It is simple math, right? Well tonight’s Phillies – Braves match-up boiled down to that very simple math.
Pitcher’s Cole Hamels and Jair Jurrjens battled fairly evenly, each allowing just 3 runs. Hamels went 7 innings and Jurrjens was pulled after 6 plus. Hamels did a nice job, but would the offense come through for him?
The Phillies managed only 2 hits of Jurrjens, one of which was a 2-run homer from Raul Ibanez in the 1st inning. The other hit came in the 7th when Ryan Howard tied the game up 3-3 with a triple to score Ibanez, who had drawn a walk. But with no outs and Howard on third, they failed to score again.
Jayson Werth stood at the plate and watched strike three go by. All he had to do was make contact and he just stood there like a deer in headlights. Then Ben Francisco hit what could have been a sac fly, but either Howard, the third base coach or both decided not to tag up as it was a shallow hit ball.
Here is my issue with this: they had to know Wilson Valdez was coming up with 2 outs. Did they expect him to be the hero and get a 2-out hit? I know I certainly did not. While Howard is no speed demon, he has one advantage: size. He should have tagged and if the ball beat him, why not go old-school and knock the catcher over? I would have taken that risk over expecting a 2-out hit from Valdez.
That decision looked like it might come back to haunt them when the bullpen took over in the 8th. Jose Contreras quickly got into trouble with men on first and third and no outs. But Chipper Jones got jammed in between third and home and Dane Sardinha made a great toss to trap and tag him out. Eventually, with help from JC Romero, they escaped the inning unscathed.
With no scoring in the 8th for the Phils, Brad Lidge came into a tie game in the 9th. It was his first game since last week when he blew a save against the Reds. Lidge sent the Braves down in order, but with no scoring from the Phils in the bottom of the 9th, this would be a battle of the bullpens.
Sadly, in a battle of the bullpens, the Phillies were likely to come out on the losing end. David Herndon did a great job in the 10th, but finally surrendered the lead in the 11th after a single and a double. With the offense totally stalled, the 3-4 deficit looked insurmountable. In fact, for many months now, the lack of hitting has made these very small deficits look like impossible obstacles to overcome.
But Mike Zagurski came into the game and made things even worse. He looked great striking out the first two hitters, but made one very big, very costly mistake. Eric Hinske took that mistake and tossed it over the right field wall for a 2-run homer. The Phillies entered the bottom of the 11th down 3-6.
Watching these self-destructive games are very sad, especially in light of the talent this team possesses. They just cannot seem to conjure it up at the most crucial moments. The main players, like Jimmy Rollins and Werth, went hitless as they have many, many times this week. The bottom of the lineup did absolutely nothing. You cannot expect to win games with only three hits.
Add to that the fact that the bullpen cannot hold a tie game down. It is all a recipe for disaster. And so it was; a 3-6 disastrous loss. Jamie Moyer will try to win one tomorrow, but without any offense, how will he fare? Not well is my guess.
Pitcher JA Happ came off the DL today but instead of going to the majors, he was optioned back to AAA. The Phillies are not happy with how he has pitched in his rehab, but they are hoping he will bounce back after some time in the minors.
As for catcher Carlos Ruiz, he will begin a rehab assignment this week, which is good news. The concussion has healed to the point where he can start playing again. Get well soon, Carlos!
By the way, we have now entered Day 8 of my Chase Utley withdrawal. I am not doing too bad so far. I have no fingernails left and I am stuttering a little, but all in all, it has been a mostly sanity-intact week. Of course, we have about 7 weeks left to go so do say a short prayer for me. Thanks…you guys rock.
Zagurski photo by Jenn Zambri Photography