Saturday would have been a good night for a rain out. With the Phils' bullpen exhausted from consecutive marathon games, and rookie Antonio Bastardo slated to start against the powerful Boston Red Sox, the Phillies' signs were as ominous as the dark sky over CBP. Rescheduling the game to Monday, a mutual off-day for the two teams, would have been advantageous. (At least for the Phillies, which is the priority, obviously.) Actually, anything would have been better than the ugliness that would soon follow.
The top of the first inning may have been the worst half-frame of the 2009 season. Antonio Bastardo was horrid, permitting three hits and three walks. The usually-brilliant Phils' defense was even more repugnant, making three physical errors, and a number of mental ones. The Phillies trailed 5-0, after an inning, when the rains caused the game to be halted.
With a 5-0 deficit, and eight innings of Phillies' Bullpen Excitement on tap, I hoped for a rain cancellation. I didn't have much confidence that the Phils could come back to win, as some of their available relievers (Jack Taschner, Sergio Escalona) hardly inspire confidence. With eight innings to fill, Taschner and Escalona would have to be used, unless Charlie Manuel opted to have Eric Bruntlett eat innings. The Phils would also have to use some of their good relievers (Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey), who really needed some time off, which would hurt the team's chances in Sunday's finale. The game probably should have been delayed from the start, as the teams barely got an inning in, before the field was unplayable.
After a ninety-five minute rain delay, the Phillies took the field to continue the game, with Chad Durbin on the mound. Durbin had a great outing, throwing THREE scoreless innings. In the fourth inning, Raul Ibanez and Pedro Feliz homered. The Phillies closed to within 5-4, and Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was driven from the game. Maybe the Phils had a chance in this one?
Nope. The Red Sox trotted out Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, and closer Jonathan Papelbon, and their sub-2.50 ERAs, to cover the final five innings. (Daniel Bard, and his 98 MPH fastball is the team's SEVENTH option!) The Sox' pen held the Phils to a pair of runs. The Phillies responded with Jack Taschner, who packed five hits and a walk, into a thirty-seven pitch inning. Taschner was fortunate to allow only three runs, as a great inning-ending catch by Shane Victorino saved the team three more. Sergio Escalona followed, surrendering "only" two runs, over two innings. Escalona was also fortunate, as he permitted three hits and two walks, in his forty-one pitch appearance. The Phils would never challenge again, falling 11-6.
Prior to Sunday's game, Escalona was optioned back to Lehigh Valley, and replaced by Tyler Walker. Escalona would not have been available on Sunday, and can be recalled in ten days, or fewer if the Phillies place a pitcher on the DL. Walker has been outstanding in AAA, but wasn't recalled earlier, due to his lack of options. (If the Phillies recall him, they can't send him back to AAA, without exposing him to waivers. Another team would definitely grab him.) I would have liked to have seen Taschner optioned for a Sunday-available replacement, as well.
J.A. Happ starts for the Phils on Sunday, hoping to halt the Sox' five-game winning streak. The Sox send another ace, Josh Beckett, to the mound. Happ needs to go deep into the game, to help the embattled 'pen. Avoiding a sweep will be quite difficult for the Phillies. But, on the plus side, maybe the Sox will be over-confident, when the teams meet again in the World Series. With Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Doug Davis available to start the first three Series games for the Phils, the Fall Classic should yield better results.