Philadelphia Phillies Break Baseball’s Golden Rules

21 Jul

With the Phillies facing a stretch drive where they will have to play above .600 baseball to even sniff the playoffs every game takes on greater significance. Every series becomes a must win.  Every pitcher’s outing is critical.  Every managerial move is scrutinized.  And yesterday’s game is a prime example of the kind of game this team needs to find a way to win if they are really going to make a run.

There was a lot that went wrong in yesterday’s 5-4 loss to the New York Mets but for me there are three major things that must improve if we don’t want to see some familiar Phillies faces wearing some unfamiliar jerseys before too long.

 1.  Cole must be Cole

Cole Hamels entered yesterday’s contest on a bit of a hot streak.  He had three strong outings before the All-Star Break and was starting to look like the Cole Hamels of old.  But he had trouble throwing strikes on Saturday and after being given a 1-0 lead to start the game, on a lead-off home run by Jimmy Rollins, Hamels wasted no time giving that back and more with a 35 pitch first inning where he allowed two walks, three hits and three runs.

Later, after the Phillies had cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth, instead of the shutdown inning his team needed, Hamels gave that run right back making it 4-2.  In a game the Phillies ultimately lost by one run,  every run was critical.  It was Cole’s career high 12th loss, and the most of any National League starting pitcher this year.

Was Hamels pounded?  No.  Was he the only reason the Phillies lost the game?  No.  But when you’ve just signed a huge contract and you are your team’s opening day starter you are expected to come up big when the stakes are the highest.  Hamels has not been able to do that this season.  The Phillies are a dismal 6-15 in his 21 starts and if they are to have any chance down the stretch Kid Cole is going to have to start being King Cole once again.

 2.  Drive ’em Home

Are you as tired as I am of hearing about the Phillies inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position?  And it’s not just this season.  Call it small ball, call it situational hitting, call it smart baseball, call it luck.  But whatever you call it, the Phillies just can’t seem to do it. They had runners on base in seven of the nine innings yesterday but they were a woeful 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and they stranded 10 on the bases overall.

The Phils best chance might have come in the fifth inning when, trailing by one run, they had the bases loaded but couldn’t get that tying run in.  Which brings me to point number three.  And this one really gets me going!

 3.  Patience is a Virtue

Isn’t 3-0, let it go, one of the first things every kid learns in little league?  What about another favorite, a walk’s as good as a hit?  There’s a reason that these phrase have become baseball clichés because they’re true!  I like loyalty as much as the next guy, but am I the only one who cringes when Phillies hitters are routinely given the green light with a 3-0 count only to swing at a pitch way out of the strike zone?

In a sport where on average managers give the 3-0 green light only 10% of the time, Charlie Manuel gives his batters the freedom to swing 3-0 at a shocking rate of over 40%!  Yes, 40%!!

Sorry Charlie, that’s just not good baseball.  Especially when your team is as offensively challenged as this Phillies team has been.  Take the base, put more  pressure on the opposing pitcher, make him throw more pitches and you never know what can happen.

The at bat in question came in the fifth inning when the Phillies, trailing at the time 3-1, had the bases loaded with nobody out.  Chase Utley made it 3-2 with a sacrifice fly, and that brought Domonic Brown to the plate with two men on and one out.

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler fell behind Brown 3-0 but then Brown was given the green light and he hit a pop-up out to left field  on a pitch that he admitted later he should not have swung at.

“I don’t know if it was out of the zone, but it definitely wasn’t a pitch I want to swing at 3-0.”

 I can’t think of a single reason for Brown not to take a pitch in that situation.  The Phils only needed one run, Brown is still a young player prone to getting over-anxious, which he did.

“I was looking for something middle-in and he threw it away. I tried to take it, but by that time my swing was already through.”

The pressure should be on the pitcher  to throw a strike in that situation not on a young hitter wanting to make his manager look good for having the confidence in him to give him the green light.

 “I should have taken the pitch and let Ruf drive us in.”

No, Domonic, that decision should have been taken out of  your hands.

Are you listening, Charlie???  3-0, let it go!

Does that make today’s game a must win for the Phils?  I guess it’s hard to say ‘must’ in July but if this team is going to make a run they need to continue to win series (they won four straight leading into the All Star Break) and that means a win today.  It won’t be easy as they are facing Matt Harvey, the Mets young ace who started this year’s All Star Game for the NL.

But the Phillies have an ace of their own on the mound, Cliff Lee.  Something tells me this will be the first of many games that we’ll be sweating it out right along with the players on the field.

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2 Responses to “Philadelphia Phillies Break Baseball’s Golden Rules”

  1. bjhauswald July 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Thanks, as always, for your commentary. It’s the first thing I look for after, and especially when I’ve missed the game. And with games like these, it’s a little easier than watching them! Thanks for doing the dirty work!

    • girlsbestphriend July 22, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

      Thank you for reading, bj. I wish today’s result was better but so much for a good start to the second half. Maybe you should make a habit of not watching the games. They’re pretty painful. Hope all is well with you!

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