole lot of hitting — they were out-hit, 11-4 — but they got a big one in the first inning when Kingery smacked a three-run homer with two outs. Kingery had not homered since April 10. He hit a 1-2 fastball over the wall in left-center, making Gray pay for a pair of walks.

Kingery’s homer was one of just three hits that Gray gave up in six innings. However, he walked four, including two more in the third inning to set up Kingery’s fourth RBI of the game, a sacrifice fly to center field.

Jesmuel Valentin capped the Phillies' scoring with a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth. Ultimately, the run proved huge.

Nola was sensational. He gave up just four hits and no walks in matching his season-high strikeout total. He threw 108 pitches and got 15 swinging strikes, nine on his curveball.

Nola is now 8-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 starts (see story).

Nola left the game with two runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Edubray Ramos gave up a first-pitch base hit, scuttling the shutout bid.

Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless eighth. The Phils led 5-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth. All hell broke loose in the frame as the Rockies collected five straight hits against Luis Garcia and Seranthony Dominguez and scored three runs to make it a one-run game. Dominguez struck out dangerous Nolan Arenado for the final out with two men on base.

The Rockies (32-34) have lost nine of their last 11.

The Phillies are 34-30 and 21-11 at home.

Notes
• More proof that he is being phased out of the picture (see story), Maikel Franco did not start for the fifth straight game. J.P. Crawford got the start at third base.

• The Phillies wore their cream-colored uniforms and red and blue caps. That combination is usually reserved for day games. The Phillies wore that combo so they would line up with Rhys Hoskins, who needs to wear his blue and red batting helmet because it protects his broken jaw. Hoskins is awaiting a red helmet with jaw protection.

More on Phillies

• Phillies lay out plan for 1st-round pick Bohm

• Which of 4 pricey vets would Phils still sign today?

• Machado to Phillies could happen — eventually

Zach Eflin helps Phillies snap losing streak for 2nd straight start

Zach Eflin helps Phillies snap losing streak for 2nd straight start

BOX SCORE 

The Phillies received an excellent starting pitching performance, some good at-bats in key moments of the game and quality relief work in earning a much-needed 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon.

Zach Eflin turned in his second straight strong start with six innings of two-run ball. He gave up just three hits, a walk and struck out nine. The Phillies, outscored 24-7 by the Brewers in the first two games of the series, scratched out three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a two-run lead and manager Gabe Kapler didn’t mess around: He went to his best bullpen weapon, Seranthony Dominguez, in the top of the seventh. Dominguez allowed a run but got the six outs Kapler was looking for.

Things got hairy in the ninth after Luis Garcia allowed a pair of two-out hits but Tommy Hunter sealed the win by retiring Christian Yelich on a ground ball to second with runners on second and third.

The win snapped a four-game losing skid for the Phillies and was just their second victory in nine games. Eflin has earned both of those wins. He pitched 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball to beat the Cubs in Chicago on Tuesday night.

The Phillies were out-hit, 8-4, in the game. All four of their runs came home on something other than a base hit. Cesar Hernandez singled to open the bottom of the first, moved to third on an error and scored on a groundout by Rhys Hoskins.

The Phils scored three runs in the fifth inning on just one hit, a leadoff single by J.P. Crawford. They loaded the bases on an error and a fielder’s choice that did not produce an out. Crawford then drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game before Hoskins put the Phils ahead with a sacrifice fly to center field. Odubel Herrera pushed across an insurance run when he legged out a potential double-play ball. The run was an important contribution for Herrera, who is locked in a bad slump that has shrunk his batting average from an NL-best .361 entering play on May 18 to .288 after Sunday's 0 for 4.

Eflin threw 96 pitches and hit 96 mph on the radar gun. He got 11 swinging strikes. After the Phillies took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, he struck out the side for an important shutdown inning.

The Phillies head into Monday’s off day with a 33-30 record.