It is difficult to find words to describe the baseball the Phillies played tonight. Perhaps, it is better just to look at their combined pitching line for the night: 9 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 1 ER, 8 K, 5 BB. So much of the story of tonight's game is contained in that line.
Start with the difference between runs and earned runs. The Phillies allowed 5 unearned runs and the one earned run allowed scored on a Luis Garcia balk. And they only allowed one run to score as a result of a hit, the final unearned run in a debacle of an 8th inning that saw Chase Utley drop a good throw for a force at second that would have ended the inning and Odubel Herrera lose track of a deep fly ball and resight it just in time to stab wildly at it as it fell to Earth. The former loaded the bases, latter happened with the bases loaded and cleared them.
The Phillies played horrendous defense. That they only were charged with 3 errors only reflects the limited concept of the error. Sure, they made some nice plays: Cody Asche snaring a line drive, Freddy Galvis ranging and sliding up the middle, and Ryan Howard into the stands. But Howard missed a couple of foul pops and perfected his belly-flop next to ground balls as they trickle into right field. Galvis chose to flail at short hop rather than stay back on it or just knock it down, which launched the ball away from him and made any further play moot. Cole Hamels, who pitched fairly well but labor-intensively, surrendered the first run of the game when he dropped a toss at first that would have ended the inning. With runners on first and third, Luis Garcia began his motion to the plate then stepped off the rubber, presumably because he noticed the runner leaving first. The balk plated the winning run. The defense tonight was ugly.
Next take a look at those 5 BBs. I bet you're thinking that the Phillies pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone. NOPE! Tonight if you were a Phillies pitcher and threw a pitch in the strike zone you had a 50-50 chance of getting a called strike. The home plate umpire, Toby Basner, started his night poorly, seemed to do okay in the middle innings, and became erratic again in the late innings. I know, it seems like we can complain about balls and strike in every game. And I'd prefer not to complain about them at all. But at least two pitches that were within an inch of dead-center in the zone were called balls. That's terrible, even if they were the result of Chooch reaching back across his body. To my naked eye, it seemed the umpire was especially swayed by framing. He called the exact same pitch in the exact same spot on back to back deliveries a ball and a strike and the only difference was how the catcher set up his glove. I don't know whether Realmuto, the Marlins catcher, is a particularly good framer. He looked good tonight. And, as we know, Chooch is probably a little below average at this catching skill.
To the umpire's credit, he seemed to know he was having a bad night. He let Bob McClure lecture him for a solid minute in the second when he came to the mound to break up a meeting. In fact, I found myself hoping he would continue to be terrible and it would lead to an irate Sandberg getting thrown out of the game. It would have been fun and would have prevented more Sandberg shenanigans later. Nevertheless, the umpires performance provided some LA gems:
LA - "Couple times, Hamels looked in, asking 'where was it?' Why you asking him, clearly he doesn't know"— Franzke & LA (@FranzkeLA) April 22, 2015
And, oh, the Sandberg shenanigans. In a lost season, it is irrelevant to carp too much about Sandberg's very sub-optimal in-game tactical decisions. He's bad at them. He makes the games less fun to watch by calling so many bunts. He doesn't know how to use relievers to get good match-ups. And on, and on. But who cares? Winning is not important. Developing young players is. If Sandberg can do that well, then he's a good manager right now.
Nevertheless, he took #sandball too far tonight when in the first inning with runners on first and third and one out, he had Carlos Ruiz, hitting clean-up, attempt a bunt. Now, I don't know that Sandberg called it. But I doubt a) Chooch chose to do that on his own; b) if Chooch did, it isn't related to the #sandball mentality Sandberg wants to foster. Can we at least play for multiple runs in the early stages of a game? Please? It is more fun to watch!
Still those shenanigans can be tolerated. What is hard to understand is Sandberg leaving Ken Giles in to pitch after he tweaked his ankle. Giles velocity has been improving recently and before the tweak he was getting his fastball up around 96-7. After the tweak, he was back down to 94-5. And then the defense collapsed around him and he couldn't finish the 8th. But why make him try to finish it at all? He's a valuable young arm that needs protection during a season where competition is a secondary concern. These continued shenanigans with Giles are difficult to tolerate.
While my overall impression of this game is UGH, I want to leave you with happy thoughts. Cody Asche is still red hot. He finished the night 1 for 3, responsible for the Phillies only run. He cranked a homer over the RF fence in the second in an excellent AB where he pushed former baby ace Jarred Cosart to keep throwing strikes to put him away. Here's to Cody Asche continuing to surprise!
Fangraph of Defenderacy: