Charlie Manuel did not see his shadow Wednesday night, declared an end to summer, and turned the calendar to hittin’ season. The Phillies scored 11 runs, homered three times, and roughed up Cole Hamels with Manuel in the dugout for the first time in six years.
The Phillies, with Manuel as their hitting coach, looked like the team they thought they were when they left spring training. If Manuel can provide six more weeks of hittin’ season, the Phillies could find themselves playing in October.
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It was probably the first time in franchise history — maybe baseball history — that the crowd chanted for a hitting coach. You can’t blame Gabe Kapler if he felt just a bit uncomfortable Wednesday night when he heard the fans chant Charlie Manuel’s name as the Phillies racked up runs.
Kapler has tried to win over Philadelphia ever since he was hired to manage the Phillies, but the fans have never chanted for him the way they did for Manuel just three innings into Manuel’s new role. It is already easy to see that if the Phillies power their way to the playoffs, it will be Manuel — not Kapler — who receives the credit.
The Phillies had a 8.4 percent chance, according to FanGraphs, to make the playoffs when they hired Manuel. They had lost seven of their last 10 games. The offense they had bulked up this winter was stagnant. The Phillies needed a miracle. They hope the old-school Manuel is just that.
If he is, it could certainly be awkward for Kapler if the Phillies return to October for the first time in seven years and the manager’s work is overshadowed. It would probably be about as awkward as listening to the hitting coach have his name chanted.
But that awkwardness will be easy to push aside, as reaching the playoffs seems to be a sure way for Kapler to guarantee that he will be back in 2020. And that’s regardless of who gets the credit. Manuel has no plans to manage again and seems likely to return to his advisory role no matter how this season finishes.
He’s not stealing Kapler’s post. Instead, Manuel’s success is job security for Kapler.
“It was an incredible energy in the ballpark and rightfully so,” Kapler said. “Charlie has earned that kind of adulation over a long period of time. He certainly adds to that loose, relaxed vibe. He’s laid-back. He believes in our hitters. I think he’s going to make sure our hitters know that. Look, our hitters, like, they believe in themselves today. It’s no surprise. He’s a great influence on our group.”
Kapler is under contract for next season, but the team’s move to fire hitting coach John Mallee this week showed that results will dictate job security. This Phillies were built this season to reach the playoffs, and anything less would be a disappointment.
If the Phillies return to the postseason, which will still be a tough task, the manager will secure himself a third year at the helm. Kapler might not get the credit, but he’ll keep his job. And there’s nothing uncomfortable about that.
“I think I’m 75 years old. I don’t think nothing bothers me anymore. That’s what I think,” Manuel said when asked if it is awkward to be in the dugout as a hitting coach while being the most successful manager in franchise history. “This job here — I got a good way of doing it.
"I still get a kick out of watching good baseball. I’d love for us to get into the playoffs and actually win another World Series. Any way I can help, I want to do that. I’m going to do everything I possibly can for us to improve.”
Jake Arrieta’s season is likely over. The pitcher said he expects to have surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. Arrieta will find out for sure Thursday. He was placed on the injured list and replaced in the starting rotation by Zach Eflin.
Cole Hamels was roughed up Wednesday night in his return to South Philly, but he did honor the memory of David Montgomery by wearing a “DPM” patch on the sleeve of his Cubs uniform. It was a classy gesture from the former Phillies ace.
Manuel is back as the hitting coach, but he has no plans to return to managing. Manuel said he will be the team’s hitting coach for the rest of the season, and the 75-year-old has not started to think about 2020. His first night was a success.
The Phillies promoted Logan Morrison from triple A after the first baseman had a 1.009 OPS this season in the minor leagues. Morrison, 31, is a left-handed hitter for the bench. He flied out Wednesday night as a pinch hitter.
Tonight: Drew Smyly starts the series finale against Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Vince Velasquez faces Padres right-hander Chris Paddack, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Zach Eflin takes Jake Arrieta’s rotation turn against right-hander Dinelson Lamet, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Jason Vargas pitches series finale against left-hander Joey Lucchesi, 1:05 p.m.
Monday: Phillies are off before opening a two-game series in Boston.
J.T. Realmuto on Wednesday hit his second grand slam this season. He’s the first Phillies catcher to hit two slams in a season since Benito Santiago in 1996. Santiago, who last played in 2005, hit .264 in 1996 with 30 homers and .835 OPS for a team that lost 95 games.
“At the plate, his timing and his rhythm just continue to improve,” Kapler said of Realmuto. “He’s identifying strikes early. He’s taking balls. He’s looking very comfortable at the plate. He’s finding the barrel. Even on the balls he’s not getting hits on. They are crisp, hard ground balls and line drives. He’s really swinging the bat well.”
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: I am a longtime Phillies fan. My first game was played at Connie Mack Stadium and Richie Ashburn was the center fielder. Recently, since 2010 or so, it seems like the Phillies have been notorious for leaving runners on base when in scoring position. My imagination? — Guy M. via email.
Answer: Thanks, Guy. It’s not your imagination. The Phillies, since 2010, are batting .251 with runners in scoring position. That is the eight-lowest mark in baseball over that span.