In the recent trip to Citi Field, the Phillies managed to win two of four in a series split vs the Mets, but were barely able to survive due to one crucial part of the game. DEFENSE. To make matters worse, upon further analysis at the beginning of June, Philadelphia was the worst defensive team in baseball.
This is absolutely unacceptable, and needs to be drastically improved upon, if they want to be in contention for a playoff spot come October. However the question still remains in the minds of Philly fans, how can they upgrade their skills?
First and foremost, they need to improve their fundamentals. Making key, essential plays in the field is number one on the list. Why? For example, if a starting pitcher has worked himself into a jam, with a few runners on the bases, your defense needs to be on their a-game. If a ground ball is hit sharply to the left or right side, it is paramount that infielders do not panic, and make a strong effort to retire the runner, and record a very important out for their pitcher. Same thing goes for the outfielders.
Secondly, it is imperative to attack balls cleanly, without hesitation, rush, or flashiness. We have seen so many instances of players making mistakes by hesitating with uncertainty, rushing carelessly, or trying to be too fancy. Going along with this, it is immensely critical that the Red Pinstripes work on making firm, strong throws to their intended target, and catch the ball with both hands. These are quintessential aspects of baseball that all Major Leaguers should be striving for, from rookies to veterans.
For instance, two examples of inferior plays that should have been outs in last weekend’s series, were flaws made by Rhys Hoskins. The first is one that was hit as a bouncer back to the mound, to which José Alvarado gloved and threw high to first base. Though Hoskins missed it in the sun, and caused the runner to advance to second base.
Again on Saturday, Hoskins made another wrong move in the 9th, with his team on top leading 3-2. The ball was pulled behind the first base bag, where Hoskins knocked the ball down, but could not find in time to throw to first base to get the out. The Mets then went on to win the game in a walkoff over the Phils. If Hoskins had cleanly fielded the ball and threw to Neris covering, the Mets would not have started the inning off with a base runner.
In a postgame interview Hoskins remarked, “I gotta catch the ball, I gotta make the play… I’m sure you’re gonna write about the defense, yeah the last couple nights we haven’t made a couple plays that we should have, for sure… so if you’re gonna write about that, obviously write about it, but don’t forget to write about the great things today.”
Although it is important to recognize the positive aspects of the game, it is also vital that Rhys takes more responsibility for his mistakes, and makes an effort to improve his defense in future games.
Regrettably so, it was the same old story in the make-up game vs. the Reds on Monday night. The defense was absolutely abominable, as Odubel Herrera and Andrew Knapp made unsound bobbles; along with relief pitcher Enyel De Los Santos, who was charged with a throwing error in the ludicrous 12-4 loss.
The Phils skipper Joe Girardi even said himself, “You’re not going to win close games if you don’t play good defense. It’s bit us bad, especially this week. We’ve given a number of extra outs, and it seems to have come to bite us every time.”
In addition to the foul fielding, and the continuous struggles of the bullpen, the Phillies are in urgent need of improvement.
Miniscule rays of sunlight have arisen from the horizon, as the Phillies were finally able to win a game at home in last night’s game vs. the Marlins. It was definitely a nail biter, as their recent games have had a tendency to become, however at the end of the day, it’s a W, and that’s all that matters.
The defense was also much more efficient in this game, with Andrew McCutchen making a diving play in the first inning, along with Rhys Hoskins, who has redeemed himself from the past weekend’s discrepancies. In fact, Hoskins’ over the railing catch in foul territory was the Hyundai Defensive Play of the Game. Bryce Harper also made a great catch, on a deep fly ball in the 3rd, robbing Starling Marte of an extra-base hit.
Additionally, Rhys also hit a solo home run in the 6th, ending an 0 -23 streak, giving the Phillies an insurance run, leading 2-0. The fightins also got lucky with a few missed plays by former Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro, which allowed runners to advance and move into better scoring position.
Tonight the Phillies look to continue this streak of strong defense, in game two of the three game series. Aaron Nola will take the mound against 25-year old Jordan Holloway. With luck on their side, hopefully the Phillies are able to contribute persistent run support, as well as solid defense for Nola in the sweltering heat, in tonight’s NL East matchup.
Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP
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