June 11, 2009 2:09 AM

Phils Beat Mets, in Battle of Bullpens

MLB: JUN 06 Phillies and Dodgers

Phillies' ace Cole Hamels had some serious BABIP issues on Wednesday night, in New York. In five innings, Hamels surrendered ELEVEN hits, but only one (a double) was for extra bases. The Phillies trailed 4-1, after six innings, and it didn't appear to be their night. But they capitalized on several Mets' mistakes in a three-run seventh, and the Phils' bullpen contributed six scoreless innings. Jayson Werth made a game-saving catch in the tenth, Chase Utley hit his second home run of the game in the eleventh, and closer Ryan Madson saved a 5-4 victory. The Mets had sixteen hits in the game, fifteen of which were singles, but left sixteen on base. Not even BABIP could defeat the Phillies on Wednesday night.

With the Phillies trailing 4-1, in the bottom of the sixth, they needed to call upon a reliever who could keep them in this crucial game. Charlie Manuel summoned...Jack Taschner! The lefty had not pitched in a game since May 27th. But Taschner made quick work of the Mets, in a scoreless, hitless inning. (This move reminded me of a memorable move in hockey history, by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974. Bernie Parent was the Flyers' star goalie, and played the large majority of the games. His backup, Bobby Taylor, spent most games opening the door to the bench, and trying not to get hit by stray pucks. One Sunday afternoon, the Flyers had a nationally-televised game against their rivals, the Boston Bruins. The Flyers' coach, Fred Shero, decided to start Taylor in goal, even though he hadn't played in eight weeks. When asked about the decision, Shero said, "It was his turn.") I guess Wednesday night, it was Taschner's turn.

Charlie Manuel made another interesting decision, in the top of the seventh inning. The Phillies trailed 4-3, but had the bases loaded, with no outs. They had the opportunity to break the game open. With the pitcher's spot due, pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs already out of the game, and Mets' right-hander Sean Green on the mound, Manuel had to choose a pinch-hitter. If he used his best remaining pinch-hitter, lefty Matt Stairs, the Mets would likely counter with southpaw Pedro Feliciano. Manuel would either have to let Stairs face Feliciano, an unfavorable matchup, or pinch-hit for Stairs with righty Chris Coste. Not wanting to waste Stairs, Manuel went directly to Coste. Right? Well, no. Manuel went directly to lefty Paul Bako, the weak-hitting third-string catcher. I envisioned a 5-2-3 DP. Fortunately, Bako merely struck out. Two groundouts later, the Phillies had tied the game, but had also wasted a huge opportunity.

After relievers Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, and J.C. Romero had taken the tied game into the bottom of the ninth, Manuel had to choose which pitcher to send out for the bottom of the ninth. With Clay Condrey seemingly unavailable (Condrey had thrown nineteen pitches Tuesday night, but had only faced three batters in the previous week. Could Condrey be having injury concerns/a dead arm period, from overwork earlier in the season?), Manuel had two options. He could use his ace closer, Ryan Madson, or long reliever, Chan Ho Park. On one hand, a run would give the Mets an immediate win, and Park was much more likely to surrender a run. On the other hand, Park was a better choice to pitch multiple innings, and Madson was a better choice to convert a save opportunity. Manuel risked the possibility that the Phils could lose, as their best reliever watched from the bullpen. He put Park on the mound, and Park put the tying run on second. I prepared for a Mets walk-off win. But Park escaped the inning, and also pitched a scoreless tenth inning. Park got the win, with Madson retiring the side, in order, in the bottom of the eleventh. The Phillies' bullpen, and Manuel's adept bullpen usage, had helped the Phils secure a crucial victory.

The Phillies will try to win the rubber game on Thursday, with Jamie Moyer, coming off consecutive effective starts, on the mound. The Mets will use Phillie-killer Tim Redding. Redding pitched twenty-nine innings against the Phils in 2008, and held them to a .594 OPS. Hopefully, the Phils will have more success with the 2009 Redding.

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