If you live in the Philadelphia area, you likely experienced some rapidly changing weather this evening. Between 3 and 4:30 this afternoon, I received no fewer than 10 tornado warning and 3 severe thunderstorm warning notifications on my phone. Throughout this period of time, the view out my window oscillated between beautiful, sunny afternoon and darkness on a level only caused by an overhead Nazgul. Although the National Weather Services prophecies never came to fruition in my neighborhood, the Phillies found themselves more affected by the weather.
The game was originally scheduled to start at 7:05. Then it was pushed back to 7:30 and, soon after, 8:10. Even though the weather had not cleared and the tarps remained on the field, the Phillies stuck with that 8:10 time. According to Meghan Montemurro, Cole Hamels endured the rain and lightning to stretch and throw long-toss with Carlos Ruiz in the outfield. Finally, the estimated start time was pushed back to 8:25 and, that, in fact, was the time at which this game started.
Maybe because his warm-up routine was affected by the constantly changing estimated start time or maybe simply due to randomness, or possibly due to something else entirely, Cole Hamels came out and struggled in the first inning. After walking Jonathan Lucroy and giving up a weak infield single to Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez knocked them both in with a soft grounder up the middle. And, just like that, Cole Hamels and the Phillies were down 2-0.
Fortunately, Hamels settled in and didn't allow a run over his next six innings. After the first inning, in which he gave up a walk, two hits, and recorded one strikeout, Hamels allowed only three hits (zero walks) while striking out six over his next six innings.
And the Phillies, at least for a time, rewarded Hamels for his solid work. They small-balled (nee Sandballed) their way to runs in the second and third innings as errors and hits by pitch allowed them to advance runners further than they probably should have been able to.
In the 4th and 5th innings Hamels continued to dominate and the Phillies continued to be incompetent offensively (taking credit away from Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann) until finally, in the bottom of the 6th, a miracle happened. With two outs, Carlos Ruiz swung at a 3-0 fastball and hit his first home run since September 5th to give the Phillies the lead.
Congratulations, it's a boy— Paul Boyé (@paul_boye) July 1, 2015
Having thrown 111 pitches through 7 innings, Cole Hamels was replaced by Ken Giles to start the 8th inning. After a harmless start to the inning in which Giles got Jean Segura to fly out to newly-appointed center fielder Odubel Herrera and struck out Lucroy, Giles started to struggle. He followed those two easy outs by allowing three consecutive singles to Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Aramis Ramirez that allowed the Brewers to tie the game. He followed that by walking Gerardo Parra to load the bases.
Now, at this point, Giles had thrown over 30 pitches, a threshold he hadn't crossed since the beginning of the season. Adding further context to the situation is the fact that Giles had allowed four consecutive Brewers to reach base. High pitch count plus struggling to get outs is a pretty simple formula that usually indicates it is prudent to remove a pitcher from the game. Instead, McClure and Mackanin chose to leave Giles in to face left-handed pinch-hitter Adam Lind. The result, though not exactly predictable, was hardly surprising as Giles walked Lind to allow the go-ahead run to score.
Although Sandberg is gone, the practice of leaving in pitchers a couple pitches too long did not leave the organization with him. Friend of the blog, @dj_mosfett provided a helpful chart in the Fanshots illustrating the phenomenon at play:
Now, the decision to leave Giles in for 30+ pitches is certainly defensible as Crashburn Alley's Corinne Landry outlined on Twitter. The short of her argument was that exposing Giles to an elevated pitch count is a reasonable developmental decision as, going forward, the Phillies will want Giles, as their closer of the future, to be able to get 4 or 5 outs at times. This is true, of course. I would argue that that development should occur in low-stress situations in which Ken Giles has a high probability of success. This was not one of those situations. Giles was struggling and the game was on the line. This was not a position in which Giles had a high probability of success. It made more sense here to bring a lefty to preserve the tie.
Hindsight certainly influences my perception of this decision, but from a process perspective, development should occur primarily in situations in which players are comfortable and have a high probability of success. This was not that type of situation. This was a high-leverage at-bat and Giles was clearly not cruising through his outing. Why allow this appearance to balloon into a disaster when more optimal options were available?
The Phillies threatened in the bottom of the 8th as they loaded the bases with one out before Darin Ruf, who recently entered the game in a double-switch in the previous half-inning, grounded into an inning-ending double play. The 9th also started out with promise after Ben Revere walked at advanced to second, with no one out, on a throwing error by Jonathan Lucroy. That was all the Phillies could muster though. Maikel Franco (#WriteInFranco) struck out. Then, Andres Blanco softly flew out to left. And finally, Jeff Francoeur struck out on a Francoeurian all-out swing on a ball in the dirt to end the game.
The Phillies have now lost two in a row to the second-worst team in baseball and squandered yet another stellar pitching performance from Cole Hamels. The Phillies are not good at baseball, but that is neither new nor interesting analysis.