MILWAUKEE -- The Phillies opened the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night at Miller Park with Rhys Hoskins at first base, Scott Kingery at second base, J.P. Crawford at shortstop and Maikel Franco at third base.It is a defensive alignment some expected to occasionally see this season. But after
MILWAUKEE -- The Phillies opened the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night at Miller Park with Rhys Hoskins at first base, Scott Kingery at second base, J.P. Crawford at shortstop and Maikel Franco at third base.
It is a defensive alignment some expected to occasionally see this season. But after the Brewers beat the Phillies at Miller Park, 13-2, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler discussed a defense that has struggled, in part perhaps because some players are out of position, most notably Kingery. The rookie committed two errors at shortstop as Phillies right-hander Jacob Arrieta allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. Only four of those runs were earned as the Phillies committed four errors.
"I think we stay the course," Kapler said. "We understand that our players are young and we understand that our players are developing. They're learning positions. It's part of the process."
Arrieta certainly struggled on his own. He loaded the bases on three consecutive singles to start the second. He hit Brewers pitcher Brent Suter on the foot with a 1-2 breaking ball to score the game's first run. But Lorenzo Cain followed, hitting a ball to Kingery's left. Kingery missed a ball that probably could have been a double play. Two runs scored.
Two more runs scored in the inning to hand the Brewers a 5-0 lead. Hoskins dropped a ball in left field to start the fourth. Three runs scored, including two on a homer from Christian Yelich, as the Brewers built an 8-0 lead.
Arrieta blamed himself for everything.
"It was [bad] all the way around," he said. "I single-handedly lost us the game. I put up a five-spot in the second inning, and it wasn't because of the defense really. And again, if there's a play on defense that's not made, it's our job to get the next guy out to pick that guy up. And I didn't do that."
But better defense could have helped. Kapler has said he wants to put his players in the best position to succeed. He said he believes that remains true for Kingery, who is a natural second baseman.
"I don't think that looking at some struggles -- and there has been some struggles from time to time -- is the way to analyze this properly," Kapler said. "I think the way to analyze this properly is to say, 'Is this young man, this young developing athlete Scott Kingery, getting better because of this experience?' I think the answer to that question is, 'Yes.' Is he strong mentally, tough physically, and capable of handling this challenge? I think the answer is, 'Yes.' At the end of the day, do we think that he will be one of our better players for many, many years to come because of this experience? I think the answer is 'Yes.'"
"I don't think putting me out there is unfair to me," Kingery said. "I think it's expected of me to go out there and make plays like that."
The truth is Kingery will be playing out of position for the foreseeable future because Cesar Hernandez is entrenched at second base. And if the Phillies believe they are better with Crawford, who is a natural shortstop, at third base and Kingery at shortstop, he needs to learn to play there.
"I think that covers the most ground," Kapler said. "It's very close, right? When you put J.P. at short and Scott at third base, that would be a pretty good defense as well. I don't know if there's a huge difference either way. But I'm very comfortable with the developing shortstop in Scott Kingery and a very good athletic third baseman in J.P. Crawford."
The Phillies entered Friday ranked third in baseball with 50 errors. They also ranked 29th in Defensive Runs Saved (-52) and 27th in Defensive Runs Above Average (-13.3), according to FanGraphs.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Jesmuel Valentin pitched the eighth inning for the Phillies. He allowed three runs. It is the third time this season the Phillies have used a position player to pitch. Pedro Florimon pitched March 31 and May 18. The Phillies have not had two position players pitch in a season since John McDonald and Casper Wells pitched in the 18th inning of a 12-7 loss to Arizona on Aug. 24, 2013. The Phillies have not had more than two position players pitch in a season since 1945, according to Baseball Reference. Jimmie Foxx, Ben Chapman and Rene Monteaqudo pitched in 26 games that season.
"We've talked about not just using position players when you run out of pitchers," Kapler said. "This was our way of saying tomorrow is important, too. The next day is important, too. We're going to preserve the guys in our bullpen. We can use [Victor] Arano now rather than using Arano for two or [Edubray] Ramos for two. They're both ready to go tomorrow and they both looked good tonight. [Hector] Neris is good to go. Seranthony [Dominguez] is good to go for two. And part of that is because Jes went out there and took it on the chin for us."
HE SAID IT
"I knew coming in that my spot was going to be all over. To get myself in the lineup, it was going to be outfield, third, short, second, whatever. I mean, now I'm getting some consistent time at shortstop, so I've got to figure that out, and like I said, I expect myself to make plays like that. It's frustrating to me. But if that's where I'm going to be consistently, I need to make plays like that." -- Kingery
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin (3-2, 3.63 ERA) faces Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra (3-4, 2.71 ERA) on Saturday afternoon at 4:10 p.m. ET in the second game of a three-game series at Miller Park. Eflin has allowed three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings in his last two starts. He has struck out 11 and walked two in that span.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.