At no point during tonight's game did I feel as if the Phillies were overmatched by the Mets. Both teams had lots of baserunners. Both teams had a fair share of extra base hits. Neither starting pitcher missed many bats. But at the end of 5th inning I looked at the score and thought, "This game is over." Just a few small differences through the first half of the game turned a competitive match into a mini route. It was death by a million tiny cuts.
The Mets sent Jon Niese, rumored to be guest starring as the son of the Jersey Devil in the upcoming X-Files miniseries, to the mound. He held the Phillies to one run despite having men on base nearly every inning. On the one hand, he got some key strike outs in opportune moments. On the other hand, he was facing the Phillies lineup with Hernandez hitting second and Francoeur hitting clean-up. That's a sub-optimal Phillies lineup. As such, it failed to get a hit with a runner in scoring position.
The Phillies scored their only run in the 1st inning thanks to a lead-off triple by Herrera and a ground out by Utley. After that, the Phillies managed 12 more baserunners and none of them crossed the plate. I'm starting to wonder whether the concept ‘scoring position' applies to the Phillies, except in the trivial case where the runner is touching home plate.
For the Phillies, Jerome Williams followed up a stellar outing with a more representative performance. Despite the bad results, I liked how much movement his pitches had. Too bad he doesn't throw hard enough to prevent weak contact from reaching the outfield. He seemed to be able to handcuff batters well his first couple of times through the order. But they in turn seemed to be able to push those pitches beyond the infielders and in front of the outfielders. He surrendered at least one run because he and the defense behind him could not convert weak contact into outs. His first outing he missed bats. Tonight he didn't. He needs to miss bats to be successful. He hasn't been successful most of his career.
Of course, some of the responsibility falls on the defense, in particular Asche and Rupp. Cody Asche mishandled a ball at third and threw a ball into the runner at the plate. Asche has come out with a hot bat. I think tonight he wanted to remind us just how well he has to hit to overcome his defense at 3B.
And Rupp. Not until tonight did I realize how poor a defensive catcher Rupp is. Cameron Rupp, among the best athletes in the world, looks like a klutz behind the plate. First, he insists on scooping balls in the dirt he should be blocking, perhaps because he has leaden feet. Second, he has leaden hands. Here's his night in video:
The loss, the poor play, these were not the most disappointing moments of the night. By far the most disappointing moment came when with 1 out and runners on 1st and 2nd, Chase Utley bunted. We all know the damn arguments about bunting. And to be fair it looked as if Utley was trying to bunt for a hit, which is the more defensible type of bunt attempt there. But let's set aside the arguments about optimal baseball strategy. As a fan, it was disappointing not to see Utley take his hacks there and maybe make magic happen again. How many more chances will we get to watch that?
I make it sound bad, and in truth this game was not as entertaining as previous games this season, even the losses. But there were still good things. Odubel Herrera went 3-5 with two doubles and a triple! Asche went 3-3 with a double and a walk! And most importantly the Phillies and Mets conspired to make baseball history. In fact, they achieved what is strictly speaking impossible under the rules of baseball and rational thought. Tonight the Phillies became the first team to hit three consecutive double-play balls. No, not three consecutive double plays in double play situations. Three consecutive double-play balls. On the first, Ruben Tejada booted it and retired no one. But the Phillies motto this year is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." So, they did. And after another double-play ball yielded only one out Andres Blanco finally succeeded.
Thank goodness that series is over. Getting swept sucks, even when expectations are low. Getting swept by the Mets and their beer-throwing fans is excruciating.
Comment Of The Night (COTN):
"Phillies 2015: The Bunt for Dead October" - doubleh
(88 adopted this BSH tradition and I thought I'd participate too.)
Fangraph of A Million Cuts: