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Even irrepressible Gabe Kapler seems a little down after Phillies’ 24th loss in 37 games

Even irrepressible Gabe Kapler seems a little down after Phillies’ 24th loss in 37 games

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It feels like the Phillies’ postseason chances have been dead for a while, but in reality, the team is still mathematically alive. That’s why Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Miami Marlins hurt so badly. The Phils squandered a chance to shave a game off the Atlanta Braves’ lead in the NL East. The Phillies have 14 games left — seven against Atlanta — but they trail the Braves by 6½ games.

Dejected skipper

Manager Gabe Kapler, usually talkative and full of energy after a game, seemed a little down after this one. Maybe that’s to be expected. His team was in first place, 1½ game up on Atlanta, after a win Aug. 5. Sunday’s loss was the Phils’ 24th in 37 games since then and Kapler didn’t seem pleased with the way his team played. 

“There were certainly some things we could have done better today,” he said.

He would not expound.

It’s possible that one of the things Kapler did not like was the inability to turn a double 1-6-3 double play in the fourth inning. That could have prevented Nick Pivetta from facing Peter O’Brien with two outs and a man on base. O’Brien homered to give the Marlins a 2-1 lead that they never relinquished.

Pivetta made a good throw on the play to shortstop J.P. Crawford but there was confusion at the bag because second baseman Cesar Hernandez also converged on the throw from Pivetta. Crawford’s relay to first sailed over the head of Carlos Santana.

Why the swoon?

GM Matt Klentak added several veterans, most notably Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos and Justin Bour, around the trade deadline and the Phillies collapsed soon after. The need for the offensive upgrade was indisputable, but the additions seemed to do something to change the team’s chemistry. The chemistry is not necessarily bad, but it’s different.

“That’s a very valid question,” Klentak said when the topic was raised before Sunday’s game.

He and his staff had pondered the chemistry question — among others — over the last three weeks.

“The best answer I can give you is whatever it is that caused us to go into a team-wide slump in August is not limited to one factor,” he said. “It’s not one thing. And if it was, we would have hopefully identified it and made that adjustment.”

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Seven of his first nine outs came on strikeouts. He gave up three runs in five innings and was replaced for a pinch-hitter. Kapler said the decision was based on the need for offense and confidence in the bullpen.

“I’m just going out there and trying to go as deep as I can into the game and when the manager says you’re done, you’re done,” Pivetta said. “I can only control what I’m doing in the game. When I get pulled, that’s the manager’s decision and that’s up to him.”

Late surge not enough

The Phillies trailed 6-2 before rallying for a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. They were just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Rhys Hoskins struck out looking with two men on base to end the seventh then struck out swinging with a runner on second to end the game.

The Phils had just five hits in the first 8 2/3 innings. 

Up next

The Phillies have three with the Mets. They are 6-10 against the Mets this season.

The Braves host wild-card contender St. Louis for three before the Phils arrive for four Thursday.

Will that series mean anything?

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Phillies revert back to their losing ways in series finale vs. Marlins

Phillies revert back to their losing ways in series finale vs. Marlins

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The Phillies slipped back into their losing ways Sunday afternoon. They could not hold an early lead and suffered a 6-4 defeat to the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

Where they stand

The Phillies are 76-72.

They entered the day trailing first-place Atlanta by 6 ½ games in the NL East. Atlanta was in action at Washington.

The Phillies have 14 games to play, half of them against the Braves.

But first, the Phils must play their next three games are against the New York Mets at home.

The Phils are just 6-10 on the season against the Mets. The Phillies will face Zach Wheeler, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, respectively, in the three-game series. The Phils, who have no margin for error, will counter with Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin.

Things were looking good...

For a while, at least, on Sunday afternoon.

Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta looked to have exceptional stuff early in the game against the Marlins. Seven of his first nine outs came via strikeouts.

Pivetta too a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning, thanks to a solo homer by Cesar Hernandez in the first inning.

In the fourth, Pivetta allowed two hits, one of which was a two-run homer to Peter O’Brien with two outs. Pivetta might have gotten out of the inning unscathed if shortstop J.P. Crawford had been able to turn a double play, but his throw was off the mark.

Pivetta exited for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.

More than a few boos

Reliever Luis Garcia gave up four hits and three runs in the sixth inning. He threw a wild pitch that resulted in a run. There was some rather loud booing after that. Can’t blame the fans. The Phillies were in first place, 1 ½ game up after a win on August 5. Since then, they are 13-24.

Not enough offense

The Phillies scored just three runs after Hernandez’s leadoff homer in the first and one was a gift after a Marlins' error in the ninth.

They were down, 6-2, with two outs in the seventh inning and runners on second and third. They had the guy they wanted at the plate in Rhys Hoskins, but he took a called third strike from Kyle Barraclough to end the inning.

Hoskins had another big chance with two outs in the ninth and the Phils down by two. He struck out with a man on second to end the game.

A stat that hurt

The Phillies were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position in the first 8 2/3 innings.

That hurt.

They had just five hits through the first 8 2/3 innings.

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Stick a fork in 'em: Phillies' doubleheader ends in catastrophe

Stick a fork in 'em: Phillies' doubleheader ends in catastrophe

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This felt like the end.

The Phillies, up three in the ninth inning Tuesday night, blew a three-run lead and lost in extras, 7-6 to the Nationals. The Phils' five-run fifth inning — their biggest inning in nearly two months — was wasted.

Earlier in the day, they were shut down by a pitcher with a 7.08 career ERA.

The Phillies were swept in Tuesday's doubleheader and ended their night a season-worst 6½ games back in the NL East after the Braves recorded a 4-1 win.

"Look, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, we are not playing good baseball right now," Gabe Kapler said. "It is our job to stay the course, to stay unemotional, to not panic, specifically my job."

In one day, the Phillies lost another series. It will be 34 straight games without a series win for a team that is now just four games over .500 at 74-70. Will they even finish with a winning record?

"As long as we are still in the race, as long as we still have games left with Atlanta, and as long as we can mathematically catch them, I will believe in this club," Kapler said. "That will not waver."

Aaron Nola (16-4, 2.29) opposes Stephen Strasburg (7-7, 4.04) in Wednesday night's series finale. 

Dominguez implodes

Seranthony Dominguez looked great in the eighth inning but couldn't protect a three-run lead in the ninth. After allowing two runs and loading the bases, Dominguez was pulled for Luis Garcia. 

Garcia promptly walked Trea Turner with the bases loaded to tie the game.

In the 10th, Yacksel Rios was taken deep by Juan Soto, who also homered and doubled earlier off Jake Arrieta.

“Urgency is kind of a ridiculous thing to say, honestly," Arrieta said. "Urgency, it’s accountability and responsibility. Take care of your end of the bargain, pick up your teammates. We've needed to be urgent for a long time and that just means win ballgames. We haven't done that."

2-3 punch

Rhys Hoskins and Wilson Ramos made it a tough night on Tanner Roark. Hoskins doubled twice against him and Ramos singled twice, driving in two runs. Both ended up with three-hit games.

For Hoskins, they were doubles No. 31 and 32. He is one of only five players in the National League with at least 30 doubles and 30 homers. The others are Paul Goldschmidt, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Matt Carpenter.

As for Ramos, the guy has done nothing but hit when healthy for the Phils. In 18 games, he's batted .404 with a 1.060 OPS, nine extra-base hits and 13 RBI.

The Phils should absolutely make a push to re-sign Ramos, even if it might cost something like $45 million over three years. You can count on one hand the number of difference-making offensive catchers. He's one of them.

Earlier in the day ...

The Phillies lost 3-1 in Game 1. They mustered nothing against Erick Fedde, who entered with a 7.08 ERA in 10 career starts.

Here's a look at how often this season the Phillies have been shut down by a mediocre young pitcher (see story).

Scary moment

Attempting to catch a ball in foul territory to start the eighth inning, Maikel Franco fell upside-down into the Nationals' dugout near the camera well (see video). After a delay of about 90 seconds, Franco hobbled off the field and was replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera.

Franco, who couldn't really remember what happened, has a shoulder contusion and neck tightness. He told Kapler in the clubhouse that he'll be fine, but it's a virtual certainty that Franco will sit Wednesday with the off-day Thursday.

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