Phillies might need to get defensive to make the playoffs | Extra Innings

Pop quiz, baseball fans: What’s the best way to get over losing a tough series in the Arizona desert? By enjoying a day off near the ocean in San Diego, of course. That’s where the Phillies will spend their Thursday. And although resilience in the face of adversity has been one of their best traits all season, it can’t hurt to play some golf or soak up some sun before getting back to work Friday at Petco Park against the National League-worst Padres.

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First, though, a few words about the Diamondbacks from Phillies manager Gabe Kapler after Wednesday’s 6-0 loss: “They have some similarities to us. They have good starting pitching, they have a strong and deep bullpen, and they have at-bats that will make you pay if you’re not in the zone.”

Indeed, any team with Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray leading its rotation is a team you don’t want to see in a short postseason series. In an NL field that lacks a dominant favorite, beware of the Snakes.

You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday during the Phillies season. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber. Thank you for reading.

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Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Despite going 2 for 22 with 10 strikeouts thus far on a minor-league rehab assignment for high-A Clearwater, infielder J.P. Crawford might rejoin the Phillies as early as this weekend.

Can the Phillies overcome their woeful defense?

Victor Arano should have been out of the inning and back in the dugout Tuesday night. Instead, the Phillies reliever had to deal with the stress of a two-on, one-out jam with the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning.

And it was all because of two defensive miscues.

The Phillies ranked as the third-worst defensive team in baseball with minus-75 defensive runs saved through Tuesday. Only the Mets (minus-80) and Orioles (minus-86) were more inept, and neither will so much as sniff the postseason this year. The Phillies have been tied or alone atop the National League East every day since July 6.

But can they keep it up if their defense continues to let them down?

History says probably not. Since 2002, 16 teams have finished a season with a defense that cost them at least 75 runs. Of those, only the 2004 and 2005 Yankees made the playoffs, in large part because they finished second in the league in runs scored in both years. The Phillies rank 11th in the NL in runs scored.

It’s too late to make dramatic improvements to the defense. But Kapler has gotten more aggressive lately with replacing some of the Phillies’ worst defenders when the team is leading in the late innings. In particular, he has lifted leftfielder Rhys Hoskins for Roman Quinn and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for Scott Kingery.

And the bench might be about to gain another defensive upgrade. Earlier this week, Kapler said the Phillies have discussed reinstating infielder J.P. Crawford (broken left hand) from the disabled list this weekend. Although he remains unproven at the plate, Crawford is a better defender than Cabrera and third baseman Maikel Franco, who booted a grounder behind Arano on Tuesday night after centerfielder Odubel Herrera allowed a ball to drop on the warning track for a double.

At this point, even the slightest improvements might help a lot.

The rundown

Vince Velasquez didn’t have his best stuff Wednesday, but that’s OK because the Phillies didn’t hit anyway.

It has been 13 days since the Phillies traded for Asdrubal Cabrera. It has also been 13 days since Scott Kingery’s last hit. He went 0 for 3 Wednesday to stretch his hitless streak to 0 for 20.

In case you missed it the other day, Brad Lidge had some advice for Phillies rookie relief ace Seranthony Dominguez on how best to survive his first major-league season.

Remember Joe Simpson, the longtime Braves television analyst who recently apologized for calling Chase Utley “an embarrassment” for wearing a T-shirt during batting practice? Well, he’s at it again, this time questioning Nationals phenom Juan Soto’s age.

Important dates

Today: Phillies get a day off in San Diego.
Tomorrow: Ex-Padres farmhand Zach Eflin faces his former team, 10:10 p.m.
Saturday: Aaron Nola Day! Phillies ace faces the Padres, 8:40 p.m.
Sunday: Jake Arrieta starts the series finale in San Diego, 3:40 p.m.
Monday: Day off for Phillies.
Tuesday: Phillies host the best-in-the-majors Boston Red Sox, 7:10 p.m.

Camera icon YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Few hitters have exhibited the combination of power and patience that Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins has shown early in his major-league career.

Stat of the day

San Diego is known for many things, from its near-perfect weather and its zoo to the most famous mascot this side of the Phanatic. But the city was also the birthplace of Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history. So, when a young hitter finds his name on the same list as Williams, well, there’s no better company to keep.

It was noteworthy, then, last weekend when Rhys Hoskins scored his 100th run and drew his 100th walk in the 152nd game of his career. According to Stats By STATS, the only player in the live-ball era to reach those totals, in addition to notching 75 extra-base hits, in fewer games was Williams, who did it in 143 games.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Why does Gabe Kapler only have Pat Neshek pitch one inning? When he does such a great job getting the three or so batters he faces, why not send him out there the next inning and see how he does? He seems to do well when he pitches, and when his inning is over he just sits in the dugout and Gabe brings in another reliever to do the next inning. Thank you. — Dorothea Z., via e-mail

Answer: Hi, Dorothea. Thank you for the question and for reading Extra Innings. As with most relievers, Neshek’s effectiveness is tied to his usage, and over the last two years, he has recorded more than three outs in an appearance only twice. If Kapler began to extend him beyond one inning, there’s a likelihood that Neshek wouldn’t pitch as well. And even if he did, he couldn’t pitch as frequently. Every bullpen needs multi-inning relievers, and the Phillies have that with Victor Arano and even Tommy Hunter. At this point in his career, though, Neshek fits the profile of a classic one-inning pitcher.


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