Perhaps hoping the Phillies could take two of three from the Rays this week was optimistic. With Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge out of the lineup, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson slumping, and the #3/4/5 starters slated to start for the Phils, beating the AL Champs twice on the road was a daunting proposal. The Phillies took the first game, and had their chances in the middle game, but wound up being blown out of St. Petersburg. What could have been a positive, cold streak-breaking series, evolved into an embarrassing disaster. The long baseball season is more a marathon, than a sprint, but that oft-used cliche is of little solace to Phillies fans these days.
The Phils took the first game on Tuesday, 10-1, riding Chase Utley and John Mayberry homers, and the wizened veteran arm of Jamie Moyer, to victory. On Wednesday, they rode a Jayson Werth homer...to their only run, in a 7-1 loss. Joe Blanton pitched extremely well, but the bullpen imploded in a five-run Rays' eighth inning. Thursday night, the Phils' jumped to a 4-0 lead in their first at-bat...and never scored again. The Rays battered the Phillies "pitchers", scoring ten unanswered runs in a maddening, irritating affair. (Well, for the Phillies, and their fans, at least.) The Phillies' lead over the Mets now stands at a mere half-game, an advantage of only .008 percentage points.
-On Tuesday night, Chase Utley and John Mayberry each had three RBI. The Phillies lead 6-0, before the Rays batted. Jamie Moyer confounded the Tampa bats, permitting only one run (on five hits), in six sharp innings. The Phillies didn't have to use any of their "good" relievers, as Tyler Walker (two innings, three hits, no runs) and Sergio Escalona successfully protected a nine-run lead. (It was surprising that Charlie Manuel didn't use closer Ryan Madson to protect their WE% of 100.0.)
-On Wednesday night, Joe Blanton pitched seven innings, allowing only two runs, both on a second inning homer. He walked two, and struck out TEN! He deserved better than a loss, evening his record at 4-4.
-On Thursday night, the Phillies raced to a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
-On Tuesday, Jimmy Rollins went 0 for 5, reducing his average to .214.
-On Wednesday, the top four in the lineup (Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard) combined to go 0 for 12. J.C. Romero and Chan Ho Park joined forces, transforming a 2-1 pitcher's duel into a 7-1 blowout, in an abysmal eighth inning. Park allowed three inherited runners to score, bastardizing Romero's ERA (3.72), as well as the Phils' WE (WPA of .119 for Park).
-On Thursday, the Phillies were held scoreless, after their four-run first.
The Hideously Odious
-Jimmy Rollins went 0 for 9 in the first two games of the series. Yet, he was more effective than Eric Bruntlett, who went 0 for 4 on Thursday, while playing (mostly) horrific defense (though his embarrassing lack of range at SS may have saved him some errors).
-Antonio Bastardo was charged with six runs, in three and two-thirds innings, on Thursday. He managed to permit seven hits (including two HR) and three walks, in the short stint. (It would have been worse if his replacement, Chad Durbin, hadn't stranded three of his runners.) Bastardo left the game with a shoulder injury, and his status is currently unclear.
-Tyler Walker entered the Thursday game, with the bases loaded, and two outs. He allowed all three inherited runners to score, terrorizing Durbin's ERA to the tune of 4.50. (Walker has a 0.00 ERA, but has been doing lots of damage to the ERA of his pen-mates.)
-The Phillies made a number of damaging mental errors. Jimmy Rollins threw to the wrong base on Wednesday, attempting an inning-ending force at second on speedy Carl Crawford, rather than taking an easy out at first base. On Thursday, Pedro Feliz forgot the number of outs, and was doubled off first base. Feliz' glaring miscue ended the sixth inning, before Matt Stairs could score from on a would-be sacrifice fly.
-The umpiring was atrocious all series, with an inconsistent strike zone, and a bizarre utilization of the instant replay rule in Thursday's finale. Perhaps the umps could benefit from some coursework at the umpiring academy advertised on MLB.TV? (Note: With non-inept umpiring, the Phillies still lose two of three, but the games would have at least been a little less maddening.)
The Phillies travel to Toronto for a three-game weekend series, starting Friday. The Jays have three lefties scheduled to start, so expect a 2 for 14 weekend from northpaw-killer Ryan Howard. However, the Phils have Cole Hamels starting Friday night, and J.A. Happ starting Saturday afternoon, so there is hope. The Mets play a weekend series against the Yankees, so it appears that we will need to root for the Yankees this weekend. Supporting the Yankees is far from ideal, but we do what we must.