Sorry. It’s my fault.
I wrote the following after Maikel Franco’s solo home run put the Phillies ahead 4-1 in the eighth inning this afternoon:
The Phillies entered today’s series finale against the Nationals with an underwhelming 7-12 record against NL East opponents, having lost five of their first six series against division foes. That was, of course, before Jake Arrieta pitched an efficient and effective six innings, while the offense waited out a dominant Max Scherzer to piece together three seventh inning runs against Washington’s bullpen on the way to locking up an impressive victory and series win. Suddenly, the Phillies have moved back into a tie for first-place with Atlanta after the Braves’ 4-3 loss to the Giants earlier today. Let’s. Go.
I should have known better.
I wrote that, of course, before Luis Garcia walked someone named Moises Sierra in the eighth to kickstart the Gabe Kapler Bullpen Matchup Extravaganza. Before Tommy Hunter allowed a two-run, two-out single to Anthony Rendon in that same inning. And before Hector Neris strolled to the mound in the ninth inning and slowly leaked a 19 pitch, no-out, one hit batter, two-walk, two-hit, and two-run turd of a performance from his rectum directly onto the mound of Nationals Park. It was a true shit show indeed.
While they could have locked down what would have undoubtedly been their best win to date and provided fans some temporary relief from the angst caused by the Sixers’ inbound plays, unused timeouts and premature confetti ejaculations, they instead ensured the weekend would end with a true “Philly Sports 2015” feel. Vintage.
Although they still remain only one game back of the Braves, the Phillies have now lost six of seven series to division opponents and have lost four-straight series since a promising (and perhaps misleading) 14-7 start. It appears they are unaware that taking care of business within the division is also an option available to them, and now, good vibes over Arrieta’s impressive start and Nick Williams’ gritty game-tying pinch-hit RBI single will be replaced by questions. Many questions. For instance:
Why didn’t Kapler bunt with Aaron Altherr after Odubel Herrera began the sixth with a double?
With the offense sputtering and Altherr having already struck out twice, it was a prime opportunity to give the next batter, Carlos Santana, a chance to tie the game with a sacrifice fly. Instead, Altherr walked, thus changing the dynamics of the at-bat for Santana, who eventually struck out before Maikel Franco grounded into an inning-ending double play. I know, I’m using the benefit of hindsight, but it was a questionable decision at the time, and if the Phillies push across a run in the sixth, there’s no way Kapler removes Arrieta when he did.
Speaking of Arrieta…
Should Kapler have lifted him when he came to the plate in the seventh with one out after only 75 pitches? He was cruising through the Washington lineup and it’s not like they were down three runs. Given the Phillies’ consistent inability to generate offense, I get it, but the decision was, at the least, debatable.
What about once Kapler got into the bullpen? What if instead of playing matchups and burning through all of his top relief options in the seventh and eighth innings, he left a better arm behind Neris that he could have summoned once it became apparent that his closer didn’t have anything?
Let’s see, what else?
That was some at-bat by Williams, huh? Say, is there any reason he wasn’t starting today? Sure, Altherr has been better lately, but Scherzer is dominant against right-handed hitters. Altherr also entered today’s game hitless in his career against Scherzer. Would it not have made sense to give Williams, a player who hasn’t gotten consistent at-bats this season, a second-consecutive start and a chance to get on track?
Is it possible that Williams isn’t a good baseball player? Sure. Is Altherr better than Williams? Maybe. Do we know the answers to either of these questions with any degree of certainty? Absolutely not. That Williams continues to sit, often in favor of Altherr, who is hitting .205 this season, is baffling.
And what about those Kapler shifts? Would this ball off the bat of Wilmer Difo been deep enough to score the winning run on a sac fly?
Forget the bullpen implosion.
What a shift! Stay hot, Gabe! pic.twitter.com/91Dk5oq8kd
— BWanksCB (@BWCrossingBroad) May 6, 2018
Maybe. But it’s worth noting that heading into this weekend the Phillies had the fewest hits saved by shifting this season, and it wasn’t even close:
Most Net Hits Saved From Shifting
— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) May 2, 2018
See how this works? Lots of questions.
To be fair, the big picture doesn’t look so bleak despite this afternoon’s infuriating setback. Still, it was both a dismal and preventable loss that was rife with questionable decisions and poor execution. Now, the Phillies have to bounce back and make sure that what would have been their best win to date does not become a crippling loss.