J.T. Realmuto hears it from fans as struggles mount

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Admittedly, the surging Phillies haven’t had much to complain about recently, clawing back to .500 by winning 10 of their last 12 games and nine of 11 under interim manager Rob Thomson. But that didn’t stop fans at Citizens Bank Park from booing J.T. Realmuto after another frustrating night Tuesday against his former team, the Miami Marlins.

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There’s plenty of blame to go around for Tuesday’s ninth-inning collapse, the latest disaster in what has been a nightmare season for closer Corey Knebel (five losses, four blown saves). But Realmuto’s costly error on a dropped pop-up (he made a similar gaffe against the Diamondbacks days earlier, failing to squeeze a throw that could have gotten the Phillies out of a bases-loaded jam), followed moments later by Jesus Aguilar’s go-ahead double to right field, was when it all fell apart. It didn’t help that he went just 1-for-5 at the plate, killing a first-inning rally by grounding into a bases-loaded double play.

The three-time All-Star hasn’t played like one lately, slashing an anemic .243/.314/.361 with just three homers in 226 plate appearances this season. Realmuto’s career-low OPS (.676) ranks 120th out of 157 qualified hitters, while his seven errors are more than he had all of last season (two). Needless to say, this isn’t what the Phillies had in mind when they signed Realmuto to a five-year, $115.5-million contract last offseason, making him the highest-paid catcher in major-league history.

Whether he’s dealing with a garden-variety slump, an injury or something worse (his inexplicable defensive struggles would suggest a mental block of sorts), confidence in Realmuto has never been lower with fans wondering what it will take to get the 31-year-old back on track.

The Phillies are in a much better place than they were a few weeks ago. Bryce Harper continues to play at an MVP level (though his defensive presence has been sorely missed in right field), Rhys Hoskins is heating up (five homers since June 8th) and Zack Wheeler should be a lock for his second straight All-Star Game. Even Nick Castellanos has shown signs of life, hitting .357 over his last eight games (10-for-28). But as we saw when Alec Bohm battled the yips at third base earlier this year, fans are going to hold Realmuto accountable for his struggles, both offensively and behind the dish.

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