This morning, David S. Cohen asked what seems like a natural question to ask during a rebuilding year: Do the outcomes of any of these 162 games matter? The answer is an obvious one; it doesn't matter one bit whether the Phillies win or lose this season. Even the most optimistic projection for the team doesn't consider the playoffs a possibility, and, while the draft-related benefits of losing a ton are nice, the farm system is well-enough stocked that missing out on a number-one overall pick won't hurt all that much in the long run.
This all makes sense. It is incredibly easy to rationally adopt the opinion that wins and losses this year don't matter at all. It's so easy to rationalize that, were that the only point, David probably wouldn't have seen much use in writing that post at all. But, as David points out, that's not how fandom works. While it's encouraging that Aaron Nola is amazing and Maikel Franco continues to showcase a refined approach at the plate that could eventually allow him to become a star, as a fan, losing hurts.
As fans go, I consider myself just about as rational and level-headed as they come, but there's no way to watch the bullpen implosions of the first two games without feeling things like anger and depression. That's the important point David makes: we can't fully separate our fandom when we watch this team. Watching your team lose sucks and you can't rationalize yourself into finding that pleasant.
This afternoon, the Phillies lost, again, but not in the same way they lost Monday and yesterday. They scored runs and the starting pitching, not the bullpen, was to blame for messing it all up. Difference and repetition.
Charlie Morton, Ground Chuck, Roy Halladay poseur--whatever you want to call him--got the start today with the clear mission of making sure the bullpen didn't get blamed for the loss. The game started out ok. For the first three innings, this game didn't look much different from the first two games of the series. The Phillies had a 2-1 lead entering the bottom of the fourth after Cedric Hunter hit his first career home run.
The bottom of the fourth is going to be the inning the Phillies will want back. Morton started getting hit around. After two singles to start the inning, Jay Bruce hit a three-run home run to right field. Morton managed to get two outs in the inning, but was pulled after Robert Stephenson laid down a sacrifice bunt to get runners at second and third with two outs and the top of the Reds order coming up.
So, what do you do in a 4-2 game? Bring in Daniel Stumpf, a Rule 5 draft pick making his major league debut. Stumpf faced three batters and didn't record an out. He walked Scott Schebler before giving up a grand slam to Eugenio Suarez. He then walked Joey Votto before getting pulled for Brett Oberholtzer, who allowed Votto to score before getting out of the inning.
And that was sort of it for the win-loss-focused fan in me. The Phillies were down 9-2 after four innings. I watched the rest of the game in a state of dejection and, as a result, missed out on appreciating some nice things the Phillies did:
- Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz hit home runs, which means nothing for the future, but still provides some nostalgic pleasure.
- Brett Oberholtzer only gave up one run in 3.1 innings. He struck out five. It took him 64 pitches to get those ten outs, which shows his limitations as a pitcher. But, Oberholtzer could see a ton of innings this year when starters get into trouble early. They may not all be unwatchable.
- Maikel Franco doubled to center. Until J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams come up, Franco will be the most compelling Phillies hitter by a wide margin--sorry, Odubel. At least he's making these games worth turning into.