The Phillies’ monochromatic color man, Chris Wheeler, who explains the purpose of the “no-doubles defense” every single game (like the name isn’t self-explanatory enough, or like we haven’t heard it a few thousand times already), actually said something worthwhile last night in the post-game segment: “They’re waiting around to lose.” This was after the Phils blew a 4-1 lead in the 7th inning on the road to an eventual 7-4 loss, and after losing the fourth of their last five games (and the fourth out of five to the Mets this year, all of them at home). It’s become something of a trend lately for them to jump out to an early lead and then score nothing the rest of the game, squandering plenty of opportunities to pick up extra runs, while the other team gradually chips away. And with the bullpen they have, the worst in the league so far, this is like adding cargo to a sinking ship.
Woo boy. Cliff Lee pitched ten shut-out innings last night, averaging around ten pitches per inning, and the Phillies still managed to lose. Of course, Matt Cain pitched just as well, going nine and giving up none on a similarly scant number of pitches. The way the game was going, it seemed destined to end as it did, 1-0, and even though neither team really “deserved” to win more than the other, it still felt like the Phillies blew it.
In the top of the 11th, they had a runner on third and only one out, after Carlos Ruiz led off with a double down the left field line and Freddy Galvis laid down a sacrifice bunt. The pitcher’s spot was up next and Charlie sent his buddy Jim Thome up to pinch hit, and this of course prompted Bruce Bochy to bring in one of those nasty lefty “specialists” he seems to have in endless supply. Instead of replacing Thome with a right-hander (Mayberry or Polanco), though, “Cholly” left him in, and the thoroughly likeable but probably over-the-hill future hall of famer sadly, predictably whiffed on five pitches. So then Cholly sent Mayberry up to bat for the man whose head is as small as Polanco’s is big, Juan Pierre, who (the stats nerds will tell you) hits lefties better than he does righties, and Mayberry sadly, predictably hit a weak dribbler to the infield. Inning over, along with the Phillies’ chance to score the go-ahead, and potentially winning run.
At this point I said “fuck it” and turned off the TV to get ready for bed. It was almost midnight and, you know, I have a job (the only reason I stayed up was because the game was going so fast that by 11:30, the time I usually bail out on these west coast games, it was already in the 8th inning, instead of the 4th or 5th, and I figured another half-hour wouldn’t matter). I couldn’t resist one more score-check before getting in bed, though, so after brushing my teeth I flipped the TV back on just in time to see the stadium emptying out and the final score: Phillies 0, Giants 1. What I missed was Antonio Bastardo giving up a lead-off single, followed by a ground ball to third that could have been a double play but instead was mishandled by Ty Wigginton, followed by a walk-off RBI single by Melky Cabrera. So, in addition to mismanaging his pinch hitters, Cholly inexplicably left the notoriously ham-handed Wigginton to play third in a 0-0, extra-inning game while last year’s gold glove third baseman, Polanco, watched from the dugout. There’s a contingent of fans over at the Philly news site who incessantly bash Manuel, portraying him as a gum-chomping rube whose idea of in-game strategic managing is to wait for someone to hit a three-run home run. Hard to argue with them after last night’s performance.
The Phils are now 5-7, after dropping 2 of 3 to the Mets and Giants. Ryan Howard is still “rehabbing” his Achilles tendon and no word on when he’ll be ready to play. No word either on Chase Utley, who appears to have gone missing, perhaps into something akin to the witness protection program for injured ballplayers. If they don’t figure out how to score some runs, it’s going to be a long season. Or a short one, depending on how you look at it.
Up next: Four in San Diego and three in Arizona, then back home.
After winning the season opener against the Pirates, the Phillies lost the next three, including the home opener against the Marlins, sending the Phaithless scurrying for the life boats, or the Flyers. But suddenly the offense came alive and they took the next two from the Marlins. On Wednesday, they pounded Josh Johnson, winning 7-1, and last night, behind Joe Blanton doing his best Roy Halladay impression, they won 3-1. They even hit two home runs last night, doubling their season total in one game. Mind you, nobody’s going to confuse this team with an offensive juggernaut, but at least they’re getting hits when they need them, and the pitching’s been as solid as expected. Up next: The Mets for three in Philly.