Miami Marlins

Winning record eludes Phillies, emotional Gabe Kapler on final day of season — will manager be back?

Winning record eludes Phillies, emotional Gabe Kapler on final day of season — will manager be back?

Updated: 8:26 p.m.

BOX SCORE

And so it ends.

With a whimper.

The Phillies’ hugely disappointing 2019 season ended in a 4-3 loss to the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon.

Before the game, Bryce Harper, whose signing in March fueled optimism and expectations not seen since the days of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, addressed the crowd of 31,805. He thanked the fans for their support, expressed his belief in the organization and the city and said, “We will reign again.” The Phillies then began to plug the final game of the season with a cast of relief pitchers. Two of them gave up three home runs before the game was three innings old. Brad Miller got the Phils on the board with a solo homer in the bottom of the third and added a two-run shot in the seventh.

But the Phils got no closer.

In a season where they came up dreadfully short, they came up short one last time when Andrew Knapp struck out with two men on base to end the game.

The Phillies’ ninth loss in the last 12 games and 16th this month denied them a winning record, which at the outset of the season seemed like the most minimal of expectations. They finished 81-81. They have not had a winning season since 2011.

Change seems to be a-brewin’ for this team. Pitching coach Chris Young is likely to be a casualty. Manager Gabe Kapler could also go. His future has been a huge topic of discussion among organization leaders for weeks and the team’s drop from wild-card contention and poor finish did not help his cause.

In two seasons on the job, Kapler is 161-163.

The Phillies were in first place in the NL East for a good period of time in both of Kapler’s seasons at the helm. The 2018 Phillies were 15 games over .500 and leading the NL East on Aug. 7. They collapsed and went 16-33 down the stretch to finish under .500.

The 2019 Phillies were 11 games over .500 and 3½ up in the division on May 30. Less than a month later, they were 6½ games back in the division.

The Phillies finished in fourth place in the NL East, not what anyone envisioned when the team acquired All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto in February and signed Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract a few weeks later.

“Obviously from a team standpoint, it was a disappointing year for us,” Realmuto said. “We had a lot of expectations and we didn't live up to them. We didn't play as well as we thought we could have. There was a lot of injuries that held us back, but we could have done more as a team to play a little bit better and stay in the hunt a little longer. But all in all, I loved this group of guys we played with this year. Everybody played really hard, fought through a lot of adversity. We stayed in the playoff hunt for a long time with not too much stuff going our way. So there is something to be said for that. But we just didn't get the job done.”

Through the final weeks of the season, as the team faded from contention and his job status became more of an issue, Kapler clenched his jaw and talked about scratching and clawing until the last out of the season.

When that last out came, he remained in the dugout and hugged every player. He received a handshake from owner John Middleton, the man who in the coming days will have final say on his future with the club. Later, in his postgame news conference, Kapler became emotional.

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more proud of a group of men like these guys,” he said. “We didn’t get the job done. But it wasn’t for lack of effort. And it wasn’t for lack of character and it wasn’t for lack of grit. I’m truly proud of every one of those guys. I could talk about each of them individually, but that would take a really long time.”

Kapler said the emotion had nothing to do with his uncertain job status.

“The emotion is being proud of our players,” he said. “As a manager, this year I was blessed with high character, high quality, players and men. What you’re seeing right now, emotionally, is me feeling the power of that.”

Kapler talks to general manager Matt Klentak every day. But as Sunday night’s postgame news conference broke up, Kapler had not yet been informed whether he would be back next year or let go with a year left on his contract.

“That's not something we've talked about,” he said. “It's definitely not a conversation I need to have right now in this room. It's a private conversation. My job is to focus on managing the Phillies even after Game 162 and I will do that to the best of my ability.”

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Fitting end to win No. 80 as Phillies outlast Marlins in 15

Fitting end to win No. 80 as Phillies outlast Marlins in 15

BOX SCORE

With nothing else to play for, the Phillies kept their hopes of a winning season alive when they rallied for a 5-4 win over the Miami Marlins in 15 innings on Friday night.

The Phils won it on a bases-loaded error by shortstop Miguel Rojas on a ground ball by Adam Haseley. Rojas was trying to start a double play at the plate, but lost the handle on the ball.

Both bullpens were excellent. Seven Phillies relievers combined on 11 walk-free scoreless innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the Phillies had done that since 1893, when the current mound distance from home plate was established.

The win snapped a six-game losing streak.

The victory gave the Phils an 80-80 record with two games to play. They must win them both to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011.

The game ended at 12:15 a.m.

Small ball

Manager Gabe Kapler loves to play for the big inning. That often results in his passing on a chance to move a runner with a sacrifice bunt and taking his chance on a hitter driving the ball in the gap without giving up an out.

Sean Rodriguez bunted after Cesar Hernandez led off the bottom of the fifth with a double. Bryce Harper quickly delivered Hernandez from third with the tying run.

After the game, Kapler said Rodriguez put down the sacrifice bunt on his own.

“He’s a baseball player,” Kapler said.

In the 15th, Andrew Knapp got down a sacrifice bunt after failing to do so two innings earlier.

Velasquez’ night

Vince Velasquez allowed seven hits and four runs over four innings in his final start of the season.

The enigmatic right-hander had another one of those seasons. He tantalized with his talent. He frustrated with his inconsistency.

Velasquez pitched 117 1/3 innings and had a 4.90 ERA. He more often than not struggled to get through the middle innings, but he racked up 130 strikeouts.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Velasquez this winter. As a second-year arbitration player, he won’t be overly expensive and he still has a tremendous arm so it’s likely he returns unless he is used in a trade. But Velasquez’ inconsistency makes it difficult to count on him in the rotation. His future still might still be in the bullpen. Either way, he will turn 28 in June. It’s way past time for him to put it together.

Excellent bullpen work

The Phillies’ bullpen came up huge with 11 scoreless innings, three each by Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez.

Irvin has quietly strung together a very nice month. In eight September appearances, he has given up just one run in 12 1/3 innings.

Kingery exits

Scott Kingery started at shortstop but left the game with blurry vision in the fifth inning. After the game, Kingery did not seem alarmed, but he said he might need to get his eyes checked. It was not immediately clear if he would play Saturday night.

Rodriguez finished at shortstop and made a contribution with his sacrifice bunt in the fifth.

Harper’s night

It was interesting. He tripled home a run in the first inning, doubled in the third and drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth. In between, he airmailed a cutoff man on a play that cost the Phillies a run in the third inning.

Harper is up to a career-high 111 RBIs. He has 71 extra-base hits.

Up next

Zach Eflin (9-13, 4.16) makes his final start of the season Saturday night. He will pitch against Miami lefty Caleb Smith (10-10, 4.31).

The Phillies will use a cast of relievers to get through Sunday’s season finale.

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Was that the Phillies’ worst loss ever to the Marlins?

Was that the Phillies’ worst loss ever to the Marlins?

A few things about Friday night’s loss, which was inarguably the Phillies’ worst of the season and maybe their worst loss ever to the Marlins.

What happened last night should never happen. The Marlins are a pitiful offense that entered Friday night ranked last in the majors in OPS and 29th in runs scored.

At home, in massive Marlins Park, Miami had been averaging 3.9 runs and 2.4 extra-base hits per game. Against the Phillies Friday night, the Marlins scored 19 and had seven extra-base hits.

Ignominious records

The Marlins came into existence in 1993. Never in those 27 years had the Phillies given up 19 runs to Miami. The 19 hits were also the most the Phillies have ever allowed to the Marlins.

The meltdown

Last night was the first game in recorded Phillies history that they led by at least seven runs and lost by at least seven.

Considering the Marlins had scored more than seven runs only 10 times in their previous 126 games, it had to feel in the moment like a slam-dunk win. And yet ...

The 8-run deficit

These teams have met 449 times. The Phillies have suffered a loss by more than eight runs just eight times. In other words, it’s happened once every 56 meetings.

The big picture

The Phillies are fighting for their playoff lives. The Marlins are 46-81 and on pace to lose 103 games.

The Phillies had just come off an improbable two-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway. The next two opponents after that are the two worst teams in the NL: Miami and Pittsburgh. If ever the opportunity for that elusive five-game win streak existed, it was now. Now, the Phillies will need to win the next two in Miami and sweep the Pirates to achieve that.

Consider also that the teams the Phillies are chasing continue to win.

The Nationals have won 8 of 10, scored 81 runs in their last seven games and have separated themselves from the wild-card pack. The Phillies trail the Nats by 4.5 games.

The Mets lost in extra innings to the Braves Friday night but had won five in a row before that. They’re 21-5 since July 25.

The Cardinals have won 7 of 10 to move a half-game ahead of the Cubs for the NL Central lead. For the Phillies to make the playoffs, they’ll need to catapult both the Mets and whichever NL Central team does not win the division.

The Phillies just aren’t as good as the teams they’re chasing. Here are the playoff odds per team, according to Fangraphs as of today. These take into account each team’s remaining schedule and projected performance.

Nationals: 93%

Cubs: 76%

Cardinals: 57%

Mets: 46%

Brewers: 17%

Phillies: 8%

The Marlins are 11-36 against the Braves, Nationals and Mets. Over a full season, that is a 38-124 pace.

And yet the Marlins are 8-6 against the Phillies. They have outscored the Phillies by one run and been outscored by 149 runs when facing anyone else.

Simply unacceptable. Friday counted as one loss by definition but looked and felt much worse than that in the bigger picture.

We all said entering the season that success against the Marlins could determine the NL East. Well, everyone but the Phillies has done what they’re supposed to do against this lowly Miami team. If/when the Phillies miss the playoffs, their 2019 performance against Miami will be one of the main storylines we remember from this frustrating season.

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