Phillies' difficult road trip proves offense could use a boost

PHILS27
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler might need more pop out of his lineup.

CHICAGO — Asked why he decided to elevate Scott Kingery to the No. 3 spot in the batting order for the last three games, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler explained that the rookie infielder has swung the bat better lately than his overall .212 average and .578 OPS would indicate.

“But also,” Kapler said candidly, “we need somebody to hit third.”

If there’s any conclusion to be drawn from the Phillies’ just-completed 3-7 road swing to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, it’s that they could use another hitter in the middle of the lineup. It didn’t help, of course, that slugger Rhys Hoskins missed all but one game of the trip after fracturing his jaw. But the Phillies batted a cool .192 (50 for 261) as a team over the final eight games of the trip and went 7 for 50 (.140) with runners in scoring position.

In the series finale here Thursday, they drew seven walks and had 12 baserunners against erratic Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood. Yet they scored only once against him and finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“We’ve got to put together better ABs,” catcher Andrew Knapp said.

Kingery delivered a two-run double in the sixth inning against Cubs reliever Brian Duensing, marking his first runs driven in since May 19, a span of 59 at-bats. But without Hoskins in the lineup, Odubel Herrera went 8-for-42 (.190) on the trip, while Cesar Hernandez was 8-for-37 (.216).

“There’s no question about it, we can do a better job,” Kapler said. “It’s not for a lack of effort. It’s not for lack of preparation. It’s not for lack of understanding what the opposing pitchers’ game plans are. We just haven’t executed in those situations.”

Three’s no crowd

J.P. Crawford made his first start since returning from the disabled list, albeit at an unfamiliar position. Crawford, the Phillies’ primary shortstop until he strained his right forearm in late April, played third base, while Kingery got the nod at short.

Kapler said he intended to use Crawford at both shortstop and third base, which could mean a reduction in playing time for third baseman Maikel Franco. After a hot streak in early May, Franco is 14-for-76 (.186) with one double and one home run in his last 24 games.

“I think we’ll create opportunities for all three guys,” Kapler said of Crawford, Kingery, and Franco.

Give him a hand

One day after leaving a game with soreness in his left hand and wrist, outfielder Nick Williams struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.

Williams played catch before the game, and after experiencing initial tightness, he said he was able to throw without restriction. He said he banged his wrist when he reached for the wall to brace himself while chasing down a ball in the second inning Wednesday night.

In Williams’ place, Dylan Cozens started in left field and made a strong throw to the plate on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. Albert Almora Jr. was called out on the play, but the ruling was overturned when a replay review determined that Knapp illegally blocked the plate.

Extra bases

Lost in the craziness of the ninth inning Wednesday night was a shift-related mistake by the Phillies that enabled Kris Bryant to steal third base, which was left uncovered. According to Kapler, catcher Jorge Alfaro was responsible for covering third base once he decided to throw down to second in an attempt to cut down Bryant. “He knows it. We talked about it. It’s behind us and we’ll all learn from it.” … Righthander Vince Velasquez (4-6, 3.82 ERA) will start the series-opener Friday night against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park.