Even at this early stage of the season, a series for first place in the National League East elicits extra excitement from already-pumped up Phillies manager Gabe Kapler — and more than a touch of hyperbole.
So perhaps a grain of salt is required when Kapler favorably compares 24-year-old catcher Jorge Alfaro to Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.
Then again, Kapler did play three seasons alongside Rodriguez, so he has a notion of what he’s saying.
Kapler was effusive in his praise for the young backstop Monday after Alfaro’s laser throw turned an apparent bunt hit into an out as Philadelphia completed a 3-0 victory over the Braves, inching the Phillies within half a game of the division’s top spot.
“I don’t know that there’s another catcher that I’ve ever seen — and I played with Pudge — that makes that play in the ninth inning,’’ Kapler raved. “He is spectacularly talented, spectacularly athletic, incredibly durable. And he’s starting to look like a guy who is going to be a fixture in our lineup for a long time.’’
This was the first time since September of 2011 that the Phillies hosted an NL East rival with both teams at least eight games above .500. After four consecutive losing seasons for Atlanta and five for Philadelphia, the upstart clubs entered the day 1-2 in the division.