Sometimes, Instant Classics Trump Devastating Ls

Posted by Corey Seidman, Thu, May 03, 2012 12:17 AM | Comments: 32
2012 Game Recaps, Analysis, Opinion


It could have been their ninth straight win over the Braves. It could have been their first three-game winning streak of the season. It could have been Roy Halladay’s 108th win without a loss when pitching with a four-run lead.

It could have been a victory that put the Phillies over .500 for the first time since the first game of the season, and it could have moved them to within one game of the Braves for second place in the NL East.

But instead, the Phillies blew a six-run lead with Halladay on the mound, came back on Carlos Ruiz’s indescribably satisfying bat-flip three-run homer, melted down behind Jose Contreras and Michael Schwimer, tied the game in the ninth off Craig Kimbrel, but eventually lost on Chipper Jones’ walkoff two-run bomb in the eleventh. (See Ian Riccaboni’s full recap below.)

It was a hard loss to take, sure. But I don’t know… for some reason this didn’t hurt as bad as it should have.

Maybe because it felt kind of historic. Ruiz set the single-game franchise record for RBI by a catcher. Halladay was yanked in the middle of an inning for only the second time since June 2008. It sucked to blow numerous opportunities, for a team built on pitching to blow two leads of four or more runs. It sucked to watch a usually anemic offense score 13 runs and lose.

But really, if you’re a fan of baseball, you loved this game. Chipper narrowly missing a walkoff homer and then coming back a few pitches later to seal the deal. It wasn’t a walkoff, but I remember when Jimmy Rollins did the same thing in 2007. It’s cool, and you had to expect it with Brian Sanches in his third inning on the mound.

There are certainly things for fans to be upset over. Bullpen usage was not one of them. Chad Qualls was unavailable after pitching three times in four days. If you bring Jonathan Papelbon in for Sanches in one of those innings, you’re down to just Kyle Kendrick.

Sure, Papelbon gives you a better chance of prolonging the game, but pitching Kendrick or even Joe Blanton there changes the next few days. And as much as I hate when people say, “It’s only [insert month],” it really makes little sense to redirect the course of the next few games when it could or could just as easily not mean an extra-inning win on May 2.

I’m a die-hard Phillies fan who refuses to hide that fact even as I attempt to make a professional career out of this. But I’m a die-harder baseball fan, if that makes any sense, and Wednesday night’s game was tremendous theater for anyone who loves this game.

Twenty-eight runs on 36 hits in a game billed as a pitcher’s duel? Eight half-innings of multiple runs? A game-tying grand slam off the era’s most dominant pitcher? A game-tying infield single off one of the game’s most dominant closers? Perhaps the last walkoff home run of Chipper Jones’ career?

If I told you that you could watch all of that on a Wednesday night in exchange for a Phillies loss, I think you’d take it.

Or maybe you’re a bigger fan of the team and the city than the sport. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I’d personally just give up one game in the standings for 11 innings I’ll always remember.

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 1135 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    Bullpen use was absolutely an issue, and has been an issue all season.

    You bring in Papelbon in the bottom of the 8th instead of Schwimer. No question.

    If Papelbon can’t go another inning then you use Schwimer or Sanches for the 9th, with nobody on in a much lower leverage situation.

    • Posts: 542 Bruce

      Avatar of Bruce

      Manuel has a mindset on how he use Papelbon in the game. It’s apparent to me that Manuel is unwilling to use his closer for more than an inning. Papelbon has already 9 saves and that is a lot of work in the early going of the season. Papelbon would only be used if the Phillies have the lead in the LAST inning. Also tonight, Chad Qualls was unavailable because of consecutive days of relieving (3 times in 4 days) in the set-up role. So that put Manuel in a tight spot especially when he had no choice but to take Halladay out of the game early.

      As Corey said, Manuel has to think ahead and the possible scenarios of such a game as this when choosing available relievers. You don’t want to use your starters (Kendrick and Blanton) in an extra inning game, so it became a hit and miss situation with the likes of Contreras and Schwimer trying to hold the lead and failed. Brian Sanches pitched decently considering that he just came off the DL. To pitch the third inning of relief and faced Phillies killer, Chipper Jones was too much to asked.

      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        This is stupid. If your best relief pitcher is available, and he likely was, then he has to be the player they bring in during the bottom of the 8th, not Schwimer.

        He probably couldn’t go two innings. Fine. You let him get out of the 8th and then bring in Sanches or Schwimer to work with in a much lower leverage situation in the 9th, with nobody on base. If they blow the game there, so be it, but at least you’ve used your players optimally.

        This, by the way, is also the reason it’s not always necessary to use your closer in low-leverage, 3-run lead situations (like April 28th) just because some stat that was invented in the 1960s says that he gets a notch in the ‘S’ column. You end up wasting bullets that could be better utilized in more important situations.

  • Posts: 1135 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    Bullpen use was absolutely an issue, and has been an issue all season.

    You bring in Papelbon in the bottom of the 8th instead of Schwimer. Every time, no question.

    If Papelbon can’t go another inning then you use Schwimer or Sanches for the 9th, with nobody on in a much lower leverage situation.

    • Posts: 1135 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      Oops. Didn’t mean to post that twice.

    • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

      Papelbon pitched Saturday, Monday, & Tuesday. Do you really want your $50 million closer to end up on the DL? I think Rich Dubee has an informed idea of who’s ready to go and who needs the night off.

      • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

        Avatar of Corey Seidman

        A well-written and accurate comment, Jeff. It’s easy to say who should have and who shouldn’t have pitched when it’s not your job to carefully manage a bullpen.

        Papelbon had thrown three of the last four days. Could he have pitched an inning? Maybe. Two? No.

        Would Charlie have used him in the eighth there if he hadn’t pitched 3 of the last 4 days? I’d have to lean towards yes, because I don’t think it was in anyone’s plans to go to an inexperienced reliever there.

      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        I’m basing my comments on reports by Phils beat writer Matt Gelb that Papelbon warmed up a few times in the bullpen during the later innings. This generally indicates that he was available in the event the Phillies took the lead or a ‘save situation’ emerged.

        My contention is that if he’s available, and it seemed like he was, he needs to be in there at that point. As much as I don’t want my $50 million dollar closer on the DL, I also don’t want him watching losses in close games from the pen because the coaching staff doesn’t understand leverage situations.

        I sort of get the argument that if you use Papelbon in the 9th, or 10th, or whatever inning of a tie game you’ll be forced to face another, lesser reliever the next inning. The flip side to that, obviously, is that if you don’t use your best reliever there you may not ever get to see the next inning. Matchups can dictate those situations in some instances, so there’s more nuance there than just a straight “_____ should have pitched in the ______th inning.” Tonight, however, wasn’t one of those situations. The 8th inning was clearly the highest leverage situation in which the game was on the line, and you needed to use your best pitcher there, not the 5th or 6th best reliever on the team.

        BTW Corey, you ready to concede that Howard’s going to be back before Utley yet? ;)

      • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

        Avatar of Corey Seidman

        I willfully concede that Howard will be back before Utley. Mid-June it looks like for Howard.

        I think what we’ve learned the last two years is that with injuries, the Phillies are the same as they are with contract/trade negotiations. Weeks and weeks of nothingness, and then BOOM, big-time updates.

        It’s like what Todd Zolecki said on Phillies Nation TV yesterday about Hamels — they haven’t talked for months, but they could pick up a phone tomorrow and talk for five days and have a contract done.

      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        Progress. In our twitter conversation I a few weeks back I said Howard’s coming back in May or early June and I’m sticking to it.

        The unfortunate thing is that, as you guys said on PNTV, first base really hasn’t been the problem. Can Wigginton/Nyx serve as a workyble plytoon in left? Will Charlie let Wigginton play first against tough lefties? These become interesting questions when he returns, IMO.

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Charlie Manuel said after the game that it had been determined that Papelbon was only going to be used for a three-out save. Sounds like they were trying to avoid using him altogether.

    • Posts: 1135 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      But they weren’t trying to avoid him, because they said they’d use him in the right situation (meaning, obviously, an important situation with the game on the line). So why was he available for 3 outs in a save situation but not 2 in the 8th?

      This line of thinking makes zero sense if you understand leverage situations.

  • Posts: 0 RThomas

    Not available? Gimme a break. Papelbon threw 12 pitches on Sat, 16 on Monday, and 10 last night. Before Saturday , Tuesday the 24th was his last appearance where he threw 8 pitches. Really?? He should have been out there, and if he can’t handle that, then he’s def not worth 50 mil. Making Sanchez pitch 3 innings was the dumbest thing I have ever seen. IMO they gave up on this game when they sent him out in the 11th. This loss was a complete disgrace

    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      Plus the warmups each time. But that’s all besides the point, since he was available.

      Yep, tough loss.

    • Posts: 0 brooks

      Remember when Herndon threw 6 innings last year? Dummer

      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        4 actually, on 9/4. 4 hits and 7 walks, including 5 (!) intentional.

        Scoreless 11th, 12th, and 13th. Two-out bases loaded walk in the 14th to end it.

  • Posts: 5223 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    I too disagree with you Corey about the bullpen usage, but I don’t put all the blame on Charlie Manuel. Years ago Rolaids came out with an award for the best relievers from each league. The trophy is a gold plated fireman’s helmet. The reason for that is that Rolaids is an antacid used to put out the “fire” in your esophagus or stomach, and baseball relief pitchers were supposed to be guys that came in the game with runners on base and extinguished the “fire” of a rally.

    It’s not done that way anymore. They don’t give the award to the best “fireman”. They just give it to the guy with the most saves. That’s because ALL MANAGERS refuse to use their closer in high leverage situations. I’m not usually one to defend Charlie Manuel, but in this case, he’s just using his closer like all other managers.

    I’m also not saying EricL is wrong. The SABR folks insist that baseball is using these guys improperly and I agree completely. Let the “fireman of the past” be just that. If you’re going to give Papelbon one of the highest relief pitcher contracts in MLB history, he should be used with the game on the line. Not just easy stress free 3 run leads. When Contreras went south in the eighth they brought in Schwimmer. Schwimmer? Didn’t he just get here? The results were predictable.

    • Avatar of "Big Ed" Delahanty

      @Lefty and Eric: Kudos to what you both posted; I whole-heartedly agree with both your points. However, I still feel in my gut that at some point we need to replace Cholly and Gross with Sandburg and Schmidt, a their time is done.

      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        - Schmidt can teach hitting
        - Schmidt would want to trade in his current lifestyle to be a MLB coach
        - Sandburg would be different from Manuel

        All far from certain.

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      hey lefty! after a full month of no hitting i was gettin to the point of screaming at the tv. on almost every pitch. it got to the point i had to go to the doctor. i explained my problem so he prescribed every know muscle relaxer and every anxiety pill know to man! then they start hitting like this and all i can do now is sit on the couch in a self induced semi coma and watch chooch bing bang hit a ton. and just calmly go yeah! ( just kiddin) the game was awsome shame they lost it but it was at exciting to watch them scrape and claw and mash! brings back hope that all is not bad!

  • Posts: 0 shawnmac

    It looks like Diekman may be the only reliever from Lehigh Valley with any talent. Schwimer and Sanches are pathetic and Contreras should be released. Not much talent in the minor league system.

  • Posts: 0 Dave Lerch

    I don’t like wild, out of control ,slow pitch softball type games like last night. Reminded me of a little league game. To compound matters, it’s the Braves who I despise! In any event, we need to shore up the bullpen, that’s for sure. Of course, if Rollins makes the routine play, we’re likely out of the inning and Papelbon closes this game out. In any event, losing to the Braves this way is demoralizing and could instill confidence that they can beat us and we don’t want that. We really need to bounce back, win this series and take care of the Nationals. I think we’re back in first place by the middle of this month. Last night was like watching slow pitch softball! I want to see the Phils win and that’s the only reason I watched it. If it were two other teams, I would have been bored to tears and tuned out. BTW, Rollins looks lost! That’s concerning to me. Offensively, he is a liability at this point.

    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      .318 in his last 5 games, with .375 OBP. Should have had another walk in the 9th (instead of a K) on that pitch 8 inches outside. That would have made his OBP .417 in the last 5.

  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    It was a classic game for sure. This time the pitching failed big.
    Other than Chooch’s super human effort, some excellent points:
    5 walks – although none by Jimmy (I do agree he was robbed of a walk)
    The clutch single in the top of the 9th with 2 outs by Vic. His hustle was the reason the Phils stayed in the game. We need to see a lot more of that.
    Poly is hitting .423 for his last 6 games which the Phils are 3-3.
    Continued hitting success from Nix & Wiggington

    Negatives – phew, Contreras, Schwimmer, Rollins with 1 for 7, Pence 1 for 5, Galvis. It’s hard to pin something negative on Doc, he looked quite exhausted by the time he came out.

  • Posts: 0 George

    No matter what, it’s always Manuel’s fault when the Phils lose. Even when the starter gives up eight earned runs, the SS commits a costly error, and there’s nobody in the bullpen who’s worth a fart in a windstorm, it’s Manuel’s fault.

    Of course, when they win, Manuel isn’t responsible for anything, even if it’s a pinch hitter or reliever or a lineup change that seems to do the job.

    And any fool knows he should never give inexperienced relievers any opportunities. He should always leave them sitting behind the bullpen fence. Watching is the only way they’ll learn how to pitch in leverage situations.

  • Posts: 993 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    Jumping on Contreras is just wrong, JRoll bobbles an almost sure DP play ball, and even he just gets one out there in that inning the game is over in nine. Should Big Truck settle down and got out of the inning without giving up those runs sure. But he got the ground ball he needed at the time.

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      agreed! personally the ump behind the plate wasn’t calling a ton of pitches on the corners for both sides. which forces the pitcher to bring the ball in and you see what happens then. but that ball he called j-bag out on was no way close to a strike! then i think it was an inning later he calls the same pitch to a braves batter a ball! if the umps could be more consistant in their play calling and the strike zone it would only benifit the game. i’ve seen a lot of plays blown by umps on mlb network and not just the phils broadcast that are truly amazing that they can’t see what they’re looking at! remember polanco’s ball that was at least a ft and a half fair down the right feild line called fowl? he was right there focussed on the play an blew it! how do you do that? i’ve seen it too many times and it’s sickining! and there have been plays in our favor also. but i would just want them to get it right.

  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    “If I told you that you could watch all of that on a Wednesday night in exchange for a Phillies loss, I think you’d take it.”

    No…..I wouldn’t.

    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      Yeah, very interesting game. But I’ll take a win every time.

    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      To expand on that, if they were way ahead like last year, or had little chance of making the postseason, then sure — I’ll take a very memorable loss over a win.

      Also, while a wild slugfest in itself isn’t better than a win, something historic like a perfect game might do it. Or a 5-homer game by an opposing hitter.

  • Posts: 580 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    I’ll take an ugly win over a beautiful loss any day. The crazy games can happen with another team.

  • Posts: 3113 Tracey

    Avatar of Tracey

    I take heart in the fact that the offense FINALLY showed some signs of life, and not just in one inning. I take heart in the fact that they lost the lead twice and came back from it. That’s the kind of spirit we need, and I’m glad to be seeing it. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. This gives me a lot of hope that they’ll pull it out in the end.

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