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The Luck of Everything: Rays 5, Phillies 3

On St. Patrick's Day, the Luck of the Irish was on full display, whatever that means.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another injury or scratch for the Phillies. Just a day after learning that Cliff Lee would be placed on the 60-day DL with a torn flexor tendon, Jerome Williams was scratched from his start because of a tweaked right hamstring. It was the latest in what feels like an endless barrage of injuries to Phillies starting pitchers--actually, all pitchers in baseball-- this spring. The Phillies, like any team, need starting pitchers, so the litany of injuries they have endured this spring is disconcerting. But, what's worse, most likely, is that Williams didn't get a chance to wield this beauty of glove to strike down his adversaries:

Saint Patrick's Day is a day for something. I'm not entirely sure what that something is. It might be drunkeness; it might be assholery; maybe it's some stupid "luck of the Irish" garbage. Whatever it was, there was a lot of luck going around today.

Thrust into action in Williams' stead, David Buchanan was blessed, or whatever, by the lady of Irish luck. That is proper St. Patrick's terminology, no? In his first three innings of work, Buchanan was perfect, striking out 6 with good movement on the fastball and changeup that wasn't always there last year. After the game Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg made a point to mention how impressed he was by the movement on Buchanan's changeup.

Regarding his 6 strikeouts, Buchanan noted he doesn't look for that when he pitches "I'm mostly trying to get ground balls and get early outs. If I can get a strike out on three pitches, cool, but I'd rather try to get him out on one pitch." Buchanan was also feeling the haunting influence of luck: "I got away with a couple (pitches for strikeouts), I'm not going to lie. But, sometimes it's better to [be] lucky than good." That's certainly something the Phillies hope to experience as a team in 2015.

The Irish provide us with a harsh reminder that luck isn't always good. Luck is nothing more than chance. Sometimes chance (luck) breaks in your favor--good luck--sometimes it doesn't--bad luck. The luck of the Irish, though maybe stupider than run-of-the-mill luck, is neither more positive or negative than other varieties. It's just luck. There's no unluck, no good luck, no bad luck. "Good" and "bad" are only interpretations of the valueless and agenda-less whims of the cosmos.

Today was just luck for Buchanan as well. After a harmless first out in the fourth, James Loney hit a Buchanan curveball down the right field line for a double to end his (good) lucky quest for history. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single up the middle that allowed Loney to score on a comical, yet classic, Ben Revere throw home that bounced, by one unofficial count, 43 times. Buchanan worked out of that, as aces do.

The Rays, too, had an encounter with luck. Alex Cobb was experiencing forearm tightness and did not reenter the game in the 4th inning. For a team that has seemed incredibly bad-lucky with developing young pitchers in the past decade, this is potentially more very bad news.

For one inning, Mike Montgomery kept that up that perfection, but the Phillies got to him in the 5th. After Carlos Ruiz and Odubel Herrera singled, and Cord Phelps walked, everyone advanced on a wild pitch. With Franco at the plate, Rays catcher Rene Rivera overthrew an attempt to pickoff Herrera at third, which allowed Herrera to score. Had a fan not interfered, Cord Phelps would have put the Phillies ahead. It's only Spring Training, but the interfering fan was the subject of a couple minutes of heckling. Lots of luck there. Some fortunate--the overthrow, the wild pitch--some of it not--the fan interference. Luck.

But today was a day of good luck, the luck of the Poseur-Irish St. Patrick's Day Brigade, for Logan Forsythe. In his MLB career, he has 18 HR in over 1000 PA. Neither his major or minor league careers suggest dormant power. But, in Spring Training, facing the likes of Phillippe Aumont and Elvis Araujo, Forsythe was able to crank two HRs, both solo. Baseball will baseball. Luck will luck.

One of the original Moneyball-generated narratives was the attempt to limit the amount of luck in the game. Three true outcome hitters became the style because strikeouts and walks seems to be protected from the sneakily long and strong arm of luck. Ken Giles, today, sought the protection of the true outcomes by not letting any balls enter play. In one inning, he struck out three and walked two. The two walks are a bit of a concern considering he struggled with them in his minor league career. Giles, however was unconcerned. "I'm trying to make adjustments; that's what Spring Training is," he said after the game. "It doesn't matter what the numbers are as long as you get ready for the season." The three strikeouts are fun though. Fortunately, today Giles didn't experience the third true outcome, a home run.

Oh, yeah, and the Phillies lost 5-3. Even though it's Spring Training, I had to throw that in there.

Other Notes

  • Phillippe Aumont's game seems to be built entirely on luck. When the ball leaves his hand, he has no idea where it is going. Against hitters, major league or otherwise, that's typically not a good thing. Today he issued a walk and gave up a home run.

  • After the game, Ryne Sandberg noted that he saw Cord Phelps as being in a battle for a spot on the 25-man roster. I don't see how he fits without someone getting injured.

  • After DHing in three straight games, Sandberg says he's still day-to-day as far as taking the field. He said it was something they talk about after each game and they're going to be cautious until he's 100%. "Cautious" was definitely the word of the day here from players and coaches alike. That makes a lot of sense following yesterday's Cliff Lee news.

  • This is amazing: