Even when the lineup scraped together a few runs, the Phillies couldn't hang on to a three run seventh inning lead, as the Phillies fell, again, to the Pittsburgh Pirates, dropping yet another series at PNC Park and losing to the Pirates 5-4 on the heels of some questionable strategy by the Phillies and some even more ineffective relief pitching.
The Phillies jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double from Hunter Pence, and stretched that lead to 2-0 in the fourth on a long solo home run by Pence.
Phillies' starter Vance Worley continued where he left off last season, getting a bunch of called strikes on that little comeback two-seamer. The only serious blemish on Worley's line -- a titanic solo home run in the fifth by Pedro Alvarez.
As we all know, the Phillies came into the 2012 season professing a newfound believe in playing "Small ball" -- more sacrifice bunts, aggressive baserunning, all in the name of attempting to "manufacture" the runs that the team's main sluggers, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, used to generate with relative ease. That strategy may well have cost the team a run or two today, particularly in the sixth inning. Juan Pierre led off with a bunt single, reaching second on an error by Alvarez. Then Shane Victorino, the team's second best hitter, bunted Pierre to third base.
Think about it: Pierre is good at one thing in baseball -- running. Pierre can score from second on a single. He was not subject to a ground ball double play. But there he was, on third base with one out. So, BaseBa'al had his say: Jimmy Rollins and Jim Thome struck out, stranding Pierre at third.
The Phillies appeared to bust the game open in the seventh on a two run, two out single by Pierre that made the score 4-1. And then the bullpen (and some shoddy fielding) happened.
Mike Stutes entered the game and struck out leadoff batter Clint Barmes, and followed that with a dropped third strike whiff of Alvarez that Brian Schneider threw slightly wide of the bag, and that defensive replacement Ty Wigginton (replacing Thome, who turned a nifty 3-6-3 double play earlier in the game) badly muffed. Alvarez would then score on an RBI double by Casey McGehee, and McGehee would score on a two out single by Alex Presley, to make the score 4-3.
And now for the eighth inning, where new set-up man Kyle Kendrick (think about that) allowed a leadoff single to Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen would steal second, and would then score on a single by rookie Mike Hague off Antonio Bastardo, whose magic BABIP Fairy Dust has apparently turned to Gold Bond or something.
And, last but not least, David Herndon in the ninth inning, giving up a leadoff double to Casey McGehee, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Herndon, not the whiffiest of pitchers (and with the almost historically whiff-inducing Jonathan Papelbon futzing in the bullpen), managed to strike Jose Tabata out, and then faced Andrew McCutchen, by far the Pirates best hitter, with two open bases and two outs. Rather than walk McCutchen, and face the terrifying Neil Walker, Herndon pitched to McCutchen. After quickly getting ahead 0-2, McCutchen fought and finally got himself a meatball that he rocketed off the center field wall for the win.
Worley's Line: Six innings, five hits, one run, one walk, five strikeouts. Pretty much his 2011 template.
The bullpen? Two and two thirds innings, six hits, three runs, and a special assist from Ty Wigginton and Brian Schneider.
Yes it's April, but this was a particularly frustrating give-away game. The division promises to be pretty tight this year. Hope we don't regret this one. The Phillies travel back to Philadelphia for their home opener on Monday, when Cole Hamels will get the ball against the Miami Marlins.
GameGraph of the Goshdarned after the jump!