When Sam Coonrod closed out a 6-5 victory last night, the Phillies finally succeeded in winning back-to-back games for the first time in a month. Surely that must have made their manager happy.
“I’m livid with myself,” Joe Girardi said.
Here’s why: The Phillies tried to bring in Enyel De Los Santos with a five-run lead in the seventh inning, but the newly recalled reliever’s name didn’t appear on the lineup card that was sent to the league and relayed to the umpires. Strangely, the card given to the Milwaukee Brewers did include his name.
De Los Santos was denied entry, and David Hale gave up four runs. It took a five-out save from Coonrod to turn an embarrassing oversight into a wacky footnote.
“Ultimately it falls on me because I didn’t catch it,” Girardi said. “It’s just stupid on my part.”
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McCutchen confident his vision isn’t a problem
Andrew McCutchen doesn’t usually lose sight of line drives to left field. So when it happened last Saturday night for at least the third time this season, he wondered aloud if there was an underlying reason. Phillies manager Joe Girardi heard those comments and allowed for the possibility that an eye exam might be in order.
At the plate, though, McCutchen has been seeing the ball much better lately.
McCutchen homered twice Tuesday night against Brewers starter Eric Lauer, including a leadoff shot in the first inning. It marked his 17th career multihomer game but his first since Sept. 26, 2017, when he was still with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It also brought a measure of relief, and not only from a difficult first month of the season. McCutchen sounded reassured that his vision isn’t a problem.
“For me, I always want to make sure. I want to make sure everything is fine. Everything is,” he said Tuesday night. “I’m crossing all my T’s. I’m dotting all my I’s -- no pun intended. I lost a couple balls on defense. I’ve lost a few so far on line drives in day games. I said, ‘Hey, this concerns me, so I just want to make sure that I’m OK. I want to make sure that everything’s fine.’ And I’m sure I am, but just to make sure.
“That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing crazy visual things before games, all this stuff, just to make sure that everything is fine. Because I don’t take this stuff lightly. I take everything that I do seriously. I know that I’m better defensively than what I’ve shown, so I’m just making sure that everything’s good.”
McCutchen entered Wednesday night’s game batting .191 with a .671 OPS and six extra-base hits in 106 plate appearances. Corrective eyewear wasn’t required to see it was hardly what the Phillies expect from their leadoff hitter, who is making $20 million in the final year of a three-year, $50 million contract.
But McCutchen was 7-for-24 (.292) with a double, three home runs, and a 1.054 OPS in seven games since Girardi sat him down for the first two games of a series in St. Louis last week. And at least for the moment, he has quieted rumblings among some rival talent evaluators that the 34-year-old former National League MVP’s skills are diminishing beyond the point of still being a productive everyday player. One scout noted last month that McCutchen was struggling to catch up with fastballs.
Internally, the Phillies have stressed patience. Girardi has stuck with McCutchen in the leadoff spot, in part because the team lacks alternatives among its everyday players. Second baseman Jean Segura was a potential leadoff option, but missed the last two weeks because of a strained right quadriceps.
But Girardi also has said repeatedly that McCutchen continues to draw walks, even against right-handed pitching.
“I think [McCutchen] can be a good leadoff hitter for us because he grinds out at-bats,” Girardi said Wednesday. “They’re long at-bats. He takes his walks. He has power in that position. I think he can be really good for us.”
Besides, it’s never easy to determine when an erstwhile All-Star is in the midst of a bad month or a precipitous decline. As Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted last week, it’s always dangerous to count them out prematurely.
“I’ve played long enough to where I know sometimes you want to start off good, you want to start off on the right foot, and sometimes when you don’t, you know that you’ve got work to do,” McCutchen said. “For me, I was just like, look, I’m not where I want to be, but I know where I’m going to be. So I’ve just got to put the work in, continue to keep working, and the results will come. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
If the last week isn’t indicative of a turning point in McCutchen’s season, the Phillies could consider sitting him against tough right-handed pitchers. Lefty-hitting utilityman Brad Miller can play left field and has swung the bat well, including a three-run homer Tuesday night.
But the best solution for the Phillies would be if McCutchen starts to hit again. A two-homer game might help do the trick.
“He’s starting to find his stroke a little bit,” Girardi said. “He’s been working really hard with [hitting coach] Joe Dillon. He’s been working on everything. He’s starting to find his stroke, and it’s important for us.”
Matt Breen has more on the lineup-card snafu, including Brewers manager Craig Counsell’s call for a change in how the information is exchanged.
Luckless center fielder Roman Quinn is likely headed back to the injured list after needing nine stitches to close a gash in his finger.
Relive last night’s game through Charles Fox’s photo gallery.
After his solid outing two nights ago, Vince Velasquez will stay in the Phillies rotation and start Saturday night in Atlanta.
Spencer Howard is slated to start tonight for Lehigh Valley. Last week, Dombrowski told me about the Phillies’ ever-evolving plan for the top prospect.
Tonight: Ex-Brewer Chase Anderson faces his former team, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler vs. Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Zach Eflin starts series opener in Atlanta, 7:20 p.m.
Saturday: Phillies and Braves continue three-game series, 7:20 p.m.
Sunday: Aaron Nola gets the start on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, 7:08 p.m.
Stat of the day
More on McCutchen’s power-packed night, courtesy of our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau:
McCutchen became the first Phillies player to have a multihomer game, with one being a leadoff home run, since Jimmy Rollins on Aug. 25, 2009, in Pittsburgh. Rollins went deep in the first and third innings against Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, just as McCutchen did against Lauer.
Oh, but it gets better. McCutchen homered that night, too. In the midst of his smashing rookie season, he hit a two-run walk-off homer against Brad Lidge to give the Pirates a 6-4 victory.
And here’s the best part: A future Inquirer baseball writer almost caught J-Roll’s first homer — or at least he claims he did.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: Love reading Extra Innings. I try to read it every time it comes out. I have been looking at the 40-man roster since the Phillies brought back Odúbel [Herrera], and I keep counting 41 players. I read the transactions also and can’t find any mention of someone being removed. — Jeff F., via email
Answer: Thanks, Jeff, for your note and your kind words.
Adam Haseley came off the 40-man roster because the Phillies were able to put him on the restricted list when he left the team for personal reasons. That’s why they didn’t need to open a 40-man spot for Herrera.
In addition, Ronald Torreyes doesn’t count against the 40-man roster as long as he’s on the COVID-19 injury list. So, the Phillies were able to call up De Los Santos and add him to the 40-man roster yesterday without making a concurrent move.