Against good pitching, baseball often becomes a war of attrition, where teams are basically biding their time and swallowing outs in the hopes that the opposing pitcher will be the first to fall prey to the dreaded times through the order penalty.
Tonight, both Cole Hamels and Francisco Liriano came out throwing rocks as neither team was able to score through four innings. This is a familiar refrain for #HamelsDay. Entering the game today, the Phillies scored less than 2 runs per game for Cole on the season. That's not a new phenomenon either as it seems that Cole Hamels has always been a victim of poor run support.
So, when Hamels fell victim to BABIP in the fifth inning, it was tempting to turn the game off and give up all hope. After two bloopy singles to Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer, Hamels hit Josh Harrison to load the bases with two outs. Andrew McCutchen then singled to score Walker and Mercer. The Pirates appeared to have scored a third time when Starling Marte was called safe on an infield single. But, after a quick review, the call was reversed and the inning was over.
The Phillies decided that they would score runs for Cole tonight as they got those two runs back and added a third in the bottom of the inning. After Jeff Francoeur and Cesar Hernandez (aka Hern'dez) singled to start the inning, Carlos Ruiz hit a double that scored Frenchy. Following a Hamels strikeout, Ben Revere hit a sacrifice chopper to score Hern'dez. Then, team MVP Freddy Galvis lined a single down the first base line to score Chooch.
Despite throwing 108 pitches over 6 innings, Ryne Sandberg left Cole Hamels in to pitch the 7th inning. He was facing the 8-9-1 hitters in the Pirates order and made quick work of them, needing only 7 pitches to get out of the inning. This became a bit of a controversy on Twitter and in the game thread. While I would probably have pulled Hamels after 6, I don't see a huge issue with putting him in to face the bottom of the order. We know that raw pitch counts are less predictive of injury than the stress or leverage of the situations in which they were thrown. Hamels hadn't been in too many high leverage situations up to that point. Another likely low-stress inning was probably not going to do any harm.
I wrote this on Twitter, but I want to repeat it here. I get that there was risk to putting Hamels in for the 7th, but I don’t think you can say it was a bad move simply because the Phillies suck. If the meaninglessness of their games was the motivation for every decision, you wouldn’t let Hamels pitch at all. At some point, you have to acknowledge there’s risk and try to win a game within a reasonable assumption of risk. Facing the bottom of the Pirates order after throwing 108 pitches strikes me as a not-unreasonable assumption of risk. It's certainly not an automatically correct decision, but I don't think it's an obviously misguided one either.
For the 8th, Ken Giles got the Pirates to go down without much trouble. His velocity was down from where it has been in his last couple of appearances--he was hanging out around 94-95 tonight--but, unlike early-season 95 Miles Giles, he appeared to be controlling his pitches well. If Giles' slider continues to be an effective pitch, he might not necessarily need the 98-100 mph fastball to be effective. Obviously, it would be better for him to be throwing 100 again, all things being equal, but it might not be necessary for Giles to be an effective reliever.
For the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon came in to pick up the save and move ahead of Jose Mesa into sole possession of the Phillies' all-time saves record. History did not come easy for Michael Flatley as he airmailed a pickoff attempt of Pirates pinch-runner Steve Lombardozzi to put a runner on third with one out. He got Jordy Mercer to lift a weak fly ball into right field foul territory. Francoeur easily made the catch and, for reasons unknown, Lombardozzi attempted to tag-up and score from third. As we all know, it is not wise to test the arm of Frenchy.
Vine of Frenchy Hose, courtesy of Twitter.com user @NotMrTibbs:
Jonathan Papelbon now is the Phillies franchise leader in saves with 113.
Papelbon gave Francoeur a bottle of Johnny Walker blue label as a thank you for the game-ending assist to give Pap franchise saves record.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) May 14, 2015
Bottles of Johnny Walker Blue are not cheap. They run close to $200 for a 750 mL bottle. As a scotch that has a high cost:quality ratio, it strikes as a very Papelbonian choice of drink.
Comment of the game: GBrettfan writing about they Phillies' early offensive ineptitude: "I feel like I blinked and Cole was back out on the mound again."
Fangraph of HOSE:
- During the game, Ryan Lawrence reported that the Angels might be interested in trading for Ben Revere. The Angels, of course, are short a starting outfielder after they spun Josh Hamilton's personal battle with addiction to get out of a contract they had come to regret. They didn't seem to consider the implications of starting Matt Joyce everyday and have suffered for their sins against Hamilton. It seems that Revere trade rumors have been a thing for two years now. If the Phillies don't see him as a part of their future, it makes sense to trade him for a player who might be.
- Cole Hamels's fastball was hitting 94-95 early in the game. His stuff was fooling Pirates hitters all night and the only difficulty he had was when he couldn't locate his pitches. As mentioned, he pitched 7 innings and stuck out 9. It's the third time in his last four games that Hamels has struck out 8 or more hitters. He lowered his ERA to 3.53 on the season (down from 3.68). It's all in the beard.
- If you thought today was fun, tomorrow is #HarangDay and he'll face former-Phillies The Vanimal. The game is in the afternoon, but this is a work-skipping matchup if ever there was one.