The presence of Gio Gonzalez, a difficult Nationals lefthander, prompted Ryne Sandberg to adopt a different approach in Tuesday night's 4-3 Phillies win at Citizens Bank Park. The manager ditched Monday's lineup, which he used in 14 of the season's first 131 games, and inserted four new names.
Freddy Galvis played second base for his first major-league start since May 8; he crushed a Gonzalez chest-high fastball for a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Darin Ruf started for the third time in 10 games; he smashed a Gonzalez fastball for a solo home run in the sixth.
The Phillies won for the sixth time in eight games, but discontent festered even on a good night. When Sandberg removed Cole Hamels at 84 pitches, Hamels snubbed his manager with a quick exchange of the baseball, much like Kyle Kendrick did in San Francisco earlier this month. Hamels did not hide his displeasure later.
A reporter asked Hamels if he was upset at himself for allowing a game-tying home run to Asdrubal Cabrera in the eighth inning or angered by Sandberg's decision.
"I just think it was a good game and we were able to win," Hamels said.
A minute later, when asked to clarify his vague comments, Hamels ended the interview. "It was a good game that we won today," he said. "See you guys."
The lefthander delivered his message. This marked the fourth instance in less than two weeks in which a Phillies player showed disrespect for Sandberg, the first-year manager, either through his actions or words. It is a developing issue.
Sandberg said he did not speak to Hamels after the game. He indicated to Hamels, before the eighth started, that his leash was short. The Nationals rattled Hamels for two runs on four hits and a walk in the seventh inning. Hamels needed just 59 pitches for the first six innings.
His 84 pitches were his fewest in a start since Aug. 7, 2013, when he threw 82. Hamels has just two outings of 84 pitches or fewer since the start of the 2012 season. Why did he waver Tuesday?
"I don't know," Sandberg said. "The last couple hitters he elevated [the ball] a little bit. It's hard to say."
"I just didn't make the right type of pitches to a couple of the guys," Hamels said.
Ken Giles replaced Hamels, struck out the side on 13 pitches, and hopped from the mound in celebration. The Phillies recaptured the lead when Ben Revere reached on an error, stole second, and scored on a Carlos Ruiz sacrifice fly. Galvis and Ruf provided enough support to permit Hamels a no-decision.
Those players entered a crowded lineup rotation. The picture will become more complicated in September. Maikel Franco, one of the team's top prospects, celebrated his 22d birthday Tuesday with a grand slam at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has four homers in his last five games during a torrid streak that has raised his batting average to .255 and OPS to .725. The Phillies are hesitant to promote Franco without the assurance of significant playing time.
Ruf has 20 homers in his first 336 major-league at-bats, which have spanned three seasons. Houston rookie George Springer is the only player with as many homers in fewer at-bats (295) than Ruf since 2012. That power is difficult to ignore.
"I wanted to try to be aggressive," Ruf said.
"He squared the ball up," Sandberg said. "That's all good. I want to continue to see that from him."
While Ruf's future could be as a platoon player, the Phillies could gain some more intelligence on the 28-year-old's ability with increased at-bats. Last September, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, "I can't sit here and tell you that he's an everyday player for us."
The topic was broached again Monday.
"Can he be an everyday player?" Amaro said. "We haven't made a final decision on that yet."
Galvis started the season 2 for 42, which caused a demotion to triple A. The 24-year-old infielder broke his collarbone there but showed an improved power stroke in subsequent games. Sandberg is comfortable with Galvis at shortstop, second base, and third base. His future as an everyday player, like Ruf's, is the subject of debate.