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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Phillies match a ghastly team record as Nationals complete 5-game sweep

Phillies match a ghastly team record as Nationals complete 5-game sweep

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Phillies, through Wednesday of this week, were the only team in the majors to be over .500 all season. 

Then Wednesday happened.

Then Thursday happened.

With a 6-3 loss in the series finale, the Phillies fell a game under .500 at 79-80. They must sweep the Miami Marlins at home this weekend to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011. But 82-80 will be little solace for fans clamoring for playoff baseball.

The Phils were totally overmatched this week in the nation's capital. The Nats swept the five-game series to finish 14-5 against the Phillies. It matches the Phils' worst record ever against the Nationals/Expos franchise in the 50 years of its existence.

Can't beat the aces

The Phillies lost to Patrick Corbin on Monday, Max Scherzer on Tuesday and Stephen Strasburg on Thursday. Altogether, they went 1-9 when facing Washington's three aces this season.

Wretched fifth inning

The Nationals scored three runs in the fifth inning on one hit. How? Jason Vargas loaded the bases, issuing two walks. He was lifted for Edgar Garcia, who walked in a run, allowed a second run to score on a wild pitch and a third run on a passed ball. The Phillies walked four in the inning, which put the game out of reach.

Segura exits

Jean Segura left the game in the fifth inning with a sprained right ankle. The Phillies may sit him this weekend. Segura has been dealing with nagging lower-body injuries for much of the season.

No Nola on Sunday

Aaron Nola's season is over. Gabe Kapler announced Thursday that Nola, who is tied with Justin Verlander for the most starts in the majors (67) since 2018, is done for the season (see story).

Makes sense. The Phillies have little to play for and Nola has carried an enormous workload the last two seasons, exceeding 200 innings both years.

One series left

Bring on the Marlins. The Phillies are 7-9 this season against Miami. Even the worst team in the league has a chance against you every night when you have one reliable starting pitcher.

Vince Velasquez (7-8, 4.76) pitches Game 1. Feels like it will be his final start as a Phillie.

Zach Eflin (9-13, 4.16) pitches Game 2.

Sunday's starter is TBD. The Phillies could use Cole Irvin or Ranger Suarez in a bullpen game.

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Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

Self-destructive Phillies suffer embarrassing loss to Indians on national TV

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND — The Phillies began the final week of their season with an embarrassing 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians in a nationally televised game on Sunday night.

A series of self-inflicted wounds hurt the Phillies in the fifth inning and the Indians delivered a knockout blow with six runs in the seventh.

The Indians scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning — all on a home run by Oscar Mercado — to take control of the game.

Mercado’s homer came on an 0-2 pitch from Vince Velasquez with two outs in the inning. The frame began with two Indians reaching base on a pair of Phillies errors, one by Jean Segura, one by Velasquez.

The Phillies made three errors in the game. They have had multi-error games in three of the six games on this trip.

The loss dropped the Phillies to 79-75. They need three wins in their final eight games to have their first winning season since 2011.

The Phillies’ microscopic postseason hopes could be extinguished as soon as Tuesday. Their elimination number is two (see story).

The 92-win Indians are tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot.

A big problem

Phillies pitchers have allowed a club record 244 homers this season. That’s the second most in the NL. The old team record was 221.

Velasquez was one strike away from getting out of the fifth inning. Catcher J.T. Realmuto called for a fastball up in the zone but Velasquez did not get it up high enough and Mercado crushed it into the left-field seats for three runs and a Cleveland lead.

Phillies pitchers have been careless executing 0-2 pitches this season. They have allowed 16 homers in that count, the most in the majors.

Inspiring performance

Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who missed part of this season undergoing treatment for leukemia, came on in the top of the fifth and rolled a big double-play ball. He then put up a shutdown inning in the sixth and finished with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Carrasco was originally Phillies property. He was dealt to Cleveland in the package for Cliff Lee a decade ago. He led the American League with 18 wins in 2017.

The offense

The Phillies had just five hits. Scott Kingery had a pair of doubles. He entered the game hitting .159 (11 for 70) in September.

And another one

Realmuto threw out another runner trying to steal second base. It was his 38th of the season, most in the majors. He also doubled home the Phillies’ only run to give the club a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

Up next

The Phillies move on to Washington for a five-game series against the Nationals beginning Monday night. Zach Eflin (9-12, 4.00) will pitch the opener against Washington lefty Patrick Corbin (13-7, 3.10).

The teams will play a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Neither team has named a starter for the first game. Aaron Nola (12-6, 3.75) is scheduled to face Max Scherzer (10-7, 2.81) in the nightcap.

On Wednesday night, the Phils will send Drew Smyly (4-7, 6.44) to the mound against right-hander Anibal Sanchez (10-8, 3.91).

Lefty Jason Vargas (7-8, 4.40) will pitch Thursday afternoon against right-hander Stephen Strasburg (17-6, 3.37).

The Nationals are bidding to win the NL wild card.

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