This evening the Phillies kick off another doubleheader against the Braves. This will be the third doubleheader between the two clubs in less than two weeks. The Phillies have split the first two sets - L 4-3, W 16-4 and W 8-7, L 3-1. These twin bills got me thinking, how does playing doubleheaders against the same team so often change the approach to the games? Is it more difficult to battle a team twice in a day? What can be learned from the first set of doubleheaders to help plan for the third?
First off, I think it’s safe assume the players are not quite at their physical and mental peak in the second game, which often means a varied lineups. This then might distort the manager’s view of the opposing team causing them to employ different strategies than they normally would. For instance, might Bobby Cox choose not to walk Ryan Howard in an otherwise debatable situation? After all, Howard hit three home runs in the first game of the second set, but none in either of the second games.
Second, what about the bullpen? We already know from yesterday’s post much of the blame in the Phillies recent losses resides squarely in the bullpen. The troubles began on August 31st when the Phils were looking for a sweep in Washington. Arthur Rhodes and Aaron Fultz gave up two runs in the ninth and tenth innings respectively to lose that game. The bullpen woes were then exacerbated by the weekend doubleheaders against the Braves.
One thing is for certain, tonight’s doubleheader provides another prime opportunity for the Phillies to pick up ground in the Wild Card race. I’m not one to shy away from the bullpen and hope for complete games by the Wolf and Lieber. The relievers will be needed tonight, the rest of the season and hopefully into October. Taking advantage of tonight’s games by winning both with the help of the bullpen could go a long way in rebuilding the team’s confidence in the ‘pen and in themselves.