Chase Utley stood at his locker more than three hours before the first pitch was thrown on Wednesday and was asked about a play that happened three nights earlier.
Utley, it was assumed, forgot how many outs there were during Sunday’s night’s game against St. Louis when he dashed off second and toward home with one out in the first inning. He was doubled off, ending a rally.
Utley, however, didn’t forget the number of outs. He read the ball as a blooper and took his chances and took off.
Major league veterans with All-Star credentials usually aren’t prone to mental or physical gaffes, and Utley, as it turns out, was guilty of neither. He was being aggressive.
Three nights later, his long-time double play partner was guilty of the same aggressiveness that ended up costing the Phillies a run. But Jimmy Rollins would go on to complete a trifecta of costly plays that had a role in the Phils 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In the first inning, Rollins tried to stretch a single to left-center into a double, but Andrew McCutchen gunned him down for the inning’s first out. Two pitches later, Chase Utley deposited a pitch into the second deck for a home run.
In the fifth, Rollins led off with a double off Pittsburgh starter Wandy Rodriguez and advanced to third when Utley followed with a bunt single. But for the second straight night, the Phils failed to get a runner from third home with less than one out, as Michael Young bounced a grounder to third, Rollins hesitated and didn’t get home in time to prevent a rare 5-4-2 double play.
Rollins’ third game-changing play came in the eighth, when the first two batters reached off setup man Mike Adams, called in to preserve a 3-2 lead. Catcher Humberto Quintero had the lead runner, Starling Marte, picked off at second base following an Adams’ pitch.
The ball beat Marte to the bag, but Rollins never applied the tag. Two batters later, Marte crossed the plate with the go-ahead run in Pittsburgh’s come-from-behind win.
None of Rollins’ mistakes were terribly egregious, but when added together, they easily could have been the difference between the Phillies avoiding another defeat in a close game.
The Phils are 5-8 this season in games decided by two runs or less.
Of course, none of the aforementioned plays would have mattered much if the Phils scored more than three runs, something they’ve done just twice over the last 13 games.
Although both Utley and Ryan Howard hit home runs – off a lefthanded pitcher, no less – the Phils offense remained mired in a funk. The Phils stranded nine runners in failing to score more than three runs for the fourth time in their last five games.
For the second straight night, the offense wasted a superb start.
A night after Cole Hamels held Pittsburgh to two runs in eight innings, Roy Halladay limited the Pirates to one run on one hit in six innings.
Halladay, who has allowed three hits in his last two starts, has a 1.71 ERA in his last three games after beginning the season 0-2 with a 14.71 ERA. Halladay struck out eight and walked two on Wednesday night.
When he threw his 95th and final pitch to end the sixth, Halladay had retired seven straight batters. He had a 2-1 lead.
But it wouldn’t hold up, as the Phils lost for the seventh time in their last 10 games.
Check out our Roy Halladay interactive graphic to compare his stats as he's aged against some of the best in MLB history. (Use promo code H66A to access.)
The Phillies have been shut out in three of their last eight games.
They have scored a total of 25 runs in their last nine games (an average of less than three per-games) – and 18 of those runs were scored in three wins.
The Phillies have scored seven runs in their last six losses.
Their pitching has been fine since the season’s first week. Their offense has been awful.
Collectively, the Phils are hitting .248 as a team, which ranks 18th best in baseball.
They are in the bottom third of the league in just about every other significant offensive category.
The Phils have hit 14 home runs (22nd in MLB), scored 73 runs (21st), have 53 extra-base hits (21st), 49 walks (27th), a .300 on-base percentage (24th), and a .675 OPS (25th).
Charlie Manuel tinkered with his lineup at the beginning of the current homestand, placing long-time leadoff man Jimmy Rollins back at the top spot of the lineup while plopping the struggling Ben Revere into the lower third of the order.
The manager was at it again on Wednesday, deciding to split lefthanders Ryan Howard and Chase Utley with fellow veteran (and righthanded hitter) Michael Young.
It’s the first time Utley has hit second since the end of the 2011 season, when Manuel used Hunter Pence to split Utley and Howard.
“I don’t see any sense in having them hit (back-to-back),” Manuel said Wednesday afternoon. “That makes it easier for the other team, for the starter and the reliever.”
“I’ve did it a whole lot if you go back and look, whenever I can. Whenever I think it’s needed. When Utley and Howard was hitting left-handers so much I don’t mind it, but when we’re not hitting them, I think I want to get a right-handed hitter in-between them.”
And so, the adjusted lineup:
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Chase Utley, 2B
3. Michael Young, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. John Mayberry Jr., RF
6. Domonic Brown, LF
7. Ben Revere, CF
8. Humberto Quintero, C
9. Roy Halladay, P