Monday, November 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Dissecting craziness

ATLANTA — Begin with this: The Phillies scored 13 runs Wednesday. Sure enough, they lost, for the first time since 1969 when scoring that many. (Or 1993 if we're counting the postseason.)

Dissecting craziness

Carlos Ruiz drove in seven runs for the Phillies, but it wasn´t enough to get a win over the Braves. (John Bazemore/AP)
Carlos Ruiz drove in seven runs for the Phillies, but it wasn't enough to get a win over the Braves. (John Bazemore/AP)

ATLANTA — Begin with this: The Phillies scored 13 runs Wednesday. Sure enough, they lost, for the first time since 1969 when scoring that many. (Or 1993 if we're counting the postseason.)

But they hadn't scored at least 13 since July 10, 2011 and only twice total in the last two seasons. That, Charlie Manuel said, will be what helps motivate for a quick turnaround in Thursday's 12:10 p.m. series finale after a 15-13 loss in 11 innings Wednesday.

"It can be deflating," Manuel said, "but I look at the other side, too. We scored 13 runs and got some hits. We did some things good in the game. That just goes to show you we can score runs and we can get hits."

The Phillies fouled off 18 pitches in the first three innings. Tommy Hanson was done after 3 1/3 inning and 95 pitches. They beat up on the soft underbelly of the Braves bullpen once they forced the starter to leave.

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Carlos Ruiz drove in seven runs, more than any Phillies catcher in a single game ever. Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco each had three hits. John Mayberry Jr. showed some life as a pinch-hitter again and scored two runs. In the ninth, down by one run, Juan Pierre drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on an infield single.

And that's about where the silver linings end. Just ask Roy Halladay, who was most upset when Ruiz's name was mentioned.

"He's been awesome for us," Halladay said. "That's what hurts the most when you have games like this. Your teammates are out there grinding and getting it done. And I didn't. That was the difference."

So start with Halladay. His velocity is not there, nor has it been for the entire first month of the season. But until Wednesday, it hadn't mattered. Opposing hitters were swinging and missing at 17 percent of his total strikes, which is above his average of 14 percent. He had limited his hits and home runs even as walks mounted.

His sinker velocity in April was 91.03 mph. It was 91.11 mph on Wednesday. His cutter velocity in April was 89.39 mph. It was 89.66 mph on Wednesday.

He needed just 47 pitches for the first four innings. That was not luck, he said. His stuff was working.

"It was good," he said.

Then it fell apart.

A few of the Atlanta hits were luck. Some were hit solidly. Halladay cited his pitch execution as the issue. Four of the six Braves hits were on cutters; the big blast was Brian McCann's grand slam. Halladay was trying to go in on McCann, where he had success before. The cutter caught too much of the plate.

"If we get it in there, I think we have a chance to get him out," Halladay said. "He was looking inner half and I left it middle-third, inner. That's a bad combination"

Why did he pitch the sixth? Halladay was at 82 pitches after the disastrous fifth inning. He said there was never a question he'd pitch the sixth.

"No," Halladay said. "The pitch count was down. I felt like I could go out and get us deeper and keep it right there. That was obviously the idea. If they felt like I was physically done, they would have taken me out."

Charlie Manuel echoed that idea.

"He had some left," Manuel said. "Where was his pitch count at? He still had some. We still thought he could pitch an inning or two and get us where we wanted to go."

And given the state of the Phillies' bullpen, logic says a longer leash for the team's best pitcher — even on his worst night — wasn't misguided.

Why were Michael Schwimer and Brian Sanches pitching in key moments? The short answer is: Halladay didn't go deep enough, his primary setup man was unavailable, and they never had a lead with three outs to go.

After pitching in three of four days and warming up in all four, Chad Qualls was unavailable. ("We could've probably made him pitch but we didn't want to," Manuel said. "We can't pitch him every night.") Jonathan Papelbon had also pitched in three of four days, but Manuel said his closer was sitting there had the Phillies carried the lead into the ninth inning.

Problem is, that never happened, mostly because Michael Schwimer failed to clean up Jose Contreras' mess. Atlanta scored five times in the eighth. Antonio Bastardo got them there and Ruiz extended the lead to four with his bases-clearing double.

Contreras might have escaped with only facing three batters had Jimmy Rollins executed a difficult double play feed behind the second-base bag. He should have had at least one out on the ball hit by Chipper Jones.

"Oh that was an easy double play," Rollins said. "At least I thought it was going to be an easy double play. Not necessarily easy, but for me. For me, that's an easy double play."

It was an error and two men on base instead. After another single and a walk, Contreras was done. 

Manuel had a decision: Schwimer or Sanches. That was the decision, he said, and not Jonathan Papelbon for a five-out save.

"We never do that," Manuel said. "It's just not the way it is. Papelbon is in the ninth inning for a save. When we ever have a lead, when we start the ninth inning, he's gonna save."

Sanches was just recalled but he spent the last three seasons in the majors with the Marlins and posted a 2.92 ERA. Schwimer had 16 2/3 innings in the majors to his name.

"Schwimer's got a little bit better fastball and a hook," Manuel said, "and we figured Schwimer might match better at that time."

He walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. Then Schwimer allowed three more runs to score and the Braves had the lead.

Once the game carried into extra innings, it was Sanches until Papelbon could pitch for a save. The chance never came.

On Sanches' 41st pitch, Jones crushed the game-winning home run.

"In that third inning obviously I was a little fatigued," Sanches said. "I started leaving the ball up a little bit. Because of that I battled trying to get it down. But that's no excuse."

And that about sums up Wednesday night at Turner Field.


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