Welcome to Philadelphia, home of the fourth-place Phillies. Team slogan: We know we are better than the Miami Marlins except when we actually play them.
The Phillies have returned home after a 2-5 road trip that concluded Sunday night with a 9-6 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. It was a game that gave the entire nation an opportunity to see what an underachieving group the 2019 Phillies have become.
They could not hold a 5-2 lead, and after they pulled even at 6-6 in the top of the eighth inning, Nick Pivetta had a meltdown in the bottom of the inning, allowing the Giants to score three times with two outs. Pivetta came on to face Kevin Pillar with two outs and a runner on second base.
Pillar is the Giants’ hottest hitter (10-for-22 with two home runs and five RBIs in his last six games), but manager Gabe Kapler decided Pivetta against Pillar was exactly what the Phillies wanted.
“We talked about it prior to the inning," Kapler said. "We were going to set up Pillar with fastballs up and out, hammers [curveballs] down. We weren’t able to execute.”
Pillar tripled home the go-ahead run, and two batters later, Giants closer Will Smith put the game away with the first hit of his career, a two-run single.
The 2-5 trip dropped the Phillies to fourth place in the National League East, behind the surging New York Mets, and left them two games out of the second wild card in the NL.
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To go 2-5 on a road trip, you have to do a lot of things wrong, and the Phillies clearly checked all the boxes during their stops in Arizona and San Francisco.
Bad defense? Check. They made seven errors in seven games, with shortstop Jean Segura leading the way with four of them. Segura had an error in each of the first three games in Arizona, then went just 2-for-16 during the four games in San Francisco.
Poor pitching? Check. The staff ERA was 5.59 for the seven games, and the pitchers allowed 11 home runs. The starters had a 5.80 ERA and failed to pitch beyond the fifth inning in all five of the losses. The bullpen posted a 5.02 ERA.
A lack of timely hitting? Check. The Phillies batted .243 overall during the trip and put up just six homers to combat the 11 allowed by their pitchers. In the five losses, the Phillies hit .179 and scored just 14 runs. The Phillies batted .226 (14-for-62) in the seven games with runners in scoring position and .167 (6-for-36) in the five losses.
Yes, it was the perfect formula for losing baseball.
The Phillies finished 5-12 on the road against NL West teams this season. They averaged 3.9 runs per game, and the staff ERA was 5.40 in those 17 games.
The news did not get any better for the Phillies after the game. Jake Arrieta made his sixth and least effective start since a bone spur was discovered in his right elbow, and it might have been his last. Our Scout Lauber reported that Arrieta will spend Monday’s off day considering surgery that would end his 2019 season. He lasted just three innings and allowed five runs on seven hits Sunday night.
Ever the optimist, Kapler looks at the New York Mets’ surge and believes his team can do the same thing. A lack of pitching and timely hitting would be the answer as to why it will not happen.
Lauber caught up with Giants assistant hitting coach Rick Schu during the Phillies’ visit to San Francisco to get some insight on Bryce Harper’s first season in Philadelphia. Schu, a former Phillie who once was seen as Mike Schmidt’s replacement at third base, is the perfect person to talk about Harper because he was the right fielder’s longtime hitting coach with Washington.
My Sunday print-edition column took a look at the players who have improved in Kapler’s second season as Phillies manager. Spoiler alert: It’s a short list.
Our Rob Tornoe watched the game and detailed the critical points color analyst Alex Rodriguez made about the way Kapler managed the eighth inning.
Today: Off day.
Tomorrow: Jason Vargas opens homestand against the Cubs’ Jose Quintana, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Cole Hamels makes his first career start as a visitor at Citizens Bank Park, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Drew Smyly takes on Yu Darvish in series finale with Cubs, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres come to town, 7:05 p.m.
Rbys Hoskins has not had a multiple-hit game since July 24, when he went 2-for-5 in a win over Detroit. At that point in the season, he was hitting .263 with 22 doubles, 21 home runs, 64 RBIs, a .400 on-base percentage, and a .922 OPS in 101 games.
In his last 16 games, he is hitting .136 with two doubles, three home runs, five RBIs, a .292 on-base percentage, and a .614 OPS.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: My friend in DC says Harper was often a black hole in their lineup and could not be coached. He seems to have a great attitude here, yet is a big disappointment. Can anyone help him get back to his potential? Would a different hitting coach matter? Is his approach polluting Hoskins?
— Tom L.
Answer: Thanks for the question and for reading Extra Innings, Tom. I think it’s fair to declare Bryce Harper’s 2019 season as disappointing so far, but it’s unfair for your friend to say he was a black hole in the Nationals lineup. He did win an MVP award and was rookie of the year in 2012. The Nationals also won the National League East in four of the seven seasons he played there.
One thing that is puzzling about Harper is the wild swings in batting average he has had from year to year. This is his second straight down year in that department, but in the four years before that, there was wild fluctuation from .330 (2015) to .243 (2016), to .319 (2017), and to .249 (2018).
It’s important to remember that he is only 26, so he should have a lot of good years ahead of him.