We're back with our third installment of our in-game free-for-all, complete with notes, observations, statistics, analysis, and anything else that does not fit into 140 characters on Twitter. Feel free to dive in to the comments section and discuss what you see. I'll do my best to remains active in there.
PIRATES 5, PHILLIES 4 -- FINAL
It is still too early to read any last rites to the Phillies line-up, but heading into a three-game series against the much-improved Marlins, it looks nothing like a unit that can muster enough offense and defense to beat Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson or even Mark Buehrle.
And that's before we even talk about the bullpen.
Pirates star Andrew McCutchen sent a long walk-off single sailing over the head of Shane Victorino in center field as the Pirates celebrated their second straight victory over the Phillies, this one coming in the bottom of the ninth. After Vance Worley was removed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh, the Pirates scored four unanswered runs to climb back from a 4-1 deficit. Mike Stutes allowed two runs, Kyle Kendrick allowed one, and David Herndon surrendered the game-winner as the Phillies fell to 1-2.
Tomorrow, the Phillies open up their home schedule with an afternoon game at Citizens Bank Park that features Cole Hamels against Sanchez.
We'll have much more after we hear from Charlie Manuel and the Phillies clubhouse. For now, feel free to peruse our earlier thoughts on the events that unfolded:
3:46 p.m. - So, about that that bullpen. The Pirates added two runs in the seventh off Mike Stutes, trimming the Phillies lead to 4-3. Ty Wigginton had a costly error on what should have been a strike-em-out, throw-em-out, but Brian Schneider's throw eluded his glove. That set up an RBI double by Casey McGehee and then an RBI single by Alex Presley. We still have the eighth and ninth to go. I'll refer you back to the point about taking Vance Worley out for a pinch-hitter at 78 pitches.
3:19 p.m. - Juan Pierre has given the Phillies a 4-1 lead with a two-run, two-strike single to right field. The second run is big, because I'm not so sure Manuel made the right move pulling Vance Worley with one out and runners on second and third, given the state of the Phillies seventh and eighth inning options right now. Nix ended up grounding out. Worley was at 78 pitches, which is an extremely efficient outing for him. His final line: 6 innings, 5 hits, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks.
3:08 p.m. - As I type this, Freddy Galvis is squaring up to bunt after Ty Wigginton drew a leadoff walk to start the top of the seventh. After taking two balls, Galvis gets it down, prompting a wild throw to first, both runners advance, and its second and third with none out. This is going to take some getting used to. Last year, Phillies position players attempted just 42 bunts in 162 games. Already this season, they have attempted five bunts in less than three games. Earlier, Vance Worley allowed a monster home run to Pedro Alvarez to cut the lead to 2-1. Otherwise, he has five strikeouts in six innings and at 78 pitches is going to come out for a pinch-hitter. Don't know that I agree with this move. I still don't have a ton of confidence in the guys going in front of Jonathan Papelbon. Nix will pinch-hit.
2:38 p.m. - This thought just occurred to me, though I'm sure it has occurred to somebody else already: The Phillies said they were starting Vance Worley today because they wanted to break up their lefties, but there is a chance it had more to do with the match-up. Think back to March 13, when Worley turned in a dominant effort in his second Grapefruit League start, striking out eight batters in four perfect innings in Bradenton. The opponent? The Pirates. Heading into the bottom of the fifth, Worley has allowed three hits and one walk with three strikeouts in four scoreless innings.
2:35 p.m. - And at long last, a home run: Hunter Pence's solo shot in the fourth gives the Phillies a 2-0 lead. Last year, the Phillies did not homer until their third game. Same goes for 2009. Every other year since 2005 they have homered on Opening Day. As we said earlier, the top half of the line-up is going to have to get hot for the Phillies to score runs. Pence has a double and a home run today. 2-0 Phillies in the bottom of the fifth.
2:06 p.m. - Charlie Manuel talked all spring about needing to score early runs, and the Phillies have done that in the last two games, getting a run in the first inning. After Shane Victorino hit a one-out single, we saw the reason why Jimmy Rollins might have been better off swinging instead of bunting in the first inning with men on first and second and no out on Saturday. Rollins grounded out but still managed to move Victorino to second, where he scored on Hunter Pence's double. It gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead, which they also had in the first inning on Saturday night. Now, the trick is building a sizeable lead.
Also: Vance Worley looks sharp early. Two of his three strikeouts were looking. Last year, he had a higher percentage of called strike-outs than any other starter in the National League. That's a good sign.
Also: Freddy Galvis reached base for the first time as a pro, drawing a walk in the second inning to snap an eight-plate-appearance baseless streak.
PRE-GAME: Answering some questions about the line-up
Two games into the 2012 season, the Phillies are still looking to find some semblance of offensive rhythm. Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz both have the day off, which is important to note because those two players have combined to post a .500 on base percentage, while the rest of the roster has combined for a .211 OBP. John Mayberry Jr., the star of Game 1, also is off.
So what gives?
Well, the Phillies have a day game tomorrow, and Ruiz and Polanco are two players who Charlie Manuel wants to keep healthy, which makes today or tomorrow a logical spot to get them a blow. Just so happens that Ruiz and Polanco are a combined 1-for-12 with two walks and three strikeouts against Pirates righthander James McDonald. Look ahead to tomorrow's starter, Marlins righty Anibal Sanchez, and the move makes sense. Ruiz and Polanco are a combined 15-for-40 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight walks and five strikeouts against Sanchez. Mayberry is 1-for-2 with a strikeout against Sanchez. With Jim Thome starting at first base, keeping Mayberry on the bench gives Manuel some flexibility with regard to in-game substitutions, since he upgrades the defense at both first base and left field.
Also, Freddy Galvis is hitting seventh today instead of eighth. This will allow the Phillies to perhaps use the rookie as a bunter. Galvis is 0-for-8 thus far in his short MLB career.
I asked Manuel last night if he had considered moving Galvis out of the eight hole so that he might at least be in position to utilize the one skill at the plate that he has. Manuel said in spring training that Galvis is already the team's best bunter.
"I was thinking about that yesterday," Manuel said. "When he hits in the eight hole he and you are asking him to bunt, then he is bunting right before the pitcher to hit. That's a little different. Usually, we don't do that. I asked some of our coaches about it and things like that. I haven't really got a solution yet. You have to remember, he's breaking in at the big league level, and to me if you are hitting him at the top of the order, you are giving him five at-bats a game."
At least in this situation, Galvis might be able to move runners and have a veteran hitter who can drive the ball in Brian Schneider behind him. Of course, Schneider did not do much with the bat last season. And behind Schneider are the pitcher and Juan Pierre, neither of whom has power listed on his resume.
- Juan Pierre LF
- Shane Victorino CF
- Jimmy Rollins SS
- Hunter Pence RF
- Jim Thome 1B
- Ty Wigginton 3B
- Freddy Galvis 2B
- Brian Schneider C
- Vance Worley RHP
Right now, the Phillies need Victorino, Rollins and Pence to get hot. That's pretty much what it comes down to.