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The Phillies’ offense continued to sputter in their second game of the 2012 season, mustering one run for the second game in a row. The Pirates eked out a 2-1 victory in ten innings thanks to a walk-off infield single by Alex Presley. The ten innings were filled with one part offensive ineptitude and one part managerial ineptitude.
Cliff Lee didn’t have his best stuff, but held the Pirates to one run in six innings. The Phillies staked him to an early 1-0 lead when Hunter Pence drove in Shane Victorino with an infield single up the middle. Lee struggled with his fastball command, missing high and outside often. The Pirates were able to push across their first run in the bottom of the sixth when Lee threw a curve ball in the dirt that Carlos Ruiz — well-regarded for his ability to block pitches in the dirt — couldn’t corral. Ruiz chased after it and made a wild throw to Lee. Had the throw been on the mark, Lee could have tagged runner Yamaico Navarro out. Instead, the throw ran up the third base line, hitting Navarro and caroming back towards Lee.
There were several questionable decisions made throughout the game. The first was Jimmy Rollins laying down a bunt with runners on first and second with nobody out in the first inning. Using 2011 data from Baseball Prospectus, the expected runs from that specific situation is 1.43 runs; with runners on second and third with one out, 1.29 runs score. Small difference in the scope of one game, but it is made even more indefensible by the fact that it was the #3 hitter bunting, and in the first inning of a scoreless game.
The next head-scratcher came in the top of the eighth. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sent right-hander Jason Grilli to the mound, replacing left-hander Tony Watson — their only left-handed reliever from an 11-man pitching staff. It would have been the perfect spot to use Jim Thome as a pinch-hitter, but instead, Juan Pierre took his spot in the batter’s box. Pierre worked the count, but eventually struck out chasing several 3-2 pitches out of the strike zone.
Hunter Pence led off the top of the ninth with a walk, putting the Phillies in a threatening position. However, Manuel ordered Laynce Nix — he of four career sacrifice bunts in 1,800 career plate appearances — to lay down a bunt to move Pence to second base. Nix followed instructions, but bunted terribly and popped the pitch up to catcher Rod Barajas. Thome then pinch-hit for John Mayberry, Jr., a terribly-inefficient move since, they would be losing Mayberry’s above-average defense in left field as Nix would replace him, with Ty Wigginton coming in at first base. Pence stole second base during Thome’s at-bat, which makes one wonder, “If Manuel is fine with Pence stealing second base with a lefty at the dish, why not do it during Nix’s at-bat?” Thome struck out looking for the second out. Freddy Galvis soon followed suit, finishing the night 0-for-4.
Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo combined to finish out a scoreless ninth, which signaled for even more insanity from the Phillies’ dugout. Joe Blanton jogged to the bullpen to start warming up for the tenth inning. As Blanton is the fifth starter and the Phillies have an off-day after their home opener against the Florida Marlins, they could afford to do that. However, the Phillies just as easily could have brought Antonio Bastardo back after just one-third of an inning (six pitches), gone with David Herndon or, god forbid, Jonathan Papelbon.
Blanton got into trouble quickly, surrendering a lead-off double in the tenth to Rod Barajas, a fly ball that missed clearing the fence in left-center by inches. Clint Barmes bunted pinch-runner Michael McKenry over to third. Blanton inadvertently set up an inning-ending double play situation by hitting Josh Harrison with a pitch (turns out Harrison wasn’t actually hit by the ball, but nevertheless…). Jose Tabata did the next-best thing, popping up to Galvis at second base.
This would have been a great spot to bring in Papelbon — anytime after the Barajas double would have, actually:
- Rod Barajas (double): 2.20 leverage index (LI)
- Clint Barmes (sacrifice bunt): 2.67 LI
- Josh Harrison (hit by pitch): 4.90 LI
- Jose Tabata (pop-up to second): 5.49 LI
- Alex Presley (RBI infield single): 4.87 LI
Note: 1.00 leverage index is average. 10% of all real game situations have a LI greater than 2, while 60% have a LI less than 1.
Alex Presley, however, ended the game, beating out a 2-2 grounder placed perfectly between third base and shortstop. Rollins backhanded the ball and made a strong throw to first, but Presley was safe by a half-step.
Overall, the Phillies mustered seven hits — none of the extra-base variety — and three walks in ten innings, amounting to all of one run, their second consecutive game with one run. Two games don’t a season make, but the early prognostications of offensive woes appear to be on the money so far.
The Phillies will close out the series in Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 PM as Vance Worley opposes James McDonald. With the right-handed starter on the hill for the Pirates, it will be interesting to see if Manuel chooses to start Thome for the first time, and if Pierre will get the start over Mayberry in left field. We will certainly see Worley’s personal catcher Brian Schneider tomorrow, giving Ruiz the day off after a night game.
(Game graph courtesy FanGraphs)
(Updated with context from David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News)