A loss was accepted sometime in the fifth inning on Thursday afternoon when the Phillies' array of defensive miscues kept digging a deeper hole.
So Gabe Kapler shifted his attention to the second game of the doubleheader and turned the 24-4 loss into what he termed a "strategy game." The Phillies used two position players — Roman Quinn and Scott Kingery — to pitch the final three innings of the blowout by the Mets. The Phillies have used position players to pitch this season, but relying on them for three innings was unusual. A blowout loss became embarrassing but Kapler said it carried a purpose.
"You guys are going to spin this however you want to spin it, but the fact of the matter is, in the fifth inning when we're down 11 runs, we started to prepare for the second game," Kapler said. "We used strategy to best position the Phillies to win baseball games. We're going to continue to do that. My job is to protect the Phillies. That's it. That's what I did."
The use of Quinn and Kingery allowed Kapler to save several relief arms for the second game of the doubleheader and the other three games this weekend against the Mets. Ranger Suarez lasted just four innings in a spot start from triple A. Mark Leiter Jr. may have been able to pitch longer than one inning had it not been for the porous fielding behind him. Hector Neris, who pitched on consecutive days, pitched an inning before Kapler called off the bullpen.
"In that particular situation, our best relievers are not excited about coming into those kind of games, those lopsided games. On the flip side, a couple position players enjoyed it," Kapler said. "A 24-4 game and a 5-4 game both count as a loss. And so our strategy is to be best positioned to win the next baseball game."
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Quinn threw 42 pitches and recorded five outs. He became erratic with an out in the eighth inning as he hit a batter and threw ball four over Jose Bautista's head to walk in a run. Kapler visited the mound and said Quinn told him "I'm completely healthy." He walked Jose Reyes on four pitches and then allowed a two-run double to Kevin Plawecki. That was enough for Quinn.
"It's a strategy decision because we're trying to make the playoffs, we're trying to win the National League East, and the game was out of hand," Kapler said. "We now have a bullpen that we can use effectively in Game 2 of this doubleheader. Down the road we're going to look back on this and it's just going to be a time when we got our butts kicked and we had position players on the mound. But in this game, we're better positioned as a result."
In came Kingery, who delivered his pitches with the arc of beer-league softball tosses, moving to the plate so slowly that the speed was not tracked by the stadium's radar gun. He recorded four outs, threw 16 pitches and allowed two runs.
"The way Kingery approached it was ideal," Kapler said. "Lob the ball in there, eventually they're going to hit into outs. It's not a contest of trying to see how hard you can throw. It's how quickly can you get out of innings, preserve our bullpen, get us to Game 2."