So much for home-field advantage. After taking two of three games from the Washington Nationals — the team to beat in the National League East for a half-decade — and basking in their first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball appearance in five years, the Phillies returned to town Monday night and must have felt like visitors in their own ballpark. The joint was packed to the max, the announced sellout crowd of 44,136 representing the largest non-Opening Day audience at Citizens Bank Park since Sept. 22, 2013. But it was filled with Yankees fans, who delighted in an Aaron Judge-fueled 4-2 victory. Rhys Hoskins even got into it with a heckler above the Phillies' dugout in the sixth inning. No place like home, indeed.
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In 2007, when the last great Phillies team got its first exposure to the postseason, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino combined to go 9-for-43 with 16 strikeouts in a three-game division series sweep by the Rockies.
A year later, those same players had starring roles in a World Series championship.
The point is: great teams must learn how to be great. Success isn't automatic. It comes with time and experience. Sometimes, even the best teams must lose in order to figure out what it takes to win. Gabe Kapler and the rest of the 2004 Red Sox didn't snap an 86-year title drought until after they had their hearts ripped out by Aaron Boone and the 2003 Yankees.
And so, from the twin disappointments of the past two games — a late-inning collapse Sunday night in Washington and a 4-2 loss Monday night against the high-powered Yankees — the Phillies can derive a few valuable lessons.
The Phils are still the youngest team in the majors; the active roster is on average only 26.6 years old. But they've already won 41 games, a total they didn't reach until Aug. 8 last season en route to a 66-96 record. Over the past month, they have proven they belong on the same field with the Dodgers and Cubs, the Brewers and Cardinals, the Nationals and Yankees. And if they are playing meaningful games in September, the season will be a success regardless of whether it extends into October.
But the next step is learning how to finish off more of those games rather than giving up a ninth-inning grand slam to Jason Heyward at Wrigley Field or a two-run single in the eighth to Daniel Murphy at Nationals Park and how to rally for a few runs against a flame-throwing closer like Aroldis Chapman. It comes with time and experience, and the Phillies believe the experiences they're having now will make them better later.
"Every time you have very young, developing players it's good to get some exposure to these kind of nights," Kapler said. "You want to come out on the winning end and score more runs, but ultimately, I think it helps us develop."
Yankees fans took over Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, Matt Breen writes, making it difficult to distinguish which team was playing at home. But manager Gabe Kapler insisted the Phillies still experienced a home-field advantage.
By standing up and admitting he was wrong for shouting back at a heckler — "You go hit," he seemed to tell a fan seated above the Phillies' dugout in the sixth inning — Rhys Hoskins demonstrated what leadership is all about, Marcus Hayes writes.
As much as Curt Schilling wanted to deny it, a visit from the Yankees used to inspire mystique and aura. But Marcus opines that one World Series championship in the past 17 years has turned the Bronx Bombers into merely "another good team."
It took a shoulder injury to fellow reliever Edubray Ramos for exiled ex-closer Hector Neris to be brought back from triple A. But Neris made the most of his return by striking out Gleyber Torres and Neil Walker in a perfect seventh inning.
Before this week, how long had it been since the Phillies were featured on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball? Scott Kingery was a college freshman. Nick Tricome put together a cool "where were they then" piece on the current Phillies.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta opposes Yankees ace Luis Severino, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phillies and Yankees wrap up their series, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Aaron Nola starts the series opener vs. the Nationals, 7:05 p.m.
Friday / Saturday: Fireworks displays after Phils-Nats games, 7:05 / 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: It isn't set yet, but Max Scherzer could face Phillies on regular rest, 1:35 p.m.
On any given day, when the Phillies take batting practice on the field, several players invariably bust out T-shirts that have this slogan across the chest: "Chicks Dig The wOBA." It is, of course, a play on the classic late-'90s Nike commercial in which skinny pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux adopt a rigorous training program in order to emulate Mark McGwire's power because, as they say, "chicks dig the long ball."
Funny, right? But what, you ask, does wOBA stand for?
In the modern world of analytics, wOBA — weighted on-base average, for short — is a statistic designed to measure a player's "true" offensive performance by accounting for the situational value of each outcome rather than treating all hits, walks or other times on base equally. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is a proponent of wOBA. So, too, is 29-year-old assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero, one of the most frequent wearers of the T-shirt.
But entering the week, only two Phillies players ranked among the majors' top 100 in wOBA. Odubel Herrera was 40th with a .371 mark that beats his traditional .358 on-base percentage, a metric that doesn't discriminate between times on base. Rhys Hoskins, meanwhile, was tied for 41st with a .370 wOBA that was slightly worse than his .370 OBP. Next up: Carlos Santana, with a .343 wOBA that was tied for 102nd.
Question: Do you think the rumors of San Diego being interested in [Maikel] Franco are true? Would the Phillies trade him to the Padres for bullpen help? Would they then deal for Adrian Beltre to fill in at third base for the rest of the season? –Greg S., via email