Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dear Shane, What the Hell?

If you watched last night's 6-3 win for the Phillies over the Yankees, you know that after scoring the first run in the most unlikely manner — Raul Ibanez stealing (yes, stealing) second base followed by Philadelphia's most unwanted Phillie Greg Dobbs actually getting hit to drive him in — Shane Victorino had the single biggest hit of the night: a bases-loaded, bases-clearing triple in the 2nd to put the Phils ahead 4-0.

What you might not know but probably do is that later, he committed one of the worst base-running errors ever. And it almost came back to haunt the Phils. After scoring two more runs in the third thanks to the rarest of things for the Phils of late — back-to-back solo home runs by Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth — the Phils had a comfortable 6-1 lead. Jamie Moyer was doing what Roy Halladay was supposed to do on Tuesday, having gone through the first three innings surrendering just one hit, a solo home run to the red-hot Robinson Cano. Then the fourth inning rolled around, which is when Shane made an inexcusable, indefensible mistake, especially for a team that's been struggling to score runs and win games for too long now.

He started out doing just about everything right, actually. Having tripled his last time up against Burnett to plate three runners in the 2nd, Victorino led the 4th off with a walk. Then he stole second on a pitch-out that Jorge Posada dropped — you know, because Jorge Posada is about as good playing catcher as Greg Dobbs is at playing third. So far, so good. But this is where things took a turn for the worst. The next batter, Placido Polanco, hit a high fly ball pretty deep to right, doing what he's so good at doing, what he was brought to this team to do, hit the ball to the right side with a runner on second and no outs to get him to third. One problem: Shane took a few steps off the bag, then fucking walked back to second, failing to tag up and get to third. What? A guy with his speed, with his base-running ability, could have walked to third base tagging up. Especially with Nick Swisher in rightfield, hardly a player with a cannon. I was irate. I know the Phils were up 6-1 and Jamie was dealing, but come on! This is the Yankees. In Yankees Stadium. A 6-1 lead is hardly safe, not with that lineup in that stadium. And especially not in the 4th inning. You have to take every base you can, score every run that's out there. Yet Shane had his head up his ass, failing to do the most fundamental thing, tagging up on a deep fly ball to right while standing on second. It's not even like it was a hard ball to read. It was a towering fly ball to deep right. He should have been standing on second and tagging, no questions asked.

What makes it 10 times more infuriating is what happened next. Chase Utley reached on an infield single to first, beating everyone to the bag. If Shane was on third like he was supposed to be, he would have scored, putting the Phils up 7-1. Instead, it was first and third with one out, and Joe Girardi lifted Burnett to bring in a lefty, who struck out Howard, then intentionally walked Werth to load the bases for Raul, who grounded out. No run. And it was all because Shane failed to do the simplest, most fundamental thing. That's just horribly inexcusable when your team is struggling so much. Slumps happen. Errors happen. But mental mistakes should never happen, not when you're trying so hard to break out of a funk.

Luckily for Victorino, Moyer had his back.

You want to talk about baseball being a funny game, well just check out the first two games of this series. Tuesday night, Roy Halladay walked into Yankee Stadium with a sub-2.00 ERA and a history of torturing the Bronx Bombers during his days as a Blue Jay. He left after six innings, surrendering 8 hits, six earned runs and three home runs while picking up the loss, skyrocketing his ERA to 2.36.

Then last night, Jamie Moyer took the mound with an ERA north of 5.00, coming off a disastrous start in Fenway Park. All he did then was go out and toss 8 innings of three-hit ball, surrendering just two runs, as two of those hits were solo homers (one to Cano, the other to Posada). It was Jamie Moyer at his best, working the corners, hitting his spots, frustrating the most potent lineup on the planet. Like I said, he was everything Roy was supposed to be against the Yankees. Talk about a pleasant surprise.

Jamie was dealing so well that I thought he should have been allowed to start the ninth, holding a 6-2 lead. He had earned it, and he showed no signs of slowing down, cruising through the 6th, 7th and 8th. But Charlie decided to go with Brad Lidge in the 9th, in the dreaded non-save situation for the closer. Unsurprisingly, all did not go so smoothly.

Lidge did start out on fire, striking out Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher to begin the 9th. But then he walked Mark Teixeira on a great at-bat by douche face. He then took second on defensive indifference, because Lidge is awful at holding runners and Teixeira's run didn't really matter. That's a good thing, because A-Rod drove Teixeira home with a double, and suddenly it was a three-run game. When Robinson Cano followed Rodriguez's at-bat with a single, suddenly the tying run came to the plate in the person of Jorge Posada, a guy who had already homered on the night.

This is where Shane's boneheaded base-running comes into play. Or could have. If Posada had launched one there, the game would have been tied. If Victorino simply would have played baseball the right way, Posada couldn't have come to the plate as the tying run. Thankfully, it was all a moot point, because Lidge struck Posada out on a nasty slider, completing the ninth by eventually striking out the side. But the ending had unnecessary tension thanks to Victorino's blunder. Then again, the Phils also were in position to win thanks to Shane's huge three-run triple, and the guy played outstanding defense in centerfield.

Still, seriously Shane, do what you're supposed to. You're better than that.

BallHype: hype it up!

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