ATLANTA – Gabe Kapler left the Phillies' dugout Thursday afternoon, went up the hill with five starts, and picked up the ball from Aaron Nola after his top pitcher had thrown only 68 squares.
The Phillies manager was unaware then that his curious decision on the opening day would trigger a fierce 8-5 loss for the Braves. And Kapler, a few hours after going to the hill to lift Nola in the sixth inning, said he would do it again.
Kapler called five deliveries. Each of them has failed. The game was in eighth and the loss was sealed in ninth, when Hector Neris allowed a three-run homer with two outs to Nick Markakis, a brutal blow to start the Kapler era.
The new manager asked his bullpen, a unit the Phillies secured this winter, that they would maintain a 5-0 lead and record the last 1
"Look, tonight the decisions did not work in our favor," said Kapler. "But I am very confident that they will do that for a long time."
Nola was excellent and used his curveball to bring Atlana off balance as he only allowed three hits. He used the curveball for two of his three strikeouts and never had more than one runner on the base. His a bit of trouble came in the sixth, when Ender Inciarte drove away with a double. Nola has missed his place, catcher Andrew Knapp said. But the pitcher responded by withdrawing the following dough. He still seemed to be in control as Kapler left the shelter.
"You just want to go as long as possible, and if you're a competitor, you feel like you can compete in every part of the game in every situation," Nola said. "I had a good deal left."
The Phillies built this five-run lead with a four-rally rally in fifth. Cesar Hernandez performed with a homer. Rhys Hoskins, who had an RBI double in the first round, reached a pitch with two outs. Aaron Altherr and J. P. Crawford went to load the bases, and Maikel Franco counted Hoskins on a base-laden walk. Knapp rolled a two-run single as the Phillies scored four runs with only two hits. A season opener seemed to be forming, but the good mood would not even make it to the end of the innings.
"It was a heavy loss for the team, I mean, boys do not give up their runs on purpose," Nola said. "I'd think we'll come out tomorrow and fight again, we still have 161 games, so tomorrow we'll be ready to start."
Hoby Milner allowed Freddie Freeman to place Freddie Freeman in two runs. Milner did not allow a left-hander in the last season, and Kapler had a "high degree of conviction" that he would get that out.
Adam Morgan allowed a homer to start the eighth. Edubray Ramos, who was only able to pitch with an injury from Pat Neshek, relieved Morgan and threw a fastball that passed Knapp to overtake a ball. Preston Tucker then tied the game with a single of Ramos.
The five-run lead was deleted. And soon the game would be over. The debut of Kapler was spoiled by a strange decision.
"We are all very competitive people and it's hard to lose on the opening day," said Kapler. "I also believe in the long term we have, we had an incredible camp with incredible positive energy, I expect our club to come back with the same positive energy tomorrow, this will be a baseball game of 162 baseball games and I'm still very confident that we have the pieces in this room to gain a ton of it. "