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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Game 139: Phils sweep Braves (91-48)

Fredi Gonzalez utilized the absurd save-your-closer-on-the-road strategy yesterday, and it resulted in the Braves' getting swept out of Philadelphia. After Jonny Venters blew a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning, Gonzalez brought in Peter Moylan to pitch the 9th inning. Instead of using Craig Kimbrel, the best reliever on the Braves (perhaps in the NL), he decided to save Kimbrel for a save situation. Unsurprisingly, Moylan lost the game and Kimbrel went the entire series without pitching an inning. Great job, Fredi.

Manuel didn't have a perfect night, either. Once Roy Oswalt allowed a baserunner in the top of the 7th inning, he should have been removed. The leadoff batter, Heyward, singled on Oswalt's 102nd pitch of the night. I'm okay with allowing Oswalt the chance to reach 7 innings pitched with about 110-115 pitches, but once he allows the leadoff runner to reach base, the Braves' run expectancy (and frequency) nearly doubles for the inning, from .54 to .94 (and .29 to .56).

Oswalt is only on his sixth start after the DL, and 102 pitches on the night is certainly enough. Lengthening Oswalt's start, rather than bringing in Bastardo or Madson for the high-leverage situation, only decreases the Phils' chances of winning while increasing Oswalt's chance of injury.

Oswalt made it through the inning, but not without allowing Heyward to score. This probably would have been the winning run if Jason Heyward made a mediocre throw to home plate on Placido Polanco's RBI-single to tie the game off Venters.

However, that wasn't even the worst decision of the night from the Phils' coaching staff.

Venters pitched the 8th inning, and he allowed a two-out single to Polanco to tie the game. Polanco was then on first base with Ben Francisco coming to the plate to pinch-hit for the injured Chase Utley. Venters, who owns a 4.2 BB/9 for his career, walked Francisco on 5 pitches. Howard then came to the plate. We all know Howard is simply terrible against LHPs at this point in his career. He has a .290 OBP against LHPs in 2011, and only .311 for his career. However, Howard was allowed to swing the bat against Venters (a devastatingly effective LHP) after the count was 2-0.

Venters is better against lefties, too, with a .269 OBP against LHBs and .304 for righties. With Pence on deck, the Phillies should be actively hoping for a walk from Howard. Not only does it get Pence to the plate against a lefty, it also loads the bases for a wild pitcher.

I can't overstate how dumb it was for both Howard to swing at the 2-0 pitch and for the Phillies coaches to allow it to happen. Howard shouldn't even be swinging at any first pitch from Venters, let alone one after a 5-pitch walk to Francisco. Once it gets to 1-0, he shouldn't even be thinking of swinging, and once it gets to 2-0, he should just toss the bat in the dugout and see if Venters can throw 75% strikes over the next four pitches.

Venters threw the next 3 pitches out of the strike zone, and of course Howard swung and missed at each pitch. The inning was over with the score only tied. However, Manuel used his best pitcher in the 9th inning and Gonzalez did not, and the Phillies won.

Oh, and Victorino did not bat between Utley and Howard, something we've been criticizing since day 1 on this blog (although it was Burrell, then Werth, instead of Victorino). And what happened? It nearly got Chase Utley killed, because Gonzalez brought O'Flaherty into the game with 2 outs to face Utley with Howard on deck. Without Victorino on deck, O'Flaherty has no reason not to give Utley a concussion -- he's a much better hitter against LHP than Howard is anyway, so why not save the extra three pitches on the intentional walk? Howard then struck out.

Inning over, second baseman concussed, and O'Flaherty never faced a righty.

1 comment:

Scott Graham said...

I'm kind of pissed that there was no retaliation. I'm not even saying that the HBP was intentional, which it could have been, but there NEEDS to be a Brave on his ass. I'm not saying throw at someone's head, but I'm sick of our players not being stood up for. Throw a reliever in there that wouldn't hurt the team if he were suspended, and just tell him to drill someone.