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Phillies use 21 players – but barely Scott Kingery – in come-from-behind win to clinch series vs. Marlins

Vince Velasquez lasted only two innings, but the Phillies rallied to win their first series in nearly six weeks.

Phillies Justin Bour watches his second-inning pinch-hit two-RBI single on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
Phillies Justin Bour watches his second-inning pinch-hit two-RBI single on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

A half-hour after the last out was recorded Saturday night, and nearly 10 minutes after the Phillies wrapped up their usual postgame victory party/light show in the clubhouse, manager Gabe Kapler pulled up a chair alongside Scott Kingery's locker.

Nice come-from-behind 5-4 win … but about that decision in the second inning.

Let's pause here. The Phillies won their first series in almost six weeks by rallying from an early deficit with a three-run home run by Cesar Hernandez to defeat the lowly Miami Marlins before an announced crowd of 24,695 at Citizens Bank Park. They interrupted the Atlanta Braves' march to the National League East title, freezing the magic number at nine. And they did it by taking full advantage of their expanded September roster, using eight pitchers and 21 players overall.

"It was a team win," Kapler said.

>> PHOTOS: Phillies 5, Marlins 4

Along the way, though, Kingery got nudged to the side, collateral damage for one night in the Phillies' quest to keep their fading playoff hopes from getting dimmer.

The rookie shortstop was in the Phillies' all-righty lineup against Marlins lefty Jarlin Garcia, a reliever who was starting his first game since May and would be on a tight pitch count. And Kapler made it clear to Kingery and others that he likely would empty the bench of lefthanded hitters as soon as Marlins manager Don Mattingly brought a righthander into the game.

But Garcia lasted only one inning, with Mattingly turning to righthander Brett Graves in the second. Kingery played defense for two innings but hadn't taken an at-bat when the Phillies, trailing by four runs, loaded the bases with one out against Graves. Kapler called Kingery back and replaced him with switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera, who struck out.

"I think everyone wants to be the guy with the bat," Kingery said. "But when you look at it, with the righty-on-righty splits, with the lefty-on-righty splits, [Cabrera] just gives you the best chance in that situation. I think everybody in the lineup wants to be the guy to get the big hit, but in that situation, we've got a chance to get a big hit with a lefty and have a better matchup there."

Ultimately, Kapler's moves worked out. And Cabrera even played a big role in the victory.

Justin Bour, hitting for starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, followed Cabrera's strikeout with a two-run single to cut the deficit to 4-2. And Cabrera led off the fifth inning with a double and eventually scored when Hernandez resisted the impulse to merely move the runners — "I even thought about bunting, but I was like, you know what, I'm going to see what happens," he said — and decided to pick a pitch to drive.

Meanwhile, seven relievers passed the bullpen baton, with Victor Arano, Austin Davis, Luis Garcia, Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, and Pat Neshek holding the Marlins scoreless after Velasquez gave up four runs in the second inning.

It was an uplifting victory for a team that hasn't had many of them over the last month. And, the way Kapler saw it, the reward of winning another game outweighed the potential risk of bruising Kingery's ego.

"The most important message [to Kingery] is, while that's happening right now, it's no indication that you're not going to be the guy pinch-hitting down the road," Kapler said. "It's no indication you're not going to have 700 plate appearance where you don't come out of the lineup. That's who I think Scott Kingery is. It's just that in this moment, we have a veteran, proven lefthanded bat that we pre-planned might come up in a situation like that.

"None of these things are going to catch our players by surprise. Do they sting a little bit at times? Probably. Is it an ego blow? Absolutely. But at this time of the year, with the weapons we have, in order to use them effectively, somebody is going to get their feelings hurt once in a while."

Kingery conceded it was "definitely different" to be taken out of a game without getting an at-bat. But he also insisted his ego wasn't bruised — not after Kapler prepared him for the possibility. And not with the way Kapler has been squeezing every ounce from the Phillies' September roster, which stands at 39 players.

Consider how Kapler approached Velasquez's start. Velasquez struck out three of the first four batters he faced, then gave up four runs on five hits, then missed a return throw from the catcher, which led to an inning-ending caught stealing. And when his spot in the lineup came up in the second inning, he was taken out of the game even though he threw only 46 pitches.

"In this situation, down four runs, we had the bases loaded, [Kapler] is going to make some moves," Velasquez said. "I have to learn how to prepare myself for those situations, knowing that it is going to happen and it has happened before. This is not about me. I should have done a better job, yes. But this is also a team. There's no 'I' in team. The fact that we came out and won as a team, that's all that matters."

Said Kingery: "We're doing it with everyone. We're using all the players we've got and putting our best matchups in there whenever we have a chance. It's unusual, but it's not unusual."

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