PHILADELPHIA >> Gabe Kapler had a two-word challenge to the Phillies as they began this season: Be bold.
By the seventh inning of a 24-4 loss to the New York Mets in Game 1 of a doubleheader Thursday evening, Kapler literally was asking the opposite.
Technically saving his bullpen for Game 2, the Phillies’ manager allowed position players Roman Quinn and Scott Kingery to combine to pitch the final three innings. His instructions: Do not throw hard enough to be injured.
“In the fifth inning, when we were down 11 runs, we started to prepare for the second game,” Kapler said. “We use strategy to best position the Phillies to win baseball games. We are going to continue to do that. My job is to protect the Phillies. That’s it. That’s what I did.”
The position-player pitching option long has been a manager’s option in lopsided games. But Quinn, and especially Kingery, drove the Phillies into retreat. So disinterested was Kingery in his 1⅓ innings that his blooper pitches literally were not activating every radar gun. With that, he allowed four hits and two runs.
Quinn was slightly more competitive, but he allowed six hits, seven runs and walked two in 1⅔ innings.
“I don’t have any concerns for Roman throwing the ball 78 mph because that’s what he does every day when he plays catch,” Kapler said. “I don’t have any concerns for Scotty doing the same thing. It’s a strategy decision because we’re trying to make the playoffs, we’re trying to win the National League East and the game was out of hand. We now have a bullpen we can use effectively in Game 2 of this doubleheader.
“Down the road, we’re going to look back on this and it’s just going to be a time when we got our (butts) kicked and had position players on the mound.”
The issue, if there was one, was not that position players were pitching, but that they were not showing signs of competing.
“I instructed (Kingery) to put the ball over the plate and do it nice and easy, don’t try to light up the radar gun,” Kapler said. “We’re optimizing for you to stay completely healthy.”
But is that what people pay to see from major-league talent?
“I think they were probably more entertained than they have been, frankly,” Kapler said. “I would bet that it is more entertaining to watch what we just saw than in the same kind of blowout game than to see one of our relievers that we see regularly.”
High among the reasons that Phillies were so hopelessly behind in Game 1 was that minor-league call-up Ranger Suarez allowed 11 hits and eight runs in four innings. Though not helped by the defense, as half of those runs were unearned, Suarez did put himself in early trouble when Amed Rosario hit the first pitch of the game for a home run.
“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out today,” Suarez said. “When you come up here, you want to get the job done. It didn’t happen today. But I am going to keep working hard to make sure it happens next time.”
Suarez was making his second major-league start. His record is 1-1.
“I feel like my changeup wasn’t working for me today,” he said. “Those things happen sometimes.”
Suarez was returned to the minors after the game, and Yaksel Rios was activated for Game 2.
The Phillies sent a pair of left-handed relievers to the 10-day disabled list Thursday, Austin Davis with a sore back, Aaron Loup with a forearm strain.
Suarez and Mark Leiter Jr. were recalled from Lehigh Valley as replacements. Zach Eflin was added as the 26th player allowable for a doubleheader and started Game 2.
“Loup has a flexor strain, and it happened during the (Wednesday) game,” Kapler said. “Austin Davis has lower-back stiffness.”
Leiter had an uninspiring return, throwing one inning and allowing seven runs, walking three and allowing a grand slam to Jose Bautista.
Asdrubal Cabrera had a chance Thursday to face the Mets for the first time since his July 27 trade to the Phillies. He had played for New York since 2016.
“I liked playing in New York,” Cabrera said. “There were a lot of good things there. All those guys over there are really good friends, too. And those little things stay in my heart. I’ll go play them, but I have really good friends over there.”
NOTES >> Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro hit solo home runs in the opener. It was the fifth time this season the Phils had hit four homers in a game. … Aaron Nola (11-3, 2.28 ERA) and right-handed Noah Syndergaard (8-2, 3.22) will engage in a battle of top National League pitchers Friday night at 6:05. It will be Jake Arrieta (9-7, 3.33) and right-hander Jacob deGrom (7-7, 1.81) Saturday (4:05 start). The series moves to Williamsport Sunday night, when Nick Pivetta (7-9, 4.37) and left-handed Jason Vargas (2-8, 8.10) pitch.