Ten years ago, long before Coors Field turned into the Phillies’ haunted house, it was the site of one of their most memorable postseason comebacks.
Surely you remember. It was Oct. 12, 2009, and the Phillies were trailing by two runs in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. Ryan Howard was scheduled to be the fifth hitter in the ninth inning, and as the rally began, he stood beside the bat rack and shouted, “Get me to the plate, boys!” On cue, Howard came up with two runners on and two out. Down to his last strike, he doubled off the right-field wall to tie the game and scored the series-winning run on Jayson Werth’s RBI single.
The Phillies sure could use that kind of magic again. Last night, they were defeated, 6-2, by the Rockies, who had been 0-5 at home this season. It marked the Phillies’ fifth consecutive loss in Colorado and their eighth loss in 10 games dating to 2016. And it won’t get much easier tonight, with young Rockies ace German Marquez heading to the mound.
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After reliever Edubray Ramos gave up a game-tying home run with two out in the ninth inning of the Phillies’ eventual 10-6 loss to the Nationals on April 9, manager Gabe Kapler made sure to watch the replay to get a better look at what went wrong.
One conclusion: Ramos appeared not to follow catcher J.T. Realmuto’s direction.
With Nationals rookie Victor Robles batting and the count even at 2-2, Realmuto wanted the pitch to be down, perhaps even in the dirt, and he indicated as much by tapping his mitt on home plate. But Ramos left a slider up in the strike zone just enough for Robles to drive it out of the ballpark.
“Talking to Ramos after the game, I said, ‘Hey, what were you trying to do with that slider? Did you see where J.T. put his glove?' " Kapler said the next day. “He said, ‘I was trying to get it away off the plate.’ I said, ‘That’s great, but when you miss trying to get it off the plate, sometimes you miss on the plate and you miss up. Remember that J.T. has done a lot of planning and preparation for that moment, so when he puts his glove in the dirt, spike it. If you miss, you miss down, and you still have a chance to come back and throw it for a strike if you need to.’ ”
It was perhaps the most extreme example of a strategy that the Phillies are trying to hammer home to their pitchers, who might as well print up T-shirts with the slogan “In Realmuto We Trust.”
When the Phillies traded for Realmuto in February, they expected that his steady hand behind the plate would help foster improvement from a pitching staff that remains relatively young save for veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta. And after some of their better performances this season, Phillies pitchers have been quick to credit Realmuto’s diligence in helping them to devise a game plan.
Take, for instance, Zach Eflin, who followed Realmuto’s lead en route to blanking the Rockies for five innings last night before giving up a three-run homer to Ryan McMahon in the sixth.
“I love throwing to him,” Eflin said. “It’s really special when you can go out on the mound and not really think about anything when you have such a leader behind home plate who knows the game as well as he does.”
Over a six-month season, the Phillies expect that Realmuto’s experience will pay off — as long as the pitchers allow him to guide them.
This stat pretty much tells the story of last night’s game: The first four batters in the Phillies’ order — Andrew McCutchen, Scott Kingery, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins — combined to go 0-for-14. Not going to win many games that way.
Patience proved to be the right course of action for the Phillies when it came to activating outfielder Roman Quinn from his injury rehab assignment, as Matt Breen explains.
Who are the Phillies’ top 25 prospects in the minors? Breen, Bob Brookover and I put together a list.
The Phillies notebook is chock full of information, including Kapler’s parting words for Nick Pivetta, an update on Jean Segura, and news that Mets ace Jacob deGrom won’t face the Phillies next week in New York because he has strep throat.
Tonight: Vince Velasquez will take the mound in Colorado, 8:40 p.m.
Tomorrow: All eyes will be on struggling Phillies ace Aaron Nola, 8:10 p.m.
Sunday: Jerad Eickhoff starts the series finale at Coors Field, 3:10 p.m.
Monday: Jake Arrieta will start series opener vs. Mets in New York, 7:10 p.m.
It was a forgettable 2019 debut for center fielder Roman Quinn, who went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts after rejoining the Phillies from his injury rehab assignment. Quinn became the second player in team history to strike out four times in his first game of a season. Mitch Walding achieved that ignominy last season.
But when Quinn reaches base, he can be electric. Last season, Quinn ranked among the three fastest players in the majors, according to Statcast’s measure of sprint speed, which is defined as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window” on individual plays. Quinn’s sprint speed was 30.2 feet per second, tied with Marlins outfielder Magneuris Sierra and behind only Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (30.5).
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: More than just [Monday] night, [Rhys] Hoskins appears to be a potential defensive liability at first base. In a perfect world, he’d be swapped out for defense late in games with a lead (wouldn’t have affected Monday night), but I don’t see an upgrade on the current roster. Does that kind of bench player exist on the 40 man roster?
--JM, via e-mail
Answer: Thanks for the question, JM. First-base depth is an organizational problem right now. Never mind replacing Hoskins for defense late in games. Were he to incur an injury that caused him to miss extended time, the Phillies lack a backup on the 40-man roster. The plan would actually be to move Maikel Franco to first base and play Scott Kingery at third.