Joe Blanton made his season debut tonight after being on the DL through all of April. He had good command until part way through the 7th inning when it looked like he was getting tired. With 2 outs and 2 men on base, Blanton was pulled from the game and his otherwise good outing was spoiled as reliever Nelson Figueroa allowed both of those runs to score. Figueroa gave up 2 more runs of his own that same inning.
The Phillies offense had trouble against the Cardinal’s pitcher, Jaime Garcia. He pitched really well. The inconsistent strike zone did not help either. Home plate umpire, Andy Fletcher, made some very bad calls. The biggest of those was calling interference on Blanton in the 5th inning which cost the Phillies a run and ended the rally. Blanton ran to first after bunting and Fletcher decided he interfered with the catch at first base. The only problem is he did not interfere; he stayed in the baseline and went straight to the bag. Plus, the throw to first was off-line and the fielder had no chance to catch it anyway.
Raul Ibanez was out at third but Carlos Ruiz may have scored as the throw went wide so this imaginary interference called ended the inning and no run scored. Not only did they lose a possible run, but they lost the chance to keep scoring as the inning should have continued. Charlie Manuel was tossed from the game arguing the call.
Later in the game, Fletcher had words with Jayson Werth before his at-bat even started. I have no idea what Jayson said but Fletcher was clearly on the defensive, probably second guessing himself about the earlier call. And why was he calling the play at first anyway? Isn’t that the 1st base umpire’s job? At any rate, Werth answered Fletcher by whacking the first pitch he saw into the center field seats.
The controversy continued when Carlos Ruiz was called out on a strike that was actually a ball. Ruiz expressed his opinion and walked away. But instead of leaving it alone like a professional umpire should unless he is being cussed out, Fletcher followed Ruiz to continue the argument. We have seen this juvenile behavior from umpires more and more in the last several years. Remember the days when umps did not care what anyone thought and just called it as they saw it? Clearly, those days are gone.
I understand they have a job to do; so just do it then. Unless a player is being disrespectful or using foul language, why argue with them? They are entitled to their opinion. The umpire is supposed to rise above such things. Instead, it seems that many of them walk around with a chip on their shoulder just looking for someone to take their frustrations out on.
The Phillies did not lose the game because of the umpire, so that is not the point here. Figueroa pitched badly and the offense did not produce. But all the unnecessary drama is exactly that; unnecessary.
So the 3-6 loss is not the end of the world, but it is a bad start to a 4-game series with the Cards. Game 2 will start tomorrow night at 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography