Two throwing errors (one justified) in two NLCS games from the right arm of Chase Utley, the best defensive second baseman in all of Major League Baseball. Fortunately, the late Mrs. Olbermann was not in the crowd at Dodger Stadium today. Or, even if she was, ghosts can’t get hit by baseballs anyway because ghosts can pass through physical objects — everyone knows that.
Pedro Martinez pitched like a future Hall of Famer would pitch in a League Championship Series game: seven innings, no runs, no walks, two hits, three strikeouts. Aside from a fourth-inning Ryan Howard opposite-field solo home run, Dodgers starter Vicente Padilla matched Martinez pitch-for-pitch. Pedro left after seven innings with his team clinging to a 1-0 lead.
As was the case last night and all season, the Phillies’ bullpen has a penchant for making an already interesting game much more intriguing. That bullpen was shaky in the eighth inning, enough so that Charlie Manuel may have morphed into Tony LaRussa. Manuel used five pitchers in an attempt to get three outs.
To be fair, bad luck is as much to blame as the bullpen for the situation in which the Phillies found themselves. Casey Blake led off the eighth inning with a BABIP-inspired ground ball that ticked off of Pedro Feliz’s glove.
Ronnie Belliard then attempted to bunt Juan Pierre, pinch-running for Blake, to second base. Many would agree that Belliard is not a world-class bunter, but he had the mother of all bunts: perfectly placed so as to draw both the pitcher and the charging first baseman towards the ball, but distant enough from both with enough speed behind it that it squirted between the both of them (causing Chan Ho Park to slip a la Scott Eyre in the NLDS, sans the minor ankle injury). The mother of all bunts allowed Pierre to reach second base and Belliard to claim first base safely.
Then, of course, came the Utley throwing gaffe on yet another dead-to-rights double play ball. After that, well, that tends to happen to houses made of mere playing cards. A Jim Thome single and a Rafael Furcal walk later, Andre Ethier strode to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in a 1-1 ballgame. Ethier fell behind in the count 1-2, but fouled off a couple pitches and forced Happ to find more of the strike zone. He didn’t. Happ eventually walked Ethier to force in the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run.
Walks and fielding errors. Last night, walks sunk the Blue Crew. Tonight, the free pass and yet another Utley misfire trashed one of the better post-season starts by a Phillie.
Instead of going back to Philadelphia up two games to none, the series is essentially a five-gamer now. Game 3 has noted Phillie killer Hiroki Kuroda against Clifton Phifer Lee. Game 4 will see Randy Wolf against, likely, Joe Blanton.
This didn’t fit into the above narrative, but I’d be remiss not to throw some compliments in the general direction of Carlos Ruiz. After last night’s heroics, Ruiz went 1-for-2 with a walk, stole a base, and threw out Matt Kemp on the base paths as well. Recently, I took the time to re-argue the merits of the theory of clutch, but Ruiz may force me to reconsider. I like the cut of his jib.
Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.