Phillies 2015 – Week Eleven
You may or may not remember the events of Monday, May 18th. But, on that night, the Phillies won their sixth consecutive game and reached what was without question the high point of this season. Since then, their record is 5-24, including a mind-numbing string of games without the starter earning a win.
Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get worse …
Baffled by Taiwanese Lefty Wei-Yin Chen, the Phillies were shut out for the eighth time this season. Aaron Harang had his most solid outing in weeks but Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters drilled his one big mistake into Souvenir City and sealed the deal. Orioles 4, Phillies 0.
After being shut out three times in four games, what this team needed was a massive offensive explosion. Unfortunately, that is exactly what they got. Manny Machado hit Jerome Williams’ second pitch of the game deep into the left field seats to light the fuse and then … all hell broke loose. The homestanding O’s posted six runs in the first inning and three runs in both the second and third to post a 12-0 lead. When the dust settled, the score was 19-3, the Baltimore bats had hammered eight home runs and the Phillies’ most effective bullpen arm belonged to rightfielder Jeff Francoeur.
‘Frenchy’ was asked to pitch the seventh inning to lessen the strain on a gassed bullpen. But, when he retired the Orioles in order on just 16 pitches, he was sent out to pitch the eighth, too. The magic vanished quickly when Ryan Flaherty turned his first pitch of the inning into tater number eight of the evening. As Francoeur’s pitch count rose and the Orioles mounted yet another rally, the Phils’ bullpen was suspiciously quiet. The obliging veteran outfielder began to look like the chained goat awaiting his fate in the T-Rex paddock in the original Jurassic Park. Eventually, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to make the call to the pen. Sadly, the bullpen phone was OFF THE HOOK!! As though they hadn’t been enough of a laughingstock to that point, McClure was made to wave a towel above his head at the edge of the dugout to signal the seemingly disinterested relief corps. When he went to the mound to apprise his ersatz reliever of the situation, he faced the ire of Chase Utley. The long-time face of the team, known for his ‘say little, do much’ approach, could not hold his tongue as he watched the exhausted Francoeur laboring through what would be a 32-pitch eighth inning.
An additional note… the Phillies had only hit nine home runs in the 13 games they had played in the month of June before allowing eight in Tuesday’s debacle.
As the Phillies headed north on I-95 to continue their interleague pas de deux with the Orioles at Citizen’s Bank Park, the thought of steering the team bus off of the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge may have seemed like the logical next step for a team in absolute freefall.
The Orioles spoiled Kevin Correia’s first home start with a four-run fourth inning and Freddy Galvis’ three-run shot in the seventh only brought the home team part of the way back. Orioles 6, Phillies 4.
Dragging nine consecutive losses behind them, the Phillies gave Sean O’Sullivan the opportunity to stem the negative tide. Manny Machado’s lead-off home run on the game’s fifth pitch could not have been in the plan. But, to his credit, O’Sullivan settled in and started getting hitters out. The bullpen picked up where he started and held the visitors from Baltimore scoreless the rest of the way. Ryan Howard… you remember Ryan Howard, right? Anyway, Deep 6 provided a little Throwback Thursday treat when he cranked a two-run bomb in the sixth to put the Phightins ahead. Jake Diekman returned from two weeks of exile in Triple A to pitch a perfect sixth inning and earn his first win of the year. Closer Jonathan Papelbon earned his 13th save. Phillies 2, Orioles 1.
With a win under their belts and the possibility of some fresh wind in their sails, the Phillies had to shut down their number one starter Cole Hamels with hamstring soreness. When word of Hamels being scratched ignited trade rumors, the lefthander played a little prank and emptied his locker. It’s nice to see a fella who knows how to find the humor in a 1-9 stretch. It only got funnier when it was announced that Phillippe Aumont , the last vestige of the disastrous decision to trade Cliff Lee to Seattle, was being called up to start in Hamels’ place.
Fortunately for Aumont, he only had to deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, who brought with them the best record in baseball. Within hours the 6-foot-7 native of Quebec had been torched for six runs in four innings and been designated for assignment. The only real energy exhibited in the home dugout all night was in reaction to a dive-bombing squirrel that sent players scrambling in the second inning. Cardinals 12, Phillies 4.
Cody Asche staked starter Aaron Harang to a 1-0 lead with a second inning homer to right. But, that was all the offense could muster against Cards’ righthander John Lackey. Harang surrendered the lead when Randal Grichuk (aka. The man drafted before Mike Trout) thumped a three run bomb into the Phillies’ bullpen in the sixth inning. Apparently, it was ‘Disastrous Trade Remembrance’ weekend, because the Phils had replaced Aumont on the roster with Seth Rosin, a remnant of the Hunter Pence deal. Like Aumont before him, Rosin took his lumps (2 IP, 5 ER, 22.50 ERA) and was immediately sent back down to the minors. Cardinals 10, Phillies 1.
It had now been 25 games, dating back to May 23rd, since a Phillie starter had earned a win. It was hard to imagine that streak ending as the dominating Cardinals who were averaging eight runs a game against the Phils this season were sending Michael Wacha (9-2, 2.48) to the hill. The Phillies had promoted Adam Morgan to make his first major league start. Morgan was winless in 13 starts with Lehigh Valley this season with a 4.74 ERA. So, naturally, he pitched beautifully and shut down the rampaging Cardinals offense. When the Phillie bats awakened and hung 5 runs on the usually dominant Wacha, fans in the comparatively large Father’s Day crowd found themselves enjoying that rarest of treats… a blowout win. Phillies 9, Cardinals 2.
As whispers of regime change grow louder in south Philly, it looks like the trades we have been expecting may be on hold. If Andy MacPhail is the man to succeed Pat Gillick, it would make sense that those major moves would be left to him. Additionally, Tuesday’s embarrassment at Camden Yards, including Utley’s censure of McClure, has given rise to the opinion that Ryne Sandberg may have lost the clubhouse or even that he never truly had the clubhouse. Utley, a company man through and through, has publicly supported McClure and, by association, Sandberg in response to his on-field outburst. But, a MacPhail hiring would logically mean the dismissal of Sandberg and Ruben Amaro, Jr. … if not immediately, certainly at season’s end.
Looking ahead –
We will be force-fed more Interleague tripe this week as the Phightins head to the House that ESPN built to enjoy the ludicrously short rightfield porch and the incomparable sensation of playing in front of empty $1500 seats. Then, a Friday date with Max Scherzer, who has one-hit the Brewers and no-hit the Pirates in his last two starts, kicks off a weekend in Washington, DC.
W.A.R. What is it Good For? of the Week –
With all due respect to Bill James and his SABR-metric acolytes, there are still some ‘Old School’ stats out there that will tell you whether or not a team is thriving. For example, in their 71 starts, the Phillies’ starting pitchers have a first inning ERA of 6.08, including 82 hits, 15 of which were home runs. Speaking of dingers, the Phils have allowed 79 while hitting only 41. This brings us to the run differential… having allowed 342 runs, they have scored only 220. Finally they have been shut out eight times and thrown only two shutouts of their own. Put away the slide-rule, this team is a mess.
Crooked Number of the Week –
Maikel Franco’s two-run shot in the sixth inning of that 19-3 laugher may have seemed like a meaningless afterthought. But, if nothing else, it ended a string of 70 consecutive innings where the Phillies failed to score more than one run. Not surprisingly, they were winless during their week of binary coding.