Thursday, April 19, 2012

Phils Waste Lee's Gem

Cliff Lee's stat line last night: 10 IP, 7 hits, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts, 0 runs. And a no decision. Yes, that says 10 scoreless innings. And the Phillies lost the game 1-0. They couldn't score one freaking run while their pitcher shut down the Giants for not 7, not 8, not 9, but 10 innings. It was an absolute shame.
Cliff Lee was brilliant. He had all of his pitches working, commanding them beautifully. The few times he got into trouble, he calmly got himself out of it, either by inducing a double play or by getting a big strikeout. We've grown accustomed to seeing great pitching performances around here recently, and Cliff's outing last night is right up there with the best of them.

Unfortunately, the offense could manage only 4 hits of their own and went 0-4 with runners in scoring position. Some of the credit for that has to go to Matt Cain, who pitched a gem of his own (9 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 R), but the Phillies offense was a concern coming into the season and that has manifested itself several times already in the young season. And wasting a performance like Cliff's last night is just unacceptable.

The Phils had a great opportunity to get a run in the 11th, getting their closer into the game, and putting Cliff in line for the 10 inning shutout and the win. Carlos Ruiz doubled to lead off the inning, rookie Freddy Galvis sacrificed him to third. Go-ahead run on third with one out. You have to find a way to get that run across. Instead pinch-hitter Jim Thome struck out, and pinch-hitter John Mayberry grounded out. Inning over. The Giants go on to score in the bottom half, game over, gem wasted.

Now I'm not gonna claim to have all the answers here. If I did, then I would be managing, but that's Charlie Manuel's job. I just refuse to believe that this lineup is this poor offensively. And Charlie is supposed to be a hitting guy. So they have to find a way to get some consistency and put a few hits together in the same inning. If they don't, I fear we will see far too many masterful pitching performances go to waste this season.

There is one move that I know I would make if I was in position to do so. I would switch Ruiz and Galvis in the order, moving Freddy to 7th and Chooch to 8th. Hitting 8th in a National League lineup is an animal all its own. Because it means hitting in front of the pitcher, it involves more than just going up there and hitting. You get pitched to differently in the 8 hole. Sometimes you absolutely have to find a way on base in order to turn the lineup over. During last night's broadcast it was mentioned that the Phillies have had the pitcher lead off an inning 15 times. I don't have the numbers for other teams so I'm really not sure where this ranks among the other teams, but it seems a ridiculously high number to me. That's 15 times where you are basically starting an inning with one out. Freddy's bat has been improving since his dreadful start. But he is young and inexperienced. He doesn't have a veteran eye and doesn't work many walks. And he hits into a lot of double plays. Frankly I think he loses sight of the fact that sometimes his job is to turn the order over. Meanwhile Chooch has hit 8th for the Phils for basically his whole career, has a feel for the spot and for the responsibility that spot holds. He is more patient and has a more discerning eye, and an understanding for what you need to do at that spot in the order. I'm not saying this move will suddenly awaken the sleeping Phillies offense, but something has to be done, and this seems like one move that can easily be made that may help alleviate some of the offensive issues.

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