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Kapler tossed, Phils vexed by 6th straight loss

Manager's first ejection can't spark sliding Philadelphia
@ToddZolecki
June 22, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler is searching for a spark that he cannot find. He needs to find it soon. Kapler got ejected in the fourth inning from Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, sending the Phillies to their season-high sixth consecutive loss and 15th in 21

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler is searching for a spark that he cannot find.

He needs to find it soon.

Kapler got ejected in the fourth inning from Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, sending the Phillies to their season-high sixth consecutive loss and 15th in 21 games. Home-plate umpire Chris Guccione tossed Kapler for the first time in his managerial career after he argued that Scott Kingery had not swung at strike three. Kapler’s argument heated up from there, until he finally kicked dirt toward Guccione and crew chief Mike Everitt before storming off the field.

Phillies fans loved it.

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Kapler said afterward that he argued so vehemently because he wanted to defend Kingery, who got hit by the pitch. Guccione ruled hit by pitch, but Everritt said he swung. Rule 5.09 (6) states a batter is out when he attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him.

“I’ll continue to fight for our players,” Kapler said.

He did not say if he hoped the ejection would ignite his talented but struggling team. He did not say if his frustrations from the past few weeks had spilled onto the field. He only said he did not purposely kick dirt toward the umpires.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

But frustrations and concerns are mounting. A source said that Kapler called a team meeting during the Phillies’ midweek series against the Nationals at Nationals Park. He did not call one last year until former first baseman Carlos Santana bashed a series of TVs in the Phillies’ clubhouse on the final weekend of the season.

Kapler adjusted his lineup earlier this week, moving Bryce Harper into the leadoff spot. He has spent the past couple days defending hitting coach John Mallee and new pitching coach Chris Young. The Phillies’ offense ranks 11th in batting average (.242), 10th in on-base percentage (.321), 11th in slugging percentage (.414), ninth in OPS (.735) and 12th in home runs (71), despite a handful of talented offseason additions.

The Phillies’ pitching staff has dealt with multiple injuries in the bullpen, but it ranks eighth in ERA (4.49), 13th in WHIP (1.38) and first in homers allowed (126). Philadelphia is on pace to allow 269 home runs this season, which would set a new big league record. It allowed 171 last season. The pitching staff also entered Saturday last in FIP (4.98) and 12th in xFIP (4.57), according to FanGraphs.

“I think at some point it falls on us,” first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “Obviously, the coaching staff is usually the first to get fingers pointed at, but again, we’re as prepared as we can be.”

But the latest insult is losing two games to the Marlins, who have the worst record in the National League.

“We’re not playing good baseball. Period,” Kapler said. “There’s not a single part of our game that is where it needs to be. It’s unacceptable. And we’re going to make it better.”

Kapler’s ejection -- the first for a Phillies manager since Pete Mackanin on April 10, 2017 -- followed Harper and Hoskins hitting back-to-back home runs in the third inning and preceded Harper singling to score Cesar Hernandez in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead, although Harper got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Harper is tied with Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell and Starling Marte for a Major League-leading seven outs on the basepaths this season.

Hernandez should have been on second base on a flare single down the left-field line in the eighth, but he only got to first because he never ran out of the box. Not running has been an issue lately.

“I’ll talk to Cesar about that,” Kapler said. “Those things are definitely things that need to be addressed. They have to be addressed swiftly. They have to be addressed with authority and they will be.”

The Phillies still carried a two-run lead into the seventh. Left-handed reliever Adam Morgan, making his first appearance since late May, allowed one run to score before right-hander Edubray Ramos replaced him with runners on first and second with two outs. Ramos served up a first-pitch double off the right-field wall to Marlins catcher Wilkin Castillo, who was playing his first game in the big leagues since June 20, 2009.

“It's something indescribable,” Castillo said.

It certainly was.

“We’ve had some clunkers,” Hoskins said. “We’ve had some close ones. But I think throughout the course of a season every team usually goes through this at some point. This is obviously lasting a little longer than we would hope but every team goes this. Thank God it’s now and not later. Even with the losing, there’s always stuff we can learn and that’s all we can try to do and keep moving forward.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .