On October 6, 2010, the Philadelphia Phillies faced baby-faced and power-armed starting pitcher Edinson Volquez at home, as they did again tonight on May 12, 2012. Four of the eight regulars in the Phillies lineup were the same on both occasions: catcher Carlos Ruiz, third baseman Placido Polanco, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and center fielder Shane Victorino. In 2010, the other half of the lineup included Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez. Nineteen months later, the other four spots were filled by Ty Wigginton, Freddy Galvis, John Mayberry Jr., and Hunter Pence.
In the 2010 contest—the opening game of the National League Division Series against Volquez’s then-employer, the Cincinnati Reds—the Phillies repeatedly worked Volquez into hitters’ counts, and knocked him out of the game like the young Mike Tyson against Trevor Berbick (look it up, kids). He faced eleven batters, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks and getting just five outs.
The 2012 club fared somewhat less well.
They put two men on in the first inning and plated a run with back-to-back doubles by Mayberry and Galvis (take that, Howard and Utley!), and loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, before Wigginton followed a rare Pence walk with a first-pitch flyout. Two innings later, facing reliever Luke Gregerson, the offense produced perhaps its signature inning of the 2012 season. Take it away, play by play:
- L. Gregerson relieved E. Volquez
- J. Pierre hit for R. Halladay
- J. Pierre singled to pitcher
- J. Rollins sacrificed to pitcher, J. Pierre to second, J. Pierre to third, J. Rollins to second on pitcher L. Gregerson's throwing error
- P. Polanco grounded out to pitcher
- S. Victorino intentionally walked
- H. Pence popped out to right center
- T. Wigginton grounded into fielder's choice, S. Victorino out at second
Well, that doesn’t quite do it justice. Juan Pierre reached on an infield single when Gregerson couldn’t field a soft comebacker. Then he fielded a Rollins bunt, and threw it a foot over Yonder Alonso’s head, putting two of the team’s faster runners in scoring position with no outs and 2-3-4 coming up. Placido Polanco hacked at the first pitch, and smashed it back up the middle—where it took a hop and landed in Gregerson’s glove, freezing the runners. With one out, the Padres intentionally walked Shane Victorino. Next up was Pence, who hacked at the first pitch and popped up behind second base. Wigginton actually took two pitches before grounding harmlessly to short. From second-and-third, no outs to no runs, three outs took all of nine pitches, four of which were intentional balls to Victorino.
There was one last spasm in the ninth. Facing 31 year-old rookie Dale Thayer, closing for the Padres because they’re the kind of team that will try a 31 year-old rookie to close games when the always-injured guy they signed to do that (Huston Street) got injured, Jimmy Rollins led off by poking a single into left. Polanco—say it with me—bunted him to second. Victorino followed, fell behind 0-2, got new life when the Padres couldn’t catch a foul pop, barely missed an extra-base hit foul the other way, worked the count back full… and swung through a straight fastball for strike three. Which brought up Pence… who hacked at the first pitch and fouled it back. He hacked at the second pitch and fouled it back. Took two balls as Rollins advanced to third, fouled one off—and swung through a high fastball for strike three. One run, 11 LOB, and another loss to a lousy team.
The losing pitcher happened to be the same guy who’d started that October 2010 game against the Reds. As it happened, the ninth member of the Phillies lineup was the same on both occasions. Facing Volquez’s Reds, who had the best offense in the National League, Roy Halladay penned one of the signature moments of his Hall of Fame career by tossing a no-hitter in his first playoff start. Facing the Padres, 15th of the 16 NL teams in runs scored, he was… the best way I can put it is "very good, but not Roy Halladay good." He allowed single runs in the third, on back-to-back doubles by Will Venable and Jason Bartlett, and the seventh, on a sacrifice fly that was bang-bang at the plate. He worked out of trouble in the first and fourth, and struck out ten. It was a typical Halladay outing in a season when he’s been mostly very good, but the weakness of the team has required perfection from him. And the season when last Halladay was perfect, 2010, now feels very, very far away.