JA Happ returned to Philadelphia today in a different uniform. Pitching for the Astros against his former team for the first time, Happ showed Phillies brass why they should have kept him around. Going pitch for pitch with Roy Halladay, Happ allowed only 2 runs in 6 1/3 innings. Halladay went 7 with 3 runs given up. He may have gone further, but Halladay was pulled for a pinch-hitter with runners on base in the 7th.
Having Happ on the mound did not help the struggling Phillies offense emerge from their current funk. Jayson Werth hit a solo homer in the 5th, but with runners in scoring position in the 6th, he grounded out. Werth has hit only .159 with RISP all year; with 2 outs and RISP, the stat drops to .107. By a wide margin, Werth is the worst situational hitter on the team.
The second run the Phillies scored was helped along by Halladay leading off the 6th with a base hit. Placido Polanco later doubled to score him. So of the 5 hits Happ allowed, one was from the opposing pitcher. Base running errors have not helped the Phillies this week either. Ben Francisco was picked off leaning too far off 3rd base during a potential rally in the 6th. That was the 10th runner picked off this year.
Earlier in the series, Werth got picked off at second after peering into the Astros dugout; former teammate Brett Myers stuck his tongue out at him and in an attempt not to laugh out loud, Werth lowered his head and was thrown out. A lack of concentration was bad enough, but playing around with the opposing team while on the base path? Wow. That is bad.
This entire Astros series has been a microcosm of Werth’s lack of focus. Players getting thrown out on the base path, no discipline at the plate and a serious lack of urgency have now led to a huge series loss. While the Braves have been losing as well, the Phillies have simply thrown away their opportunity to gain ground in the NL East race.
Disagreements with the umpires in every game of this series so far have added to the frustration. Today, the home plate umpire called Shane Victorino back to the plate after being hit by a pitch; the ump claimed Victorino leaned into it. Replay shows he leaded down and away. But Victorino got on base anyway with a hit.
Despite the controversial umpiring, it has not been the officiating that lost these 3 games; it has been the Phillies invisible offense. Today’s 3-2 loss was evidence enough. The final game with the Astros is tomorrow afternoon at 1:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography