Not a fun one tonight. In a "bullpen" game where the Phillies sent Tyler Cloyd to the hill on short rest, the Phillies were hoping that the bullpen could extend its scoreless streak tonight and come up with a win against the Astros in the first game of a four game set against one of the worst baseball teams in recent memory. All this against the backdrop of a "found money" playoff race. It kind of worked for a while, with the Phillies taking a four run lead, but it came crashing down in the end as a result of a failure to add extra runs when they had the chance and a bullpen meltdown in the eighth inning.
Cloyd started off well, with a 1-2-3 inning on a popup to catcher Erik Kratz, a grounder to Rollins, and a backwards K by Brett Wallace. Attendance appeared as though it might be 200, if you included both teams, the broadcasters, the umpires, and the grounds crew. The stadium was a sea of empty, green seats, providing a really strange game environment.
In the second, Astros starting pitcher and nutcase Lucas Harrell worked fast, as though he wanted the season to end so he could forget about playing for a team that is going to lose 110 games this year. He whiffed John Mayberry, and made him look bad doing it. Domonic Brown worked the count full and walked. As Frandsen batted, we were regaled with stories from Chris Wheeler of what a "winner" Craig Biggio was. Frandsen flied out to left. Erik Kratz came up wtih two out and swung at a high pitch, hitting a playable ball off the wall that Fernando Martinez seemed to miss as he approached the wall. It was scored a double, ending an 0 - 16 stretch, and scoring Brown from first to stake the Phillies to a 1- 0 lead.
Rollins started off with an out. Juan Pierre collected his second hit with a grounder up the middle. The Phillies executed a hit-and-run, allowing Pierre to go first to third when Utley laced a single through the hole on the right side. Chris Wheeler said "play the game the right way" several times. A sacrifice fly by Ryan Howard scored Pierre, giving the Phillies a 2 - 0 lead. John Mayberry floated a ball to right where it dropped in, scoring Utley from second. The RF overran the ball, allowing Mayberry to reach second, where he kicked the ball loose on his slide. A wild pitch over the head of Brown sent Mayberry to third. A four pitch walk to Brown put runners at the corners and gave Harrell 58 pitches. Kevin Frandsen hit a Baltimore Chop to reach first and score Mayberry. The inning ended with Kratz looking at strike 3 and Harrell acting like a petulant child breaking stuff in the dugout, which is apparently his schtick to show his teammates that he cares when he sucks, or else it is a sign of mental illness. Phillies 4, Astros 0.
In the bottom of the third, Cloyd began to show cracks, but ultimately escaped a bases-loaded jam unharmed when a ground ball by Brett Wallace looked like it might find no-man's land in the infield, but Utley got to it and threw out Wallace by an eyelash.
In the bottom of the fourth, Cloyd was tagged with three runs. Justin Maxwell started things out with a single. A broken bat flare to right center by Jason Castro put runners at first and second. Matt Dominguez, who still looks like he's twelve, hit a three run bomb a massive 336 feet to left, chasing Cloyd in favor of B.J. Rosenberg. Other than the homer to Dominguez, Cloyd didn't throw any terrible pitches. He was nibbling, got blorped a couple of times, and finally made the mistake that Dominguez killed. Starting with the third, it appeared that the Astros figured out that Cloyd couldn't get them out, and they stopped getting themselves out. A little batted ball luck helped out, too.
The contrast of the soft-tossing Cloyd and Rosenberg's mid nineties heat proved to be effective for Rosenberg. After striking out a hitter, Tyler Greene hit a ball just...past...a...diving...Juan Pierre in left. He got enough of it to keep it from scooting by him, and Greene coasted to second but no further. Rosenberg struck out Harrell on a 96 mph heater for the second out, bringing Jose Altuve to the plate. Altuve flied out to Mayberry to end it, but the Astros closed the gap to 4 - 3.
The bottom of the fifth was notable for the liner off the bat of Martinez that nearly decapitated Juan PIerre, but he held on for the out. Wallace hit a routine grounder to Utley for the second out. A nice play by Frandsen on a grounder to third by Maxwell gave the Phillies the third out, and Rosenberg had a nice, clean 6 pitch inning.
In the top of the 6th, the Phillies wasted an opportunity to add to their lead. With two outs, Pete Orr hit for Rosenberg, eh? Orr went opposite field with a single. Orr stole second on the first pitch. Rollins walked. Pierre walked. Harrell, who was acting up in the dugout earlier, was visibly frustrated. As Harrell left after being pulled, he mouthed off to the umpire and was ejected. The TV broadcast showed him pulling the same act in another game earlier this year. This guy has some issues that seem to be interfering with his ability to play the game. All kidding aside, it looks like he could use some help - it's kind of sad. Chase Utley came to the plate with the sacks juiced and grounded out 3 - 1, squandering the two-out rally.
In the top of the seventh, Ryan Howard struck out woefully on a sweeping breaking ball by lefty Xavier Cedeno. He looked awful in the at bat, as he is prone to do at times. At this point in the game, people started whistling and it echoed through the empty stadium like humpback whale songs. This did not encourage the Phillies to score any runs, and the inning ended with Brown grounding out and a Frandsen fly out.
In the top of the eighth, Rollins walked with two out. Carlos Ruiz, hitting for Pierre, knocked an infield single. With runners on first and second, Rollins stole third (400 on his career). He did it without a pitch being thrown when the pitcher sort of forgot about him. Utley grounded out with runners at the corners to end the threat.
Sad part coming up. Phillippe Aumont came in to start the eighth. After getting down in the count 3 - 0, Maxwell hit a fly out. Aumont walked Castro and the speedy Jordan Schafer came in to run. He tried to steal on the first pitch but was gunned down by Kratz, throwing from his knees with a great tag by Utley. Two outs, nobody on, no problem, right? Uh, it's the Astros, remember?
Babyface Dominguez walks. Pinch hitter Scott Moore was hit on the foot by the first pitch he faced. Jed Lowrie came out to pinch hit, and Charlie Manuel came to get Aumont who had lost the plot completely.
Jake Diekman came in to face Lowrie. He lined a double the opposite way to right-center just past Schierholtz, and two runs scored. A single by Brandon Barnes up the middle just past Utley scored Lowrie, and the Astros were up 6 - 4. Altuve hit a rocket to Frandsen at third, and he blocked it, but could not pick it. Playable, but tough, and it was scored an error initially (later changed to a hit), putting runners at the corners. Diekman picked Altuve off, but could not throw him out because of the runner at third. Diekman finally struck out Brian Bogusevic to end it, but the damage was done. This inning ended a 21 inning scoreless streak for the bullpen. The kids are alright, but not invincible.
The Phillies went quietly in the 9th. Wilton Lopez was in to close it out. Howard roped a single to left on the first pitch. Mayberry struck out looking. Brown hit into a double play to end it.
C'est la vie.
Fangraph of missed opportunity with 4 - 0 lead;