First place will have to wait. Teams don't pop champagne for reaching first place in May, but it would have been a nice victory for the young Phillies on Tuesday night if they were able to advance past the Braves in the standings. Gabe Kapler said before the 3-1 loss that his team knows how to celebrate wins and he envisioned "a special one" if they were able to move into first. But there were no fog machine, techno music, and strobe lights in the clubhouse after this clunker.
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Carlos Santana committed just five errors last season, and he has built a career on being one of baseball's most dependable first basemen, which makes his struggles over the last few days so jarring. Santana made an error Tuesday night for the fourth straight game. His miscue Tuesday came after he fielded a grounder at first and seemed to have an easy play to throw out Ozzie Albies at home. But Santana fired his throw well over catcher Jorge Alfaro's head and into the netting behind home plate. The Braves took a two-run lead, and Phils starter Vince Velasquez was lifted.
"The last four games, I'm throwing bad," Santana said. "But that happens. I feel strong, and I'll keep working on it."
Santana made just one error with the Phillies in his first 42 games after signing a $60 million contract this winter. His troubles arose this past weekend in St. Louis, when he fired two throws wide of second base and into the outfield. He then was charged with an error Monday after failing to hold onto a throw from Maikel Franco. It was a tough play, but the ball hit Santana's glove.
"I don't think Santana is pressing," the manager said. "I think it's just a matter of us continuing to work on fundamentals and really attack the baseball, make quality throws."
The Phillies missed a chance at first place Tuesday night, and Rhys Hoskins remained stuck in a wicked slump. He went 0 for 4 and talked after the game about his frustrations. He said if he sticks with what he's doing, the results will change.
Seranthony Dominguez did not pitch Tuesday, and the Phillies are trying to figure out the best way to use their new weapon out of the bullpen without overusing him. Kapler said before the game that Dominguez ideally would pitch two games per series.
The Philies better not get their hopes up about signing Manny Machado to a contract extension if they happen to trade for him, David Murphy writes. The Cheese says it doesn't make sense for Machado to sign with a team this summer just a few months before he hits the open market and can receive likely the same offers — perhaps even better ones — from other teams.
Nick Williams started Tuesday for the fifth time in seven games. Scott Lauber wrote Tuesday afternoon about how Williams had forced his way into the lineup after Aaron Altherr began to receive most of the playing time. Kapler, perhaps a subscriber to Philly.com, said he read Williams' quotes in the story about watching Altherr's homer Monday night and "they were really enlightening and genuine happiness for his teammates."
Kapler did not have an update Tuesday about Jerad Eickhoff, who said after Monday's game that he was waiting to see a specialist about the numbness he felt Sunday in two of his fingertips. The Phillies shut down Eickhoff's rehab program and are waiting to find out more information. His future is uncertain.
Wednesday: Jake Arrieta pitches series final vs. Braves, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Phillies are off, but Extra Innings is not.
Friday: Phillies open three-game series vs. Toronto, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: Phils begin 10-game road trip with three games vs. the Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
On the play before Santana's error, Nick Williams committed a throwing error of his own when he overthrew second base and allowed Ozzie Albies — who scored on Santana's error — to move to third base. Williams said he struggled to find his footing, slipped on the throw and "airmailed it." The Phillies have been sloppy in the field recently, as they have eight errors in their last five games. They entered Tuesday night tied for the worst fielding percentage (.980) in the National League and were the NL's worst-rated team in defensive runs saved. They have the third-most errors (35) in baseball.
"I think the way we assess it is we have some improvements to make," Kapler said. "We're going to work diligently to make those improvements."
Question: Since Hoskins is slumping right now, why not put Altherr and Williams in the corner outfield positions since both of them are hitting well right now? — Emailed question from Jon H.