MIAMI -- Gabe Kapler's lineups have been a focus of fascination lately.
Can the manager find one that works in time to spark the Phillies to the postseason? If so, will he stick with it?
Tuesday night's lineup worked beautifully in the Phillies' 9-4 victory over the Marlins at Marlins Park, moving them within three games of the first-place Braves in the National League East with 24 games to play.
Kapler hit Carlos Santana leadoff for the second time in four games, and he ignited a four-run rally in the first inning when he crushed a fastball from Marlins right-hander Trevor Richards into the second deck in right field for a home run. The offense continued from there as the Phillies matched a season-high 10 walks and scored their most runs in a game since Aug. 16.
"It's big, bringing my teammates energy," Santana said.
Santana, who went 2-for-5 with one walk, has started 128 games in his career in the leadoff spot. He has hit seven leadoff home runs. He has a .372 on-base percentage hitting in the top spot, better than any other place in the lineup (minimum 100 plate appearances).
"It doesn't matter to me," Santana said about where he hits. "If I'm in the lineup every day, I'm happy."
Cesar Hernandez hit a two-out triple with the bases loaded in the first inning to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead.
"Every time you talk to one of your teammates, it's really good," said Hernandez, whom Santana spoke to before the game about being more aggressive. "That's something we have going on in this clubhouse. We all look out for each other. We all help each other. Something Santana told me was to try to remember what I was doing earlier in the season. I was very successful. There have been a few games where I wasn't hitting the ball well. So he just told me to calm down, try to remember what I was doing before."
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a one-out double to score two runs in the second and provide a 6-1 lead. Cabrera homered in the fourth to make it 7-1.
"Our offense is capable of kind of having these breakout games, not just one out of 10," Phillies right-hander Jacob Arrieta said. "We've got a nice cavalry of bats to use. And guys off the bench, we can really swing it. It just hasn't been clicking for us as of late. If we get half the runs we get tonight, we should win a lot of those ballgames."
Kapler said he spent a good amount of time Monday examining his hitters' pitches-per-plate-appearance averages. He came upon Santana, who entered Tuesday 21st out of 152 qualified hitters in baseball in pitches per plate appearance (4.17).
Combine that with his on-base percentage, and he decided to hit him first for the fifth time this season.
"He's had a nice stretch of performance recently," Kapler said.
Santana, who is having arguably the worst season of his career, is hitting .309 with five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs and a .910 OPS in his past 19 games.
So maybe Kapler keeps Santana in the top spot for now?
"It's really interesting because in some ways you'd say consistency would be running the same lineup back out there, but really I think the consistent move is to examine the lineup and see what makes sense for tomorrow," Kapler said.
Arrieta allowed four runs in 7 1/3 innings, making it his longest start in nearly a month and striking out a season-high 11. He got a season-high 18 swings and misses on 108 pitches, the most whiffs he has recorded in a start since he got 23 against the Cardinals on Sept. 23, 2016.
Arrieta got six whiffs with his curveball, which is a pitch that has caused him fits this season. Entering the game, the opponents' .727 slugging percentage on his curveball ranked second out of 120 pitchers in baseball.
"I feel like it was a good outing from my perspective," he said. "A lot of my mistakes are getting hit. I'm not getting away with a ton, but overall I'm keeping the ball down and mixing well, missing barrels other than the mistakes are getting hit. That's OK. I pitched deep into the game, which is nice for our bullpen. Give most of those guys a blow. Just trying to set the tone in a positive way and in a matter that we can build off of. And tonight was a good example of that."
Phillies starters have had 12 games with 10 or more strikeouts this season. They combined for 12 starts with 10 or more strikeouts from 2015-17. The 12 this season are the most by a Phillies rotation since 2011, when they had 14.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Scott Kingery is fast. So fast that he still reached third base for a triple in the fifth despite stumbling as he rounded second base. Kingery later scored to give the Phillies an 8-1 lead. Kingery has an average sprint speed of 29.4 ft/sec, according to Statcast™, which ranks as the 11th fastest out of 258 players in the big leagues (minimum 100 opportunities).
HE SAID IT
"I thought the Cesar triple was especially notable and it was notable because it was a hit we've been missing. It wasn't quite a kill shot at that point, but it was the ball that we just haven't driven into the gap or down the line for extra bases with the bases juiced, so a really quality performance by Cesar." -- Kapler
Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (7-10, 4.66 ERA) faces Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara (1-0, 1.80 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday in the final game of a three-game series at Marlins Park. Pivetta had an up-and-down August, posting a 4.05 ERA in six starts. He allowed two or fewer runs in four starts, but five or more runs in two starts.