Was Phillies' fall to fourth place a gut punch? Gabe Kapler offers his big-picture view


SAN FRANCISCO — You may have noticed that the Phillies slipped into fourth place in the National League East late Saturday night.

It was a sobering reminder of just how badly things have gone for this team over the last couple of months. 

The Phils were in first place in the division on June 11.

They ended May at 33-24 and were three games up in the division.

Since then they were 27-33 entering Sunday night’s game against the Giants.

A win Sunday night will put the Phils in a tie in the standings with the New York Mets. The Mets were once languishing in fourth place in the division, but a surge of 15 wins in 16 games allowed them to overtake the Phillies for third place in the division on Saturday night.

The Mets also overtook the Phillies in the wild-card race on Saturday.

There was something jarring about seeing the Mets pass the Phillies in the division standings on Saturday. The Mets, after all, were considered dead a month ago. Their manager, Mickey Callaway, was a candidate to be fired, not crowned NL manager of the year. He will receive consideration for that award if his team keeps this up.

Falling into fourth place was not as jarring to Phillies manager Gabe Kapler as it was to some. Kapler is a levelheaded practitioner of perspective. For him, getting run over by the No. 7 train was not the gut punch some might expect.

“There’s so much time between now and the end of September,” Kapler said before Sunday’s game. “And one of the things that we saw, and that is really important to point out, is that at the beginning of the season, for the first month of the season, the baseball world was actively talking about the Washington Nationals (who now lead the NL wild-card race) having no chance to go to the postseason. They were left for dead. And then when we had the last couple of series against the Mets, the same thing was said about them.

“There’s an ebb and a flow to this sport and they can come in six- or eight-week stretches. So I think, under the circumstances, our job, our responsibility, both as a leadership group and players in the clubhouse, is to say, ‘Wait a second, we’ve got seven weeks to go, that’s a lot of time.’ There’s a lot of ability to pass other people in the standings during that time period. So that’s how I feel.

“I think there’s a healthy balance between urgency and having a clear big-picture approach and we try to strike that balance on a daily basis.”

Kapler’s concern on Sunday was not the standings or the Mets.

“We have the Giants today,” he said. “I promise you I am not thinking about the standings. We’re thinking about the Giants.

“You can't think about anything but today’s game. There’s too much at stake and this game takes too much concentration.”

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