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How to Lose a Winnable Game

If you're in a blaming mood, Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Angels offers a target-rich environment. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard failed to deliver in the first inning after Jimmy Rollins and Greg Dobbs reached base to start the game. So Taguchi ended the game with a horrible, horrible at-bat just as it seemed LAA closer Francisco Rodriguez was coming apart. Pat Burrell was 0 for 4, and the whole lineup other than Jimmy Rollins and Howard, who had two each, managed a grand total of two hits. 

But to me it was Geoff Jenkins' at-bat in the second inning of yesterday's game that perfectly captured why the Phillies fell to their fifth straight defeat. I'm not saying it was the most important moment in the contest, nor am I denying a certain animus toward Jenkins' game anyway that renders me something less than totally objective. But this was dumb baseball at a moment when the team could least afford it. 

The situation was this: Angels starter Jered Weaver escaped trouble in the first inning, but had thrown 28 pitches. LAA scored their three runs in the top of the second, with the inning ending when Weaver--making a rare appearance at the plate--narrowly failed to beat out an infield grounder. He seemed a bit fatigued in the bottom of the inning against Shane Victorino, batting sixth in Charlie Manuel's reconfigured lineup, and walked Victorino on five pitches. 

This was Weaver's second walk of the game against six hitters. The Phillies had stolen three bases in their half of the first inning, and Victorino had been moved to the six-hole in large part to inject some speed, some capacity to manufacture runs, toward the bottom of the order. Mike Napoli probably wasn't going to throw him out; Weaver wasn't even throwing over. The opportunity was there to get him in scoring position with nobody out and put further pressure on a pitcher who seemed tired. 

Victorino took off on the first pitch... and Geoff Jenkins skied it to left field for an easy out, sending Victorino back to first. Two pitches later, Carlos Ruiz did the same thing. Cole Hamels managed to see seven pitches--fouling off four straight, with Victorino running on each of them--but ultimately grounded out, stranding the team's fastest runner where he started the inning, at first. It wasn't quite the ballgame, but it did preview the frustration the rest of the afternoon would bring.