The Phillies came into today's get-away day game having lost 6 consecutively. Hope to end the streak was diminished well before the first pitch:
If the Phillies win with this lineup I will give each of my followers 10,00 dollars https://t.co/ynqWSYbyVi— Scott T. (@NHLFlyera) June 20, 2016
The Phillies broadcast promised to show beautiful shots from around the city throughout the game. I imagine that is because watching sweaty, bare-armed tourists point at historical and cultural landmarks and take pictures of them is more entertaining than today's Phillies lineup.
Jeremy Hellickson started the game today. Jeremy is an excellent coaches-pitch league pitcher. He can pump belt-high fastballs over the plate repeatedly without fatigue. So, how'd that skill work out for him?
Game is now 5 minutes old and it's 3-0. https://t.co/NbYzxkTGki— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) June 20, 2016
Oh. Well, I guess the Diamondbacks hitters graduated from coaches-pitch well over a decade ago. So, that makes sense.
The first four batters Hellickson faced went double, RBI single, dinger, double. The broadcast then cut to the coaches on the bench. They looked impassive, but I suspected that under McClure's thick but quaffed pushbroom he was pursing his lips lest a raging cackle escape. Hellickson settled in after that, retiring the next three batters, one by strikeout. But the Phillies lineup probably had a less than 50% chance of scoring more than 1 run today. So, Hellickson lost when Jake Lamb took him deep anyway.
On the other side, Shelby Miller, the Diamondbacks putrid starter, probably thought to himself, "Even I can retire the side in order against THIS lineup." Of course, Miller has been so terrible this season that the Phillies tee-ball lineup itself was probably thinking, "Even WE can wreck this lob tosser." This raises the age-old baseball question. Does terrible pitching trump terrible hitting? Would you rather have terrible pitching or terrible pitching in the World Series?
The answer, based on today's closely controlled lab experiment, is that terrible pitching trumps terrible hitting. There you go. Now you know how to construct your roster when the time comes to get serious about competing.
The Phillies mustered a single run, impressively maximizing their potential output with today's lineup. Andres Blanco led off the second inning with a double bounding down the third-base line and ducking under the third-baseman's glove. Blanco moved to third with one out thanks to Tommy Joseph not striking out. Then Cameron Rupp lunged the ball back to the pitcher in order to prevent Blanco from scoring from third with less than two outs. With hope for a run fading, the ballyhooed but benched Tyler Goeddel came to the plate. I must say, I have missed Goeddel's line drives. When Goeddel squares the ball, he rockets the ball into the outfield on a great angle to avoid gloves (although not great to get over the wall). I love watching this. It is vicariously satisfying. And it is precisely what he did early in the count against Miller. He catapulted a low line-drive just over the centerfielder's glove for a double and an RBI. It was great to see him do it again after a minor slump and kidnapping. Let's hope we see more soon.
Then Hellickson had a fun little at-bat where he saw 7 pitches and almost walked but ultimately ended the inning. Here's my impression of the rest of the Phillies offensive performance:
TMAC: [Phillies hitter] takes the first pitch of the inning for strike one.
ME (looking on twitter, finding nothing of interest, looking back for second pitch):
TMAC: And the si-ide is retired.
(Repeat until the 9th or death by boredom.)
For his part, Hellickson pitched very well from batter #5 forward. It's as if, once he surrendered three runs, the pressure to pitch a perfect game for a win lifted, and he rediscovered his low fastball, sinking change, and late slider. He kept the ball on the ground (10 groundouts to 2 flyouts) and struck out a good number (6) without walking anyone. 3 runs in 7 innings where most of those innings are easy, crisp, and quick, that's a good outing. Were it not for the brain-fart start, it would be an excellent outing. Come on, Hellickson, achieve excellence. You know you want to be traded.
- Tyler Goeddel is the only Phillie hitter who can claim to have had a good game today. Along with his double, he ripped a knee-high line drive past a diving Jake Lamb in the 7th. I didn't like his wild swing at a 96 mph fastball coming up between his hands and his head just before that hit. But it's good he didn't let it get him off his approach for the rest of the at-bat. Let me reiterate: MOAR TYLER GOEDDEL, PLEASE!
- Matt Stairs, while discussing Peter Bourjos's swing made an interesting point about the load motion. We might apply it to Maikel Franco. In the load motion the batter pushes his hands slightly back and away from his body without locking his elbows. Sometimes, Stairs observed, a hitter will start tightening and turning his shoulder back with his hands. The shoulders, however, should be loose and still. When they aren't, the hitter's swing grows longer and he forces his arms to extend earlier. And the improper load could even create an arm-bar. In my earlier article on Franco, I mentioned that his struggles might be caused by an arm-bar. Now I'm wondering whether he is turning his shoulders
- Hector Neris pitched a solid 2 innings of relief. He threw 18 strikes out of 24 pitches, surrendered a harmless groundball single, and recorded 4 strikeouts. The outing provides much needed optimism for him (and us watching). He's been struggling to find the strikezone and, when he has found it, he's been getting knocked around hard. He might have been suffering from dead arm, after being abused during the Phillies run to a competitive record for the first 7 weeks of the season. He might also have become too predictable, relying as heavily as he was on his splitter. Today he had all three pitches working, although he threw the slider hardly at all. His fastball looked unhittable as a foil to his splitter. And both his slider and fastball forced the hitters to take the splitter seriously rather than assume it would fall out of the strikezone. Here's hoping Neris keeps this up and maybe uses his slider a bit more.