Sorry for delay everyone: I posted this after the game but didn’t hit publish. Apologies….
Baseball is great a game, the best, bar none. No matter how great you are you have to get 27 out and more runs than the other guy. Doesn’t matter if you are the Dodgers with 2 Billion on your payroll or the Astros with using the change drawer for your salary. Get those 27 outs and more runs, you win.
But when you lose a game, and sometimes teams lose games rather than the other team winning it – those are the ones that are hard to swallow, hard to get by, and hard to keep from becoming part of your psyche. This one is a game the Rockies gave to the Phillies, and they will happily take it, and sadly we are back at 10-10, the good team playing average baseball. The folks on ROOT will say this isn’t that bad…but everyone who has played baseball knows these games are not easily swallowed.
Today started with what should have been a cue to how things were going to finish. We had seen a lot of improvement in the pitching of Juan Nicasio this season, mixing his 2-seamer and split-finger as a changeup. That Nicasio was evidently busy at Safeway, so they brought in the 2013 version. For five innings we saw nothing but sliders and 4 seamers, which included homers in the first by Rollins and a 2 run show by Howard in the third. Aside from a great K of Utley, Nicasio was completely overmatched by the big three of the Phillies. He got through 5 and he was given an 6-3 lead.
The offense early was getting key hits, driving in those key runs when you have a guy at 2nd with no outs (they failed when Rutledge led off the 4th with a double and never moved – an example of the little things done wrong). But with a big 5th, the score was 6-3, and you could feel at the end of the 5th the Phils were just about ready to wrap it up and head to L.A.
But perhaps the biggest mistake of the day, or at least the most questionable decision occurred. On Friday night Tyler Chatwood was pulled after 88 pitches when he dominating. Nicasio, who had only one easy inning, was at 89 pitches through 5, and had not handled the Howard the whole game. On the Game Talk at RoxWalkOff we bounced it around – do you send him out or not? Generally I want my pitchers going 6, but again, he was a 2 pitch pitcher facing these guys the 3rd time through. Last year Nicasio 3rd time through allowed an OPS of only .767 (lower I bet than most of us would have thought), but his OPS with pitch count over 76, .812. So the stats were not screaming this team had to send him out again, and the pen was, before today, well rested.
Weiss send out Nicasio, who promptly gave up a TRIPLE to Ryan Howard, followed by a run-scoring single. Game 6-4, runner on 1st and Rex is called in to face Brown and Asche. Rex has said before he prefers to start the inning, not coming in with runners on. Brown gets a single, but Rex gets a big K. So, men on 2nd and 1st, with one out. Things are still in control – then the big error by Pacheco, allowing an easy passed ball, moving the runners up. Rex gets a fly-out, which would not have moved up the runners had the passed ball not occurred, but a run scored due to the passed ball. Rex closes it out, but the game is now 6-5, and the Phillies in one short inning went from packing their bags to feeling they were in it.
They say in football that a big defensive play can spur the offense on. Bottom of the 6th Pacheco leads off with a triple, and again, you can see the Phils on the edge of saying, “we are just not going to get his one.” Dickerson up to pinch-hit, drives the ball hard up the middle and…Pacheco goes back first, then runs home, gets in a run-down, tagged out, Dickerson advances to 2nd and doesn’t slide….and is pulled off the bag. Didn’t think he was off, they reviewd, double-play, and what looked like an inning that would push the Phils back into give-up mode. Instead, this big double-play excites them again (remember last year that great double-play at 3rd by Yorvit against the Braves…fired the Rockies up just the same). But even after wasting an opening triple, they get two more walks, men at 2nd and 1st with 2 out and…CarGo grounds out and is injured (tendinitis in knee, I had it when I was a marathoner…eventually needed surgery…just saying) . The Phils have a great defensive inning, keep the game at 1 run, see one of the best players from the Rockies hobble off and…they are in this. Watch the highlights…the Phillies literally changed their body language – they thought they had this.
And after what maybe the worst inning of baseball ever (okay, over statement, but in modern history, I have not seen much worse…and I am re-watching it now). Weiss chooses to bring out his second lefty, bringing in Boone Logan again (really surprised he was not kept for a key lefty out later). Logan is facing Ben Revere, who is struggling, cannot hit lefties. What do you think he is going to do? Bunt…I would have. And he did, and Logan nonchalants it and Revere is on first. Not technically an error, but it was a mental and slightly physical error on Logan. Next batter, Rollins, doubles, men at 3rd and 2nd, no outs, one run lead. You can feel the panic. Utley fights Logan for a sac-fly, then Howard, another lefty, gets a single that Barnes mis-plays into a 2nd and one out situation. Weiss brings in the Big 0, Adam Ontavino who gets Brown to bounce to Josh Rutledge who…what do you call it, muffed it? Dropped it? Whatever. It is the reason why, as much as I love Josh, this team plays DJ, because he makes the catches, which is the first job of a 2nd basemen (sadly, we have a good guy down at Tulsa, Fetherston, who is a Josh clone – good bat, 19 errors each year). With Howard at 3rd and less than 2 out….sac-fly, the game is now 8-6. Ontavino was terrific again in just 13 pitches. Two real and one mental error turned what should have been a scoreless inning into a 3 run explosion. And you could tell on the website, and on the field, there was a sense the team just gave away the game.
But, to their credit, this team knows how to hit. Tulo hits a double, followed by some guy who cannot hit lefties named Justin Morneau, crushing one to the right field stands, and its game tied again. But then the “defense excited offense” followed this great homer – Diekman Ks all three of the next hitters – showing the Phillies they can control the Roxs with their pen. Confidence matters.
So, tied game, and the Rox pull Ontavino (saving him for the next series, which I understand) and put in, Matt Belisle. The decision to use Brothers in the 6th and Belisle in the 8th, seems odd in retrospect, especially because Belisle handles coming in with men on base better. The team left at this point Bettis and Kahnle and went with Matt. Okay, have to trust your manager to handle the pen his way (I remain a fan of WW, but he still is learning). And the inning opens with…Freddie Galvis of all people singling up the middle. Belisle gets a pop-out on the bunt attempt (classic Matt there), but then it continues….Revere singles, Rollins singles (Galvis scores). Utley bounces to Tulo, but they are unable to turn the double-play. Game 10-8. They survived the wild pitch that followed. But still…do you think the Phillies are doubting they have this game?
Top of the 8th, DJ starts the inning off with a soft groundout to Galvis at 3rd. This one ends up hurting because Charlie B on the second pitch he sees from lefty Bestardo into the stands. Game 10-9. Sadly…Barnes, who had a good day at the plate not in the field, strikes-out. Drew Stubbs doubles down the line, man at 2nd, 2-out, game 10-9. They of course walk Tulo (if they had not I think Ryan Sandburg is fired on the spot), and on a six-pitch AB, they finally K Morneau.
At this point the game is in the Phillies hands, they have the lead, the confidence, and their best defensive rotation in. Top of the 9th Chad Bettis gives up a lead-off double, but they are able to keep the run from scoring thanks to a challenge on the last out. Is this the momentum changer?
I am not a fan of Jonathan Papelbon as a person – a bit too “much” for me. But a decent to good closer. Arenado, who earlier extended his hitting streak to 11, singled again. The shortened bench probably hurt the team at this point. If they had used Cuddy in the 8th as a pinch-hitter, they could have had DJ pinch-run for Arenado and try and steal second (Papelbon has had trouble keeping runners close in his career). Instead, they give up the out, bunt him to second. Pacheco up next and a strange key play occurs. On a pitch inside Pacheco is hit by the pitch, which would have been a wild pitch putting Arenado at 3rd with 1-out. Instead, men at 2nd and 1st with 1 out. Next man up is Wilin Rosario who had a poor AB, due in part to the poor ball-strike calling by the umpire (it was bad all day and probably led to the high scoring affair). The infield pop-up left men at 2nd and 1st with 2 out and Charlie B at the plate.
He fell behind early in the count on a ball at least 6 inches off the plate, and had a defensive AB the rest of the AB. Eventually he grounded slowly to Freddie Galvis, he who was put in for Asche back in the 6th, picks it, throws low, and Mayberry, subbing for Howard at 1st as a defensive replacement, barely stays on the bag. Three outs, game over, 10-9.
Strange how small decision here and there change the game:
Nicasio throwing to Pacheco only throws 2 pitches the whole game
Nicasio is allowed to go out in the 6th to face a guy who has owned him the whole game, and gives up a triple to the big man and a single to follow, taking a 6-3 going away lead on the way to a 6-5 close game. Pacheco allows a huge passed ball (as he did in the DLR start earlier this week), demonstrating the ongoing challenge of having two offensive-oriented catchers rather than a defensive catcher.
Pacheco has a brain lock and is thrown out at home and Dickerson doesn’t slide and is pulled off at 2nd, ending an promising inning and inspiring the Phils.
The 7th inning becomes the worst defensive inning in Rockies history. With the lead the team didn’t move DJ in for Rutledge, in part because of the ongoing decision to keep Cuddy off the DL and the team one-man short on the bench.
The injury to Carlos Gonzalez, pulling his bat out and pulling Stubbs off the bench early.
The decision to use Brothers not to start the 6th but in the 6th, to use Logan in the 7th, and Belisle in the 8th.
And we could go on, but you get the point. This one just hurts. The Giants are here for three, and we get three pitchers against whom the often struggle, but it provides a great crucible for seeing in this game is just a bad memory or impacts the near future. This team has played better than .500 baseball. They need to go out and prove against the Giants and then the Dodgers on the road, that they are better than just average.
Addendum: Walt in the post-game says he was proud of the team’s resiliency (okay, they did fight back) and sees no issues with Matt. Essentially it was “you have a stinker every year, there are going to be days when your pen all explodes. It happened, lets move on. CarGo says he can go on Monday, which is good, but his removal changed a lot of strategy. But, tendenitis in your knee, especially when you land weird hurts like crazy for a while and they were not going to take chances. Monday’s game is going to be important for a lot of reasons now.