That elusive winning season stayed elusive Sunday as the Phillies dropped the season opener to the Miami Marlins in a 4-3 game. The loss kept the Phillies from reaching the 82-win mark for the first time since 2011. Brad Miller was the offensive hero of the day, going 4-for-5 with two home runs, three RBI and 10 total bases. Miller’s average went up 19 points on the day, putting him at a .263 mark to end the season.
Following the game, manager Gabe Kapler fist-bumped and/or hugged every player as the went from the dugout to the clubhouse, including the relievers who he waited for to arrive from the bullpen. Kapler’s future with the team is up in the air, but many players publicly offered their support of him and stressed that they didn’t believe the disappointing finish was Kapler’s fault. The 81-win season puts Kapler’s record as the Phillies manager at 161-163 in two seasons. Owner John Middleton also came down to the dugout to shake Kapler’s hand.
The season started with plenty of enthusiasm after the Phillies went on a spending spree last winter to bring in Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and traded for players like J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura.
The Phillies led the division by 3 1/2 games at the end of May, but quickly sank to 6 1/2 games out by the end of June. Last season, the Phillies led the division into August before a collapse dropped them out of the playoff picture.
Following the game, Kapler spoke in glowing ways about the character of the players on the roster and refused to speculate about his future with the team. He seemed emotional, but insisted it was in thinking about the effort that the players gave him this season and not about his job status.