The Phillies are going to lose a lot of games this year. And that will not be fun. But if they beat up on the Braves we can still have more fun than fans of a .400 club deserve to have. So, tonight, we relished undeserved fun.
Aaron Harang continued to be the ace of the Phillies staff, going 6 innings while surrendering only 1 run. It wasn't a dominating start. He average a baserunner per inning and only struck out two. But the Braves couldn't muster anything until the 6th inning, in which Harang gave up the 1 run while working out of a jam. That's what an ace does.
By the way, did you know that according to the regress-laden fWAR for pitchers, Harang is on pace for around a 6 WAR season. If we can't get Swihart for Cole Hamels, maybe we should offer Harang! (For reference, Harang has never been a 6 fWAR pitcher, although he was in the neighborhood in 06-07 with the Reds.)
But Aaron Harang was not the most exciting part of this game. No, tonight the offense banged out 3 runs in the first inning! By virtue of how putrid the offense has been, I just assumed that 3 runs would be all they would score all night. And, in fact, they would have won with just those runs. But instead Jeff Francoeur led the bottom of the order to keep the Phillies ahead by a comfortable margin throughout, even after the Barves started looking frisky against Jake Diekman, Ken Giles, and most of all, Jonathan Papelbon.
Francoeur went 4-for-5 with a double and a triple, driving in 2 and scoring 1. (His dad seemed very pleased. I think we should pay his dad to watch all his game, like back in Little League. I coached a kid once who was the best pitcher in the league if his dad was watching, and a danger to everyone in the vicinity of the plate if not. Maybe Francoeur is like that kid.) And he was just the best of the bottom. In total 4-8 in the order went 12-20 with 3 R and 5 RBI. With a lower half like that, there's not telling where this team is headed! (What's that? Still last place? Oh, ok, nevermind then.)
So, yes, it was a good night for Francoeur, but that shouldn't stop us from teasing his proclivities for swinging at everything. To wit, Matt Stairs brought out this zinger during the broadcast: "I wonder if [Francoeur] sits on a lot of sliders first pitch." He'd have to, right? Otherwise, he'd just be hacking without a game plan. And what MLBer does that? [whistling... tumble weeds...]
So, that's pretty much the game. Harang holds 'em down; Frenchy pushes them across; Herrera makes up for a terrible play with a great catch to end the 6th; Papelbon finished another game that wasn't a save situation. But I haven't mentioned the best part of TGP's coverage of this game. Thanks to our stellar relationship with Phillies PR, we have an exclusive transcript of a conversation between Ryne Sandberg and Fredi Gonzalez about managing:
TGP Insider Access: Ryne Sandberg and Fredi Gonzalez have coffee before the game.
Sandberg: "More things change, more they stay the same. Amirite, Fredi?"
Gonzalez: "You said it. I had Jason Heyward and Justin Upton as my 2 and 4 hitters coming into this season. Now it's Andrelton Simmons and A.J. Pierzinksy. I really had to change my thinking on that one. I thought I wanted my best hitters in those spots. Then I realized it would be much better to put my worst guys there. Kinda shield them with good players, ya know?"
S: "I never thought of it that way. Maybe I should have kept Ryan Howard hitting clean-up this whole time. Damnit. Why would I ever take managing advice from the internet?!"
G: "Hahaha. Are you some sorta Star Trek geek?"
S: "No. No. But I dabble in learned things. For example, have you heard of this thing called game theory?"
G: "Sure. Isn't that what we're doing right now?"
S: "N-no. Well, sorta. I don't wanna sound like a know-it-all and I'm sure I need to learn more. But as I understand it, it says you have to be willing to do anything at anytime in order to keep your opponent from taking advantage of you. That's why I like to bunt with my clean-up hitter with runners on 1st and 3rd and none out. Keeps the opponents honest."
G: "Yeah, I've done that one, but...uh...I just wanted to score the most runs I could that inning. I didn't think about the next time A.J. would come up in that situation. You really think ahead."
S: "That's the secret, my friend." [taps his temple a couple of times] "It's like checkers."
So, there you have it. If you're wondering what machinations lie behind Sandberg's decisions--like helping Papelbon's option to vest when he has good reason not to use him--its the sort that go into playing checkers.
Fangraph of 145 wins and 17 losses:
One downer tonight. Utley continues to just not get hits (unless they go over the fence). He scored a run thanks to a heads-up play on the bases and made solid defensive plays and got on base with another HBP. But, despite his okay peripherals, he's starting to cause me and others concern. I'll just leave you with this expression of said concern: