A heinous crime occurred at Citizen’s Bank Park last night. The Phillies had a win within their grasp, but it was stolen out from under them. Who could be responsible for this act of grand larceny? Let’s go over the facts of the case.
Poor Zach Eflin. He had one of his best starts last night, striking out seven batters, walking none, and throwing 73% of his pitches for strikes. Unfortunately, he “allowed” ten hits and two earned runs in six innings of work thanks in large part to the poor defense behind him. He came out of the game in line for the win, but shortly thereafter the bullpen blew it and the Phillies lost.
And here’s the real kicker: Eflin looked great, and he probably could’ve gone at least seven innings. The terrible defense, however, ran up his pitch count, so he had no choice but to turn the ball over to the bullpen.
*I know, I’m as surprised as you are
Roman Quinn actually had himself a pretty good night. In the top of the second, he made an excellent throw from centre field to nab Dom Smith at the plate. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, he laced a gorgeous RBI triple to the gap in right center. It was the first sign of life that a Phillies center fielder has shown in a long time. Alas, it was all for naught.
The Key Suspects
The case against Cutch: Andrew McCutchen made two terrible plays in left field in the second and third innings. The first one didn’t end up mattering, because Roman Quinn’s aforementioned excellent throw bailed McCutchen out. But Cutch’s second gaffe just one inning later allowed Jeff McNeil to reach second base and eventually score.
Cutch’s defense: Cutch’s only defense is his offence. He opened the game with a home run, and that’s enough to get him off the hook this time.
The case against Bryce: Shortly after Cutch fumbled a ball to let McNeil reach second, Bryce fumbled a ball that allowed McNeil to score. If he’d fielded that ball properly, McNeil probably would’ve stayed at third, and perhaps the Phillies might have escaped the third inning unscathed.
It also doesn’t help Bryce’s case that he struck out with the tying run in scoring position to end the game. He looked like he was swinging for the fences the entire at-bat, when all he needed to do was hit a single.
Bryce’s defense: He did a good job recovering the ball that he fumbled, which prevented Michael Conforto from taking an extra base on the play. On the offensive side, he reached base three times during the game, and he scored on Didi Gregorius’ home run in the sixth. Bryce is just too good to be blamed for any of this team’s shortcomings.
The case against Rhys: On Sunday night, Hoskins was responsible for one of the worst Phillies plays in recent memory. He allowed a ball to get past him at first, and then was so distracted by his own self-pity that he didn’t notice Jonathan Villar running home from third base. The Mets scored the tying run here on what should have been a routine ground ball.
Rhys’ defense: With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Rhys hit a ball that initially appeared to be a three-run game-tying home run. Sadly, replay review showed that the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced back onto the field, and Rhys was sent back to second. While it was unbelievable upsetting to watch that call get overturned, the clutch two-run double was still pretty impressive, so I won’t pin this loss on Rhys.
The case against the umpires: They’ve been making terrible calls all series. Then, as the icing on the cake, they took away the game-tying home run from us.
The umpires’ defense: Honestly, on that final replay review, they made the right call. Can’t blame them for that.
The case against the bullpen: This was the bullpen’s final line on Sunday night: 3 IP, 6 ER, 2 K, 2 BB, 1 HR. Some particularly terrible moments included when Jose Alvarado walked in the tying run in the eighth inning and when David Hale gave up a bases-clearing double to the next batter.
The bullpen’s defense: Three of the better arms (Hector Neris, Connor Brogdon, and Sam Coonrod) were apparently unavailable last night, which hamstrung the bullpen quite a bit. Even without those three guys, Girardi’s bullpen management was bad, and so the bullpen pitcher’s themselves shouldn’t take all the blame for their poor performance. Oh, and the defense definitely hurt the bullpen too.
The case against Girardi: The bullpen management was bad. Let me explain.
- First of all, how did Girardi find himself in a position where all three of Neris, Brogdon, and Coonrod were unavailable? That can’t happen. It just can’t happen.
- Next, why did he take Romero out after just fourteen pitches? If he was so strapped for relievers, Jojo definitely should have at least started the eighth.
- And finally, did it really make sense to take Jose Alvarado out of the game after just three batters? Alvarado didn’t look great (he just walked two guys in a row) but he was still the best option at that point. There were two full innings left to get through, and the only other relievers available were David Hale and Matt Moore. Alvarado needed to stay in the game.
Girardi’s defense: Arm health is important, so if Girardi says that Neris, Brogdon, and Coonrod were all unavailable, we have to trust that it’s for good reason. And if the defense had been a little better and Zach Eflin had pitched a little deeper, this whole bullpen collapse might have been avoided altogether.
And the culprit is...
In a shocking turn of events, the true culprit turned out to be the eccentric billionaire owner all along. Who could have guessed?
While pretty much every player on the Phillies contributed to the loss in some way last night, the true problem lies in the players who aren’t on the Phillies. If the Phillies had a new center fielder, a couple more good relievers, and maybe an extra bat for the bench, they might just have won this game.
The only way for the Phillies to add those players is for John Middleton to pony up and let Dave Dombrowski push past the luxury tax. If he doesn’t, Middleton is just going to keep being responsible for losses like this one.