Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Yesterday, I went into work an hour early. I even drove in instead of taking public transportation. All so I could rush home in time for game 3 between the Phillies and Giants, or at the very least have my car so I could listen to the beginning before I got home. As 4 p.m. approached, I finished up what I had to do at work, rushed to my car, and furiously drove home, listening to the first inning on the radio, then sprinting into my house to watch the rest of the game.
I put forth a ton of effort into preparing for this game. It was a whole hell of a lot more effort than the Phils put forth yesterday, I'll tell you that much. Because no matter how you look at it, the Phillies simply didn't come to play yesterday. Not Cole Hamels, not Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard or Raul Ibanez. And certainly not Chase Utley. None of them showed up. Sure, they were there in body, but that was about it. Put a slew of high schoolers out there and the only difference would have been three less hits and maybe a few more runs for the Giants. It was an all-around pathetic display, especially considering it's, you know, the NLCS.
First, let me give credit where credit is due. Matt Cain pitched himself one hell of a game — maybe the best pitching performance this side of Cliff Lee in the LCS thus far. In 7 innings of two-hit, shutout ball, Cain only ran into any sort of trouble twice, in the third and fourth innings. In the third, he gave up a one-out single to Carlos Ruiz and hit Shane Victorino in the ribs with two outs, but then got Chase Utley to harmlessly ground out to end the threat. In the third, he gave up a one-out single to Ryan Howard followed by a walk to Jayson Werth, but then forced Rollins to weakly fly out and then struck out Raul Ibanez to escape unscathed yet again.
Beyond that, Cain didn't encounter a hint of trouble, and the only other time the Phillies even got a runner to second base was in the 5th, when Shane Victorino stole second after getting walked. Cain gave up just two hits, struck out five and didn't let the leadoff hitter reach at any point. In fact, the Phillies didn't get their leadoff man aboard once all game, as Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson faced the minimum in their two combined innings to close out the 3-0 win for San Fran, giving the Giants a 2-1 series lead.
It was the same story we saw in game 1. The Phillies had some early chances on Cain, but couldn't capitalize. Meanwhile, the Giants took full advantage of the few opportunities they were presented with — once again led by Cody Fucking Ross.
To say Cole Hamels pitched poorly yesterday would be a misnomer. He didn't blow up or get smacked around. Hell, he only gave up 3 runs on five hits while striking out 8, and one of those "earned" runs was actually not, because no matter what anyone tries to tell you about a bad hop or tricky play, that ball hit by Freddy Sanchez in the 5th was an error by Chase Utley, a play a major league second baseman has to make. For starters, he hesitated and backed up on the ball to let it play him, a no-no that they teach you in little league. Then, he failed to get his body in front of it, regardless of the spin, having it ricochet off him into center to let Aaron Rowand score.
I know everyone loves Chase Utley and finds it hard to criticize a guy who works so hard and hustles all the time, but you have to call a spade a spade. It was a bad play by Utley, an error, no matter if it was "a tough bounce" or not.
The fact that the official scorer changed that thing to a hit is a complete joke. But let's get back to Cole Hamels.
As I was saying, Cole didn't pitch all that poorly or even remotely lose the games for the Phils — you can't win if you don't score any runs. But he had one of those hiccups that have been few and far between this season, something that was prevalent in 2009. And it came at the most inopportune time.
After surrendering a leadoff single to Edgar Renteria in the 4th, Freddy Sanchez sacrificed him to second with Buster Posey coming up. Hamels bore down and struck out the rookie catcher, and it looked as though he was going to get out of it with former teammate Pat Burrell up. With Hamels' devastating changeup accompanying his fastball that had plenty of life and curveball that he was showing more than ever, you'd figure Pat would be at his mercy. But Cole couldn't find the strike zone, walking Burrell on five pitches to bring up … Cody Fucking Ross.
I was so incredibly angry at the two-out walk, and now it brought to the plate a guy who was absolutely destroying the Phillies in this series, and a guy who has tremendous career numbers against Cole. So of course, Cody Fucking Ross gets a two-out single to open the scoring.
The Phillies just can't get this fucking guy out. Then things went from bad to worse, as Aubrey Huff singled to right to score Burrell, making it 2-0 as the ball just went off a diving Chase Utley's glove.
That's when I lost it. Just lost it. I went on a tirade, a very expletive-filled tirade — furious at Cole for that two-out walk to Burrell. Furious at the world for Cody Fucking Ross suddenly becoming the most dangerous hitter on the planet. Furious at everything. I was not taking it well. But still, it was just a two-run game, and the Phillies have had a great track record against Cain. Even when the Phils gave San Francisco another run in the 5th, it was still just at three-run game.
Problem is the bats never showed up, just like they failed to show up in game 1 and were largely absent until the big 7th inning in game 2. They managed just three hits, had just six baserunners all game. Only Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz got hits. The corner outfielders were horrendous yet again, with both Werth and Ibanez striking out twice. No one on this team has done a damn thing at the plate except for Ryan Howard — who is batting .364 through three games — but even Howard has failed to come up big when needed. In the rare instance that Howard has had runners on, he hasn't come through.
Right now, this offense is completely lost. Victorino is 2-for-11 with 3 strikeouts. Utley is 1-for-9 with a K. Polanco is 2-for-11 with a strikeout. Howard is 4-for-11, but he has no RBIs and has struck out five times. Werth is 2-for-9 with 4 K's. Rollins is 3-for-11, and one of those three was a pop-up in the infield that the Giants let drop. He struck out three times in the first game, and with the exception of his bases-loaded, bases-clearing double in game 2, hasn't made solid contact. He's swinging up at everything, resulting in Jimmy out after Jimmy out. Ibanez is 0-for-11 and has struck out five times. He's been so awful that he deserves to be benched, especially considering he dropped a ball in game 1 and has been taking horrible routes to the balls hit his way. With lefty Madison Bumgarner going tonight for San Fran, I'd sit Raul in favor of Ben Fracisco. I really would. He couldn't possibly do any worse. Finally, Carlos Ruiz is 2-for-9.
This team is not hitting at all. They have just six extra-base hits. They're batting just .194 as team in this series — 18-for-93 — with two of those hits coming from their pitchers. With those numbers, it's a miracle they're only down 2 games to 1 and not staring at a 3-0 deficit.
The Giants have great pitching. There's no doubt about it. And thus far, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have outdueled Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. But the bats have to find a way to turn things around, have to find a way to give their pitchers some run support. It's been problem numerous times throughout the season, and each time they've managed to push through and snap out of it. They have to do that again and do it tonight. It's time to wake up.
This series is far from over. The Phils have the arms and the bats to get things done. But they don't have time to wait around. They have to flip the switch tonight with Joe Blanton on mound.
Personally, I'd go with Halladay on three days' rest, then Oswalt doing the same tomorrow. But Charlie feels differently. Here's hoping Blanton can give this team a spark, and that the bats awake in San Francisco because as we've seen in the ALCS, just because the favored Phillies are supposed to prevail doesn't mean they automatically will.