I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer here. Tonight was a great game. I was there, and it was a really spectacular night to be at the ballpark, especially once the sun went down and the sauna that was the just-foul right field upper-deck dissipated (wow - those seats on a hot summer night are brutal until about 8pm!). I was with my two kids, both of whom had a blast watching an exciting winning game. It really was wonderful.
But when I thought back about what went on tonight, my main reaction is that Ruben Amaro couldn't engineer a better showcase game than tonight. Here's what I mean by that:
I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the Phillies are going to be sellers this month. I really hope that's not true, and I could give you all sorts of reasons why it may not be true, but when it comes down to it, a team with the fifth-worst run differential in the league has no business being anything but sellers in July.
And tonight, as a team that is going to be a seller, the prime pieces of merchandise to be sold showcased their talents quite well. Let's start with the player I have two completely different opinions about selling: Chase Utley. The gut-emotion fan in me desperately wants the Phillies to hold onto Utley for the rest of his playing career. He was part of the World Fucking Champions, and should be playing his home games at CBP until he retires. But, the rational analyst in me knows that he is a great talent who could fetch a nice return that could help the team down the road. And who knows - maybe he'd come back in the off-season after being traded away (that's the gut-emotion fan in me again).
In the early innings, Utley showcased what he could do. He made two plays on grounders in the top of the first that were difficult balls but Utley made them look routine. He helped turn a nice double play in the second as well. In between, he scorched a double to deep center field and then hustled home on a fielder's choice error two batters later. Utley was quiet after that, but in just 20 minutes any team who wants him saw exactly what makes Utley special - in the field, at the plate, on the basepaths.
Showcase talent number 2 tonight was Cliff Lee. Now, to be clear, I'm in the camp that doesn't really think Lee is going to be traded. As bad as I think Amaro is at playing general manager (and I think he's really really horrendous), I don't think he's going to trade Lee. Lee, Hamels, and Kendrick can anchor this rotation for a few more years, and I think that's something the team is going to want to keep. But, like last year, there's a lot of talk about trading Lee, and if that actually happens, most teams are going to look at his first six innings tonight and salivate. Lee was outstanding through six. His strike to walk ratio was astronomical. He struck out four, giving up only four hits and, of course, no walks. It was vintage Cliff Lee.
And then it wasn't. The top of the seventh is going to be ignored by the scouts and teams lusting after Lee, and for good reason - it was anomalous. But it sure was horrible. Lee gave up four runs (the fourth run surrendered on a sac fly off of J.C. Ramirez) to bring the game to within 1. I can't really give you much detail on the inning, because I was having painful flashbacks to another game where I sat high up in the stands watching Cliff Lee implode. Thankfully, the final score tonight was the opposite (though I'd gladly go back in time and switch that) and the lead was held, but it wasn't pretty in the seventh.
Which brings us to the third showcase talent. I have no doubt Jonathan Papelbon will be traded by the end of this month. He's too good and too worthless for the Phillies to keep. (Of course, I'm sure this means Amaro will hold on to him.) Papelbon came on in the top of the night with a 1 run lead and closed the door. He gave up a single and one of the outs was a hard hit ball to right field that defensive sub John Mayberry Jr. made a great play on (his third of the night after entering in the seventh), but he did his job and got the save.
Like Utley and Lee, Papelbon wasn't perfect (this is Ruben Amaro's engineered showcase after all). But he showed what he needed to show, and there's no doubt that other teams were watching him along with the others tonight.
One final note about something completely unrelated - backup catchers. First, the Phillies third-string catcher, Humberto Quintero, had the night of his life tonight. He hit a two-run home run in the second to put the Phillies ahead 3-0. After Ryan Howard hit a home run (off a lefty!) in the third to make it 4-0, Quintero drove in the eventual-winning run in the sixth with a ball to deep right that scored Delmon Young and, just for the fun of it, should have been scored a triple ("Humberto Quintero with a triple!") but instead was scored a double and advance to third on the throw.
Second, the Braves backup catcher, Gerald Laird, did not have the night of his life. If there's one thing a backup catcher is supposed to do, probably the most important thing in the job description, it's play the whole game to give the first-string catcher a rest. Laird didn't make it out of the third inning because he argued a called third strike and exploded on the home plate umpire. It seemed quite odd, so maybe someone who watched at home can enlighten me, but to explode that early in the game on a called third strike was crazy. Even more so for a catcher, since catchers are usually quieter given they have to spend the entire game in front of the ump. Add in that he's the backup catcher trying to give Brian McCann the night off, it just made no sense. Was there something going on I missed?
Anyway, I've rambled on too long as it is. Fangraph of my-seven-year-old-(not-pictured)-insists-he's-never-seen-a-losing-game: