Of course, questions still needed to be answered after Tuesday night's 2-0 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. The Phillies came up empty against Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, who pitched five scoreless innings. The Phillies credited Harvey for his performance, but felt they missed a few pitches that could have changed the course of the game. They fared no better against the Mets' bullpen.
But because the Phillies' offense could not pick up the big hit, it meant every pitch and every play mattered.
Phillies right-hander Ben Lively carried a shutout into the bottom of the sixth inning. He had thrown 76 pitches to that point, eight more than Aaron Nola threw before Kapler pulled him on Opening Day on Thursday in Atlanta.
Lively hit Yoenis Cespedes with a 1-1 fastball to start the inning. Jay Bruce followed. He is a left-handed hitter that almost exclusively pulls the ball when he hits it on the ground. The Phillies, well aware of this, moved shortstop J.P. Crawford to the right of second base. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez positioned himself to the right of Crawford.
Infield shifts are commonplace these days. The Athletic wrote Tuesday that there were 26,705 infield shifts last season, compared to 6,882 in 2013.
Predictably, Bruce hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, Bruce hit the ball directly at Crawford. He had no chance to run to second base to attempt a double play. Instead, he settled for the out at first base.
"It was hit at right at me," Crawford said. "There was nothing else I could have done."
"It [stinks], but you've got to move past it," Lively said.
Todd Frazier followed and doubled to left-center field to score Cespedes and hand the Mets a 1-0 lead. Travis d'Arnaud hit a two-out single to score Frazier and make it 2-0.
"It was a double play almost anywhere on the field, but we have to shift Bruce in that position," Kapler said. "That's the one ball that we're not going to be able to turn it on, but over the course of time we feel like that's the best positioning for Jay Bruce."
Lively let up two runs in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits, one walk and struck out five. It was the longest any Phillies starter has pitched so far.
"I thought Lively was exceptional," Kapler said. "We knew that he was going to be gritty on a really cold night and showed that tremendous competitiveness, and that's exactly what he did. He came out and gave us length and really sort of did the Lively-style pitching, attacking the strike zone with his fastball, landed that slower curveball around 73-75 mph, kept hitters off balance, stayed off barrels and was everything we hoped he'd be tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No late magic: The Phillies had runners at the corners with one out in the ninth, but Scott Kingery fouled out to first baseman Wilmer Flores. Andrew Knapp then got ahead of Mets closer Jeurys Familia, but grounded out on a 3-2 slider to end the game.
If it ain't broke ... : After Harvey departed, a hit and a walk gave the Phillies a two-on, no-outs rally in the top of the sixth. After AJ Ramos recorded the first two outs of the inning, the Mets turned to Jerry Blevins, who induced wild swings from Odubel Herrera on 70- and 71-mph curveballs. His third pitch was a 69-mph curve, which Herrera popped up to end the inning.
QUOTABLE "[Jorge] Alfaro's play behind the plate, he continues to have exceptional framing. He's keeping strikes in the zone, he's getting those borderline calls, he's setting up beautifully, being soft behind the plate and obviously he featured an absolute cannon." -- Kapler, on Alfaro's strong defensive play
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Harvey generated eight swings and misses on his fastball, according to Statcast™ data, his most in a game since 2016. He did not have more than five in any of his starts last season.
Phillies left-hander Hoby Milner made his fourth appearance in four games. It is the first time that has happened since J.C. Romero in 2008. No Phillies pitcher has appeared in the first five games of the season.
WHAT'S NEXT Nola faces the Mets in Wednesday's series finale at 1:10 p.m. ET at Citi Field, in a game shown exclusively on Facebook. Kapler pulled Nola after 68 pitches on Opening Day, despite holding a 5-0 lead. It backfired, as the bullpen blew the lead and lost the game. It will be interesting to see how Kapler handles Nola if the righty finds himself in a similar position.