This past week of Phillies baseball has felt a little bit like "Would Coulda Shoulda" with series against the playoffs-bound Reds and Nationals. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the Phillies have played well. With a whole season of Lee, Halladay, Howard, and Utley, how might things have turned out? Alas.
At the All Star Break, the Phillies were 37 - 50. My routine after every game lately is to see how they have done since, more or less, the team returned to full strength. Except for trading Blanton, Victorino, and the Lumberjack. With last night's win, they have moved to 60 - 67, which is a record of 23 - 17 since the ASB, for a winning percentage of .575. Over a season, that projects to 93 wins. Ouch.
Last night was a good example of how the team has turned it around since the bodies came down off the shelf and started playing. Roy Halladay pitched for the Phillies, and despite a maddening fifth inning where he gave up two runs on four singles and a fielder's choice, Halladay kept the Nationals off the board. And to be fair, while it was exciting to see Utley gun down the runner at home in the fifth on that fielder's choice, it looked like he probably could have turned the double play there and, with one out already, closed out the inning. As it was, the next hitter, Steve Lombardozzi, drilled a single, plating two runs which tied the game at two.
Halladay's line for the night was seven innings, seven hits, one walk, two runs surrendered, and six strikeouts. It was a solid outing, though the persistent drumbeat I felt in the back of my mind during the fifth was, "what's wrong with Le Roi?" Rationally, giving up two runs over seven innings is a great outing, but I'm still not so sure that this is the Roy Halladay of 2010 or 2011. It just doesn't....feel right. But it was effective.
So, how'd the Phillies win it?
It helped that Gio Gonzalez was not sharp tonight. Ok, let me get the obligatory Freddy Garcia angst out of the way now. Scream therapy, folks, ok? On three: one, two, AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!! THAT TRADE WAS AWFUL! Perhaps it could not have been predicted with certainty at the time, but, dayum, it just turned out terribly.
Gio was not sharp tonight from the get-go. He walked Rollins to start off the Phillies in the first. This was the first of seven batters he would face in the inning. Following singles by Kevin Frandsen (lovechild of BaseBa'al and the BABIP Fairy) and Chase Utley, the latter scoring Rollins, Howard advanced Frandsen and Utley with a fielder's choice to first. Mayberry then plated Utley with a grounder to second. Kratz and Pierre terminated the inning for the Phillies, and Gonzalez escaped with just the two runs surrendered, but he threw a million pitches for just three outs.
After the Nats tied it in the fifth, the Phillies took the lead in the sixth on a leadoff homer by John Mayberry. Gonzalez closed out the inning and was done for the night. The Phillies added another run off Sean Burnett in the eighth when Chase Utley, well, what did Chase Utley *not* do to score this run?
Utley started things off by getting hit by Burnett. He stole second. He stole third. And he came home on a sac fly off the bat of Mayberry because Mayberry wasn't willing to take more pitches to let Utley steal home, too. Don't all of you miss Mike Fontenot?
After Halladay left at the end of the seventh, the Phillies had to get six more outs to preserve the win. In the eighth, Antonio Bastardo came in to face Bryce Harper. Whiff. Ryan Zimmerman. Whiff. Adam LaRoche. Whiff. He struck out the side. Six outs needed, three achieved by strikeout.
In the ninth. It. Was. Time. For. Papelbon. To. Close. Things. Out.
And he struck out Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa, sandwiched around a fly out to Roger Bernadina. The bullpen needed six outs and got all six, five by strikeout. Not one runner reached. How 'bout that for the 2012 Phillies?
One final note on the evening, and I am sure those who watched know already where I'm going with this. In the fourth inning, Bryce Harper started things off with a single off Halladay. He is the stallion who will mount the world, right? It is so, Khaleesi. Well, not tonight. In what seems to be a recurring theme of performance anxiety involving the Phillies, Harper blew it again, looking more like a nineteen year old kid than Ty Hornsby Ruth. When Ryan Zimmerman lofted a fly to right, Harper took off, and looked like he fell or tripped. When
Mayberry Martinez caught the ball for an out, Harper couldn't get back to first and he was doubled off. Derp.
The Phillies go for the sweep today in another outstanding pitching matchup with Cliff Lee going against Jordan Zimmermann at the Bank.
Fangraph of joyous non-Harperousness: