Third baseman Placido Polanco smacked his 100th career homer in Friday night’s Phillies – Cubs game. The grand slam not only marked a significant career achievement, it also helped the Phillies win the game.
Roy Halladay was his usual awesome self on the mound and it looked like he would not need much assistance. Domonic Brown hit a two-run homer in the second inning to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Then Polly’s slam made it a seven run lead in the seventh.
So after seven innings of no-run ball for Halladay, manager Charlie Manuel decided to give him a little rest and use the bullpen for the final two innings. That almost wound up being a disaster.
Jose Contreras and J.C. Romero nearly blew the seven run lead, which was especially scary considering how hard it has been for the Phillies to score any runs lately. Contreras walked two of the first four batters he faced, loaded the bases and had given up two runs by the time he was pulled after recording only one out.
Things got worse when Romero entered and proceeded to walk the first batter he faced on four pitches. Then back-to-back singles scored three more runs for the Cubs. Without having recorded an out, Romero was lifted from the game. The seven run lead had turned into a 7-5 ballgame quickly.
Rookie Michael Stutes was called upon to stop the bleeding, which he did. Stutes also started the ninth inning where a strike-out, throw-out double play with a strong toss to second from catcher Carlos Ruiz retired two Cubs in one shot. Antonio Bastardo then struck out lefty Carlos Pena to earn the save.
While the Phillies won the game 7-5, the performance from Contreras and Romero is raising eyebrows. Contreras is still struggling with his command since coming off the DL. Hopefully, time and getting some more work in will correct the issue. Romero seems healthy, but he is still having serious issues throwing strikes.
The outlook for these bullpen pieces remains to be seen, but it does appear that the back-end of the pen is in the midst of a youth movement. Both Stutes and Bastardo have outpitched the more experienced Contreras and Romero and will likely be transitioned into the later innings role for the foreseeable future.
Game three with the Cubs is this afternoon at 4:10pm. Cliff Lee will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography