Falling Behind, Looking Ahead

They had the Thursday night rush from drinking the Red Bull that was sweeping the division-leading New York Mets, only to have a Labor Day weekend-long crash that saw J.D. Durbin allow the first seven Florida Marlin baseruners to reach base in the first inning, the Phillies pitching fork over a 5-0 lead to the Marlins, and the NL-best offense snooze its way to a depressing 5-1 loss to the downtrodden Atlanta Braves.

The starting pitching had to return to reality eventually — the second-worst pitching staff in the NL had held the Mets to six runs in the first three games of the four-game series that turned up aces for the Phillies. After allowing the Mets to score ten times in the series finale, the pitching seemed to recover, holding the Marlins to only two runs in the opener, in large part to Kyle Kendrick and his typical quality start (two-thirds of his starts have been of the quality variety, tied for ninth-best in the National League). But that was just a tease.

A recap of the Marlins series and the Labor Day game against the Braves:

August 31 @ FLA, Phillies win 9-2

As mentioned, Kyle Kendrick put up seven innings of quality pitching, Kane Davis become the Phillies’ 28th different pitcher used this season (a club record), Jimmy Rollins reached base in four out of five at-bats (two singles, a double, and a walk), Chase Utley knocked in three runs on two hits, and Jayson Werth continued his hot hitting with three hits in four at-bats.

All in all, an impressive offensive showing despite Ryan Howard going 0-5 with three strikeouts. The Mets beat the Braves, and the Padres beat the Dodgers, so the Phillies stayed at two games behind in both the NL East and the Wild Card.

September 1 @ FLA, Phillies lose 12-6

As far as “quick and painless” defeats go, this seemed to be it. J.D. Durbin allowed the first seven baserunners to reach base (five singles, a hit batter, and a walk) before Charlie Manuel pulled him for Clay Condrey, who allowed three of his inherited baserunners to score, putting the Phillies at a quick 7-1 deficit.

However, the Phillies appeared to be on the verge of one of their typical comebacks, scoring three runs on five hits immediately off of Marlins starter Byun-Hyun Kim. The inning could have been bigger, but Clay Condrey failed to get down a sacrifice bunt, and Chase Utley failed to make contact with runners on second and third base.

They failed to score again until the eighth inning, scattering five baserunners over the next five innings. After the Phillies scored those two eighth-inning runs (on an RBI groundout and single), the Marlins came right back and delivered the knockout blow, scoring three times in the bottom-half of the inning on an RBI single and a two-run homerun to Cody Ross, his second of the game.

The Phillies bullpen was responsible for 5 of the 12 runs (Mesa, 2; Alfonseca, 3), but that looks miniscule considering the bullpen was asked to pitch nine innings in relief of Durbin, whose ERA for the game is “INF” (infinite, since he didn’t record an out).

The Mets and Padres both won, so the Phillies moved to three games back in both the East and the Wild Card.

September 2 @ FLA, Phillies lose 7-6

This loss, more than anything, was unnecessary. The Phillies had Marlins starter Scott Olsen on the ropes early, making him throw 97 pitches in three and one-third innings, putting up five runs in the third and fourth innings.

Adam Eaton, though, showed why he has the worst ERA in baseball (among those who have pitched enough innings to qualify) by awarding the Marlins five runs over the next three innings, three of which came via homerun (Cabrera, Ross twice). Kane Davis did a great Adam Eaton impression, allowing back-to-back solo homeruns to NL VORP leader Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

Jimmy Rollins doesn't like the umpire's call

The Phillies mounted a comeback against Marlins closer Kevin Gregg, though. Down 7-5, they put runners on first and second for Carlos Ruiz, who singled to center field to score Aaron Rowand. Chase Utley walked to load the bases for Jimmy Rollins, who was robbed of an game-tying RBI walk by the home plate umpire, who called a fastball that was clearly around Rollins’ chin a strike (replays confirm that this was, in fact, a ball), moving the count to 3-2. Having to swing defensively, Rollins flew out to center field to end the game.

The Mets won and the Padres lost, putting the Phillies at four games back in the East, and three games back in the Wild Card.

September 3 @ ATL, Phillies lose 5-1

The Braves entered the Labor Day game reeling from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets — three games in which they managed only one extra base hit and four total runs. Even better was the fact that they were to face Lance Cormier, he of the 57 ERA+ in six starts. Putting the league-best offense against such a pitcher calls for an offensive outburst, but Cormier had everything working, as he held the Phillies to one run on four hits (Utley had three of those hits, Burrell had the only other one). The Braves bullpen pitched three and one-third nearly flawless innings (one walk).

Jamie Moyer pitched well for the most part, but was a victim of bad luck and bad defense. Abraham Nunez, only in the lineup for his defense at third base (because right-handed hitters pull Jamie Moyer’s slow pitches), was unable to barehand a slow ground ball off of the bat of Andruw Jones in the bottom of the fourth inning, loading the bases for Brian McCann. The Braves’ catcher ripped a double to right field, scoring two. Kelly Johnson tacked on one more with a sacrifice fly that allowed Jones to score following an airmailed throw to the plate from center fielder Aaron Rowand.

Moyer’s bad luck came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he easily retired Jeff Francoeur and Andruw Jones to start the inning, but allowed singles to McCann and Kelly Johnson to put runners at first and third. Pinch-hitter Brayan Pena hit a slow ground ball to Jimmy Rollins, but beat the throw at first base, scoring McCann.

Jeff Francoeur tacked on the fifth run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, sealing the deal for the Braves. Unfortunately for the Phillies, the Mets won handily in Pedro Martinez’s 2007 debut, 10-4 over the Reds, pushing the Phillies to five games back in the East. As of this writing, the Padres have a 4-0 lead on the Diamondbacks in the third inning, so things aren’t looking good.

Looking Ahead

A look at the Phillies’ and their competitors’ schedules for the rest of the season:

Phillies

(2) @ ATL (70-68, .507)
(3) vs. FLA (60-78, .435)
(4) vs. COL (70-66, .515)
(3) @ NYM (77-60, .562)
(3) @ STL (67-67, .500)
(4) @ WAS (61-77, .442)
(3) vs. ATL (.507)
(3) vs. WAS (.442)

Average: .489

12 road games
13 home games

Mets

(2) @ CIN (62-76, .449)
(3) vs. HOU (61-76, .442)
(3) vs. ATL (.507)
(3) vs. PHI (72-65, .526)
(3) @ WAS (.442)
(4) @ FLA (.435)
(3) vs. WAS (.442)
(1) vs. STL (.500)
(3) vs. FLA (.435)

Average: .464

9 road games
16 home games

Padres

(2) @ ARI (76-62, .551)
(3) @ COL (.515)
(3) @ LAD (71-65, .522)
(3) vs. SFG (62-75, .453)
(3) vs. PIT (60-77, .438)
(3) vs. COL (.515)
(3) @ SFG (.453)
(4) @ MIL (69-67, .507)

Average: .494

15 road games
9 home games

Diamondbacks

(2) vs. SD (.551)
(3) vs. STL (.500)
(3) @ SFG (.453)
(3) @ LAD (.522)
(3) vs. SFG (.453)
(3) vs. LAD (.522)
(3) @ PIT (.438)
(3) @ COL (.515)

Average: .494

12 road games
11 home games

So, things look more favorable for the Phillies against the Padres and Diamondbacks for the Wild Card, than against the Mets for the East. The schedule favors the Mets, who have the advantage of both facing weaker opponents overall, and playing the most games at home.

Who’s Up?

Jayson Werth, who had hit safely in nine straight at-bats, just one more hit short of tying the National League record. Werth went 5-for-5 with five singles against the Padres on August 26, and 4-for-4 with four singles and a walk against the Mets on the 27th.

Jimmy Rollins, who had a multi-hit game in seven straight games from August 26 to September 1. He sandwiched those multi-hit games with one-hit games, combining for a nine-game hitting streak that ended today against the Braves. During the hitting streak, Rollins put up a 1.321 OPS (three doubles, a triple, and three homeruns).

Who’s Down?

J.D. Durbin, for his lack of a performance against the Marlins September 1. As mentioned, he allowed the first seven baserunners to reach base before Charlie Manuel replaced him with Clay Condrey.

Antonio Alfonseca, has allowed more hits (eight) than he’s recorded outs (seven), according to Phillies.com. His manager understands why Alfonseca has been extemely hittable lately:

Stop and think about it. He’s given us a lot this year. We’ve asked a whole lot of him, and he’s given us a lot. I tell you what, he doesn’t have a whole lot left in his tank.

Ryan Howard. Not that strikeouts are indicative of a bad hitter, but with three more today against the Braves, Howard’s strikeouts total has reached 168. At this pace, he’ll finish the season with 199, which is four more than Adam Dunn’s all-time record for strikeouts in a season.