The Phillies Week in Review, everything you need to know about the week that was in the Philadelphia Phillies 2018 season.
Phillies 2018 – Week 2 (4/2-4/8)
The Gabe Kapler Era of Phillies baseball didn’t get off to the best start imaginable. His pitching was inconsistent, his offense was not productive and his decisions had confused and enraged a large portion of the fanbase. There would be no safe quarter awaiting him in New York City, where his team had experienced very little success over the last three years. If the struggles continued, Kapler could be facing a reception as cold as the forecasted weather for Thursday’s home opener.
All the scouting reports in the world cannot prepare you for an April 2 snowstorm. Monday’s series opener was postponed until July 9 when it will be part of a double-header.
As if the Phillies’ bats weren’t quiet enough, they had to face hard-throwing righthander Matt Harvey. It was 40 degrees and the wind was blowing in from centerfield. Harvey confounded the visitors for five innings. To his credit, Phils starter Ben Lively matched him into the sixth inning. Lively began the 6th by plunking slugger Yoenis Cespedes (not necessarily the worst way of dealing with him). Two hitters later, Todd Frazier lined a double into the leftcenterfield gap that scored Cespedes. Travis d’Arnaud then singled in Frazier and Lively’s night was over. The Phillies put two men on base against closer Jeurys Familia in the ninth, but couldn’t manage the big hit they needed. Mets, 2 – Phillies, 0
Thanks to a quirk in the schedule that had the Flyers and 76ers both playing and being televised on Tuesday night, the good folks at NBCSports Philly took the opportunity to exclusively stream a Phillies game on their mobile app. Not everyone was thrilled by the ‘historic’ broadcast. The broadcast for Wednesday’s game would not make them any happier.
Welcome to the new world, friends. You have had twelve years or so to sign up for Facebook. So, when Mr. Zuckerberg and friends dumped a truckload of cash on the MLB and asked for one game a week they could stream exclusively on their platform and the decision makers agreed, it should not have left you in the lurch. Alas, the first game awarded to them was Wednesday’s tilt. Would it be wrong to say you didn’t miss much? The screen graphics were a nightmare of comments and floating thumbs up and hearts as they tried to reinvent the wheel … and the game itself?
Aaron Nola vs. Noah Syndergaard seemed like a worthwhile matchup. In the bottom of the first, Nola thought he had struck out leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo, he didn’t get the call. It appeared to throw him off his game. He missed his spot on a 2-2 pitch to Cespedes and the big Cuban crushed it for a two-run tater down the leftfield line. It would take 32 pitches to get through the first, at least no further damage was done. In the top of the third, a Carlos Santana double set up the visitors with runners at second and third with one out. Nick Williams grounded out, scoring Cesar Hernandez. Rhys Hoskins drew a walk, then he broke for second on an 0-1 pitch. Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki threw to second, prompting Hoskins to start a rundown that allowed Santana to break for home and tie the game. With two outs in the Mets half of the 6th and runners on first and third, coach Gabe Kapler moved rightfielder Nick Williams in … really in … seriously in … we’re talking a very shallow rightfield. They must’ve believed that light-hitting Mets shortstop Amed Rosario wasn’t capable of driving the ball to the opposite field. Naturally, Rosario smoked the first pitch he saw over Williams’ head for a two-run triple. Once again, talk radio phone lines were flooded with fans raging against Kapler as the Phils dropped their third game in a row. Mets, 4 – Phillies, 2
The question on everyone’s mind Thursday morning was, ‘Has a first year manger ever been booed at a home opener?’ We would soon know for sure that the answer was a profound ‘Yes’. Kapler was greeted with a chorus of boos that was fueled by the series of curious moves, all of which seemed to backfire during the season opening road trip.
Once the pomp and circumstance played out, Nick Pivetta took to the hill to face what was left of the Marlins. The 25-year-old righty from Victoria, BC, Canada was staked to a 2-0 lead in the first inning by a Maikel Franco single. An Odubel Herrera single in the 3rd tacked on an additional run. Pivetta made that lead stand up by striking out nine Marlins hitters in 5-2/3 innings. Even though he had thrown 97 pitches, the home crowd saw flashbacks to last week’s debacle in Atlanta and fired up the Boo Machine when Kapler went to the pen. This time the first-year coach was rewarded by his decision. Adam Morgan whiffed masher Justin Bour to end the sixth inning. Franco smoked a two-run dinger in the 7th and the pen closed down the team’s first shutout of the season. Phillies, 5 – Marlins, 0
When asked about the booing after the game, Kapler deflected the question and refused to pound his chest over the big win. He did state clearly that he would ‘work his ass off’ for these fans. Of course, they weren’t booing his work ethic. That has never been in question.
Enjoy, if you will, the irony of the scheduled weather day being the nicest day of the week. There was some stormy weather to deal with in the form of an anonymous player being quoted as saying, ‘We’ll be ok … we just need the manager to get out of the way’. Then, Williams responded to a question about his limited playing time with a rap against his skipper’s analytical approach, ‘I guess the computers are making (the lineup) … I don’t get any of it. But, what can I do? ’. A slow start is one thing. But, starting to lose the room before your taxes are due? That’s trouble.
Vince Velasquez had the opportunity to wash the bad taste of his first start out of his mouth. Worthy of note, this would be the 173rd consecutive game that the Phils gave the ball to a righthanded starter, the longest such streak in team history.
Miami jumped out to a 1-0 lead when, with Derek Dietrich on second base, catcher Jorge Alfaro picked up a wild pitch and fired an ill-advised throw over the head of third baseman Franco, allowing Dietrich to score. Facing lefty Dillon Peters, who had been nearly unhittable against the Phils last season, the first four Phillies hitters all reached base safely, tying the game when cleanup hitter Rhys Hoskins walked in Hernandez. Two hitters later, Franco’s suddenly smoking hot bat struck again, rifling the 8th pitch of a solid at-bat into the stands in left for a slam that one might describe as grand. Staked with a comfortable 5-1 lead, Velasquez allowed consecutive singles to open the 2nd inning. A light seemed to switch on after that. Vinny from Philly mowed down 15 of the next 16 Florida hitters, looking like a relaxed and effective frontrunner. The offense was happy to oblige. Aaron Altherr matched Franco’s feat in the bottom of the third with a salami of his own. Twelve Phillies came to the plate in an 8-run 4th inning, highlighted by Santana’s 1000th career hit, a towering three-run bomb. From there, the home team coasted in for a comfortable blowout where the other guys sent a position player to the mound for once. Phillies, 20 – Marlins, 1
A few things about that crazy game … that position player who pitched for the Fish, catcher Bryan Holaday, struck out Hoskins … eleven different Phillies had a hit and a run scored, which hadn’t happened since June, 1985 (the Von Hayes game, look it up, kids!) … technically, this was a come from behind win … even stranger, Jake Thompson entered the game in the top of the seventh to protect a 19-1 lead. He got the final nine outs and was awarded the save, the first of his career. He was immediately optioned back to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Still, nothing like getting the save in a 20-1 boat race, huh?
Phillies Nation had brooms in hand as prize free agent Jake Arrieta made his Phillies debut. As a visitor to Citizens Bank Park, Arrieta was 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA. Impressive statistics aside, his first start in the home pinstripes would come with a pitch count of roughly 70-80 due to his late arrival this spring. Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas greeted the bearded righthander with a one-out solo homerun. The Marlins then loaded the bases with two outs. Arrieta was a strike away from escaping further trouble when rookie Braxton Lee sliced a lob wedge down the leftfield line on an 0-2 pitch, plating two and making the score 3-0. It would take him 31 pitches to get through the first. But, his new mates got two back in the bottom half, then tied it at 3-3 in the 3rd on an RBI double by Hoskins. Meanwhile, Arrieta was finding his groove. He was at 64 pitches after three innings and reportedly assured the coaches that he would get through the fourth in 10 pitches or less … he did. In the 8th inning, with the game in the hands of the bullpens, Luis Garcia plunked the leadoff hitter and walked the next guy. Adam Morgan inherited his mess and promptly turned it into a 6-3 lead for the visitors. As is too often the case after an offensive explosion like Saturday night, the Phillies bats had fallen silent. Phillies Nation quietly put their brooms away. Marlins, 6 – Phillies, 3
There’s nothing like home cookin’ to get you back on track. Since last year’s All-Star Break, the Phils are 25-18 at CBP. Not exactly the ’87 Twins at the Homer Dome. But, every day spent on the right side of .500 is a good day. They weren’t perfect against a glorified minor league team in the Marlins. But, they took a series off of a team they should beat and that is a solid step in the right direction.
It probably wouldn’t kill them to develop or acquire a lefthanded starting pitcher at some point. It wasn’t too long ago that they had five (count ‘em) five lefty starters in the same season (2009 – Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, J.A. Happ, Cliff Lee and Antonio Bastardo).
One stat that continues to manifest itself with this team is their league best Pitches Seen Per At-Bat (4.34/AB). If nothing else, opposing pitchers on early season pitch counts are exiting games and putting pressure on their bullpens. So far, that has served as both a blessing and a curse. Eventually, it is believed that their collective patience at the dish will translate into offense. As of now, Santana (.172), Williams (.188), catcher Andrew Knapp (.200), J.P. Crawford (.043) and Altherr (.083) are all waiting for that worm to turn.
Looking Ahead –
Another very beatable team, the Cincinnati Reds come a-calling for a set of three night games that will be played in an early spring chill, forecasts are for temps in the mid-40’s. The Reds still offer the challenge of Billy Hamilton’s speed, Scooter Gennett’s peskiness, Joey Votto’s clutch hitting and Adam Duvall’s power. So, nothing is guaranteed. After that, it’s back to sunny Florida and the abomination that is Inter-League baseball as the 2008 World Series is reprised in Tampa Bay with an entirely new cast. The Rays have dropped eight in-a-row since an Opening Day win over the Boston Red Sox. You have to respect the possibility that a wounded animal awaits them on the Gulf Coast.
Maik Check of the Week –
Third baseman Maikel Franco finished the season-opening road trip hitting .091 with only one run batted in. In three days at the Bank, Franco went 6-for-12 with 10 RBI. He now sits among the NL RBI leaders with 11 and boasts a .304 average. That’s the thing about streaky hitters. They are really fun to watch when they are raking.
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Platinum Sombrero of the Week –
When New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter purchased the Miami Marlins and immediately sent their hulking slugger Giancarlo Stanton to The Bronx, most baseball fans smelled something fishy (pun may have been intended). But, Yankees fans were beside themselves with anticipation. On Opening Day in Toronto, he blasted the second pitch he saw as a Yankee to the farthest reaches of the building formerly known as Skydome. On Tuesday night, the crowd at Yankee Stadium greeted their new hero with uproarious cheers. He went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. Though the Yanks were winning handily, Stanton heard his first boos from the fickle New York fans as he walked back to the dugout. Alas, all was forgiven the following day when Stanton popped one in the 1st inning that went 480+ feet into the welcoming arms of his once more adoring fans.