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Gabe Kapler receives rude awakening in Phillies opener

Philadelphia Phillies Scores

Gabe Kapler made his managerial debut yesterday for the Philadelphia Phillies. It not only was his MLB debut as manager but his first time ever. The Phillies jumped out to a 5-0 lead on the Atlanta Braves. Things quickly fell apart in the later innings and the lack of experience started to show for Kapler.

Aaron Nola started for the Phillies on the mound and was doing very well. He didn’t allow a run and gave up just two hits through five innings. In the sixth, Nola gave up a double to Ender Inciarte but managed to get Ozzie Albies to fly out. Freddie Freeman was coming up to bat and Kapler pulled Nola after 5.1 innings. Philadelphia’s ace had just thrown 68 pitches and didn’t give up a run to that point.

The new manager brought Hoby Milner in to face Freeman. Sure enough, Freeman hit a two-run homer to right field. The Phillies got out of the inning with a 5-2 lead. They held the Braves scoreless in the seventh, but things came unglued in the eighth inning.

The Braves scored three runs that were led by a solo home run by Albies. The bullpen gave up two walks and a passed ball which led to another run. Then, Preston Tucker knocked in the game-tying run on a single. The 5-0 lead going into the sixth inning was now lost. Hector Neris came in to pitch the ninth and that was all she wrote for the Phillies. Nick Markakis hit a walk-off three-run homer to give the Atlanta Braves an 8-5 victory on opening day.

The move to pull Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches is baffling. The double was just the third hit Atlanta could get off the 24-year-old. It was a hasty decision that could have cost the Phillies the game. When your starter is pitching solid, he needs to go at least seven or eight innings. With a runner in scoring position, Kapler brought in a guy that has never pitched in an MLB game before to face Freeman, who is a career .290 hitter. That’s not going to end well. To put it in perspective, Aaron Nola was averaging a little over 13 pitches per inning. He could have at least went another two innings.

Offensively, Philadelphia went after Julio Teheran. Rhys Hoskins went 2-3, with two doubles, a run, and an RBI. Cesar Hernandez hit a home run in the sixth. The Phillies only had six hits in the game, but also reached base six more times due to walks. It was obvious that the offense did their job.

The Opening Day loss falls directly on the shoulders of Gabe Kapler. He either has too little trust in his starter or too much trust with his bullpen. Regardless, you don’t pull your starting pitcher at the first sign of trouble when the offense gives you a five-run lead. Especially when Nola impressed enough to get the nod as Opening Day starter. If Gabe Kapler is going to make his first stint as an MLB manager a successful one, he has to grow quickly. He will definitely learn from this experience, but it was a costly one. It’s time that he stops thinking like an analyst and starts thinking like a baseball coach. However, many analysts are also scratching their heads at the decision.