The Phillies let an eminently winnable game get away from them this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park in a 4-3 loss to the Reds. A quiet offense that produced only five hits, Aaron Nola, and a leaky bullpen all shared the blame as the Phillies failed to earn a series sweep. It was a bizarre game, one with lots to talk about, so let’s get into it with some observations.
Another Weird Start For Nola
Disappointing? Underwhelming? Fine? I don’t quite know how to best describe Aaron Nola’s day. He held the Reds to only one run through six innings, but ran into trouble in the seventh. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Nola allowed a single and a four-pitch walk before being pulled by Gabe Kapler after 104 pitches with a 3-1 lead. If we’re looking for someone to blame for what happened next, I guess Kapler is a candidate because he didn’t trust his best starter in the game’s most important moment, but I’ll defend the manager here. Nola has been far from a sure thing in 2019, and he looked flat in the seventh. Plus, Jose Alvarez had been awesome lately, allowing opposing batters to hit only .186 while pitching to a 0.75 ERA since May 9. He got a weak grounder off the bat of Nick Senzel that turned into an infield single and allowed a weakly hit floater that fell for a hit after that. It didn’t work out. Shit happens.
If we’re assigning blame, I’m more inclined to put it on Nola. I know it’s not his fault that Alvarez coughed up two hits or that Vince Velasquez allowed a go-ahead pissrod RBI single to Eugenio Suarez, but with a series sweep in reach, I would like to see the staff ace shut the door on that inning and not even give Kapler a decision to make. Instead, he walked Josh VanMeter, a guy hitting .226, on four pitches. Maybe I’m being a bit hard on Nola, but I expect more from him, and he still hasn’t recaptured his 2018 form 14 starts into this season.
Do The Hustle
Everybody knows that if you want to make it in Philadelphia, you’ve gotta hustle. You know, play with grit, heart, and determination. Just ask Angelo Cataldi, the self-proclaimed voice of the fan, who spent most of the past week raising hell over Jean Segura’s failure to do a burpee and a hard 90 to first base after falling in the batter’s box last Monday. That display of disrespect to the game, nay, to the game and its fans, according to Cataldi, was directly responsible for Andrew McCutchen’s ACL injury.
It finally seemed like we were ready to move on from such an inane debate, but then Rhys Hoskins stepped to the plate in the third inning and did something that will undoubtedly give Cataldi another week of running back the same nonsense. Hoskins hit what appeared to be an inning-ending pop out before the wind took it, resulting in a 2-1 Phillies lead.
A few things about this play:
- Hoskins didn’t bust it down the line. Then again, everybody in the stadium thought it was going to be foul off the bat.
- Bryce Harper, who made a terrific charge at the plate to score the second run, had to do so only because he didn’t run hard on contact. He admitted after the game that he got caught looking at the play.
- Guarantee you Gabe Kapler immediately thought of Cataldi after this play and muttered to himself, “Jesus Christ. Here we go again.“
I just can’t bring myself to get that fired up when over a 162-game season these guys don’t go balls out on every single play, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who will be. I’m also sure Angelo will double down on his faux outrage and call for a Hoskins benching tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for that riveting soliloquy.
As for Hoskins, the expected batting average on a ball hit that distance, at that speed and angle is .010. Seriously, .010, and he got a hit and 2 RBI out of it. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.
Bryce’s Base Running
Harper had an adventure on the basepaths in this one. As noted above, he came around third base slowly before busting his ass to the plate to beat the throw on Hoskins’ two-run single:
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) June 9, 2019
In the fifth inning, he didn’t hesitate to grab second base on Yasiel Puig’s throw to the plate. It was a textbook burst out of the box and turn around the first base bag. After a Jean Segura sac fly scored Cesar Hernandez and moved Harper to third, he then tried to steal home on Reds starter Sonny Gray. Curt Casali got the tag down this time and Hoskins missed out on an RBI opportunity.
Bryce Harper tried to steal home on the right-handed Sonny Gray.
It didn't work out well for Harper.pic.twitter.com/Lw0oFMC1UU
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 9, 2019
As it turns out, the Phillies could have used that run, and it was no doubt an ill-advised attempt given there were two strikes and Hoskins could’ve essentially killed Harper had he put the ball in play.
Here’s what Kapler said about the steal attempt after the game:
I spoke to Bryce about that. So, he has been very aggressive on the bases, as you guys have seen. He’s won some games for us with his aggressive base running, and he and I spoke about it. He understands that was a little overaggressive.
Keep in mind Hoskins entered play Sunday hitting only .216 since May 8 and didn’t exactly have good swings today. Dumb? Yeah, but I won’t completely kill him for it. Harper is going to make some questionable decisions, and he’s going to be overly aggressive at times, but I view that as a net positive and something that will more often than not give his team a jolt. It just didn’t work here.
It’s Better to Be Lucky Than Good Part 2
Just like the Phillies caught a break in the third, the Reds scratched across a run in the second thanks to some luck. With Derek Dietrich breaking for second base on a hit and run, Jose Iglesias hit a pop up with a 50.1 mph exit velocity to second base. Hernandez vacated his position to cover the second base bag, and the ball fell to the ground, allowing Dietrich to reach third with one out. It was only the ninth MLB hit this season in which a ball was batted in the air with a less than a 51 mph exit velocity. Jose Peraza would follow with a swinging bunt ground ball that had a sizzling 51.8 mph exit velocity to score Dietrich. What a weird sequence.
Cesar Hernandez Doing it Up Top
The Phillies are going to miss Andrew McCutchen in the leadoff spot, but it was a nice little Sunday afternoon for Cesar Hernandez. Two walks, two runs scored and a stolen base. Interestingly, those two walks were his first of the season in the leadoff spot. I had some concern about moving Hernandez out of the No. 6 spot where he’s hitting .307 with a .926 OPS this season, but he’s done a nice job up top. In 27 PAs, he’s posting an .833 OPS.