For the better part of this 2011 season, the Phillies have gotten through games unscathed and with relative ease. They’d blown
few games in the ninth inning up until this past week, so consider me, and many others I’m sure, a little shocked by what has transpired.
Sunday, after another rain delay, and just one strike from victory, the Nationals fought back to win 5-4 in 10 innings. It wasn’t quite a meltown, which Ryan Madson went through on Friday. Antonio Bastardo gave up a two out, two-strike home run to Ian Desmond to tie the game at four. In the 10th, Brad Lidge allowed two hits, a walk, and plunked Jonny Gomes with the bases loaded to send home the winning run, and leave everyone scratching their heads.
Bastardo has pretty much been flawless in ’11, so chalk this up as a blip in an otherwise ridiculous campaign for the young lefty. It’s just how it’s all happening right now that is head-scratching.
Desmond’s homer was a bit of a hanging slider that stayed far enough off the ground for him to put a good swing on. It didn’t look like the worst pitch I’ve ever seen, but it was close enough to the strike zone, and hung up enough for Desmond to crush it. With that, Michael Schwimer‘s victory vanished.
Schwimer was thisclose to picking up his first career win in his first career game, but it was not to be. After the second pitch of his major league career was smashed deep into right center field by Danny Espinosa for a solo home run, Schwimer settled in beautifully for three full frames, fanning four batters. Espinosa was the thorn in his side; the Nats second baseman would single off of Schwimer again in the eighth, the only two hits the 6-foot-8 righty would allow.
The future is bright, not only for Schwimer, but for this entire bullpen. Bastardo, Stutes, Herndon (Maybe? Hopefully?) and other youngsters waiting in the wings could make this relief unit quite formidable into the future. It’s early in Schwimer’s career, but he looks like he has pretty nasty stuff without being overpowering.
Unfortunately, two mistakes that left the yard cost the Phillies their 82nd victory of the year. It also cost them in the standings; Atlanta won, the Phillies lost, so the NL East lead is now down to 6.5 games.
Roy Halladay was his usual self before the 1 hour, 11 minute rain delay, the third in four days the Phillies were a part of. Although his outing was cut short, Halladay still finished with five strikeouts through five innings. It was more bending, but not breaking, from the Phillies top ace, as he gave up two runs on seven hits, but did not walk a batter.
It has been a few starts since Halladay has been at his best and most crisp, but in each game he’s keeping his team in it to win it, so it’s hard to complain about what we’re seeing from him.
The offense for the Phillies was provided by Carlos Ruiz, who slugged a two-run homer in the second inning off of Chien-Ming Wang, his fifth this year. Chase Utley followed suit with a solo home run in the third inning to put the Phillies ahead 3-2.
In the top of the ninth inning, the triumvirate of Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, and Michael Martinez accounted for a run, pushing the Phillies ahead 4-3. At that point, with the way this bullpen has performed all year, it seemed like a foregone conclusion the Phils would leave D.C. with another series win. Wasn’t meant to be.
Beyond the loss on the field, it was another win for Phillies Nation. Thousands of fans packed Nationals Park once again for the weekend, something that has become the norm there.
On the field, a few mistakes were all the difference. Just a few outs from it being a sweep, the Nats turned the tables, taking two of three.
ROLLINS LEAVES WITH GROIN STRAIN
Lost in the loss is the injury to Jimmy Rollins. Rollins has a groin strain and is considered day-to-day, but you can be sure the Phillies will take it slow with their shortstop, who is so vital to the success of the team down the stretch and into the playoffs.
J-Roll appeared to tweak the groin as he spun and threw out Jesus Flores in the third inning. As he turned, planted, and threw the ball to first, Rollins slipped and then favored the groin immediately. At first glance, it could be minor. We’ll know more soon.