The Phillies’ offense made its first appearance of the season, but it was still not enough as the Pirates walked off with a victory for the second game in a row, defeating the Phillies 5-4. Andrew McCutchen was the hero, smashing a double to deep center field, driving in pinch-runner Josh Harrison.
Hunter Pence and Juan Pierre accounted for the Phillies’ offense, driving in two runs apiece. Pence hit the Phillies’ first home run of the year, and had a double to go along with it. Apart from those two, the rest of the lineup had one hit in 23 at-bats and left 11 runners on base.
Charlie Manuel‘s in-game strategy reared its ugly head again, calling for several more bunts and opting to pinch hit Laynce Nix for an otherwise effective Vance Worley in the top of the seventh inning. To that point, the only damage against Worley was a Pedro Alvarez solo home run; Vanimal had struck out five and walked one in his six innings. Nix grounded out, but Pierre salvaged the inning with a two-run single to right field. Michael Stutes replaced Worley and promptly gave the two runs back to the Pirates.
Kyle Kendrick, rather than David Herndon or Antonio Bastardo, came on to pitch the eighth inning. He quickly surrendered a lead-off single to Andrew McCutchen before retiring Neil Walker and exiting the game. Bastardo came in to face the left-handed Nate McLouth, but McLouth was replaced by right-hander Yamaico Navarro, who promptly drew a walk. It looked like Bastardo would end the threat, striking out Clint Barmes, but Matt Hagues hit a game-tying, two-out single to left. Bastardo struck out Michael McKenry to end the inning.
The Phillies went down in order in the top of the ninth, so Manuel sent Herndon to the mound in the bottom of the ninth with the score 4-4. While that is somewhat defensible, Jonathan Papelbon still should have been warming up throughout the inning. He never did. Herndon allowed a lead-off double to Casey McGehee, who promptly moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Presley. Herndon managed to strike Jose Tabata out, bringing up McCutchen.
There was no reason to pitch to McCutchen. He is easily the Pirates’ best hitter and Walker was behind him in the #4 spot. Despite his batting order position, Walker is a significantly weaker hitter, finishing 38 points behind McCutchen in wOBA last year. Manuel chose not to put up his four fingers for the intentional walk, and Herndon went to work going after McCutchen. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, McCutchen smoked a sinker to deep center field to win the game 5-4.
The Phillies’ struggles in Pittsburgh continue, now having won only four of 13 games dating back to 2009, and eight of 14 since 2006. They will put their early-season adversity behind them and look forward to tomorrow afternoon’s home opener against the Florida Marlins, a meeting of two 1-2 teams. Cole Hamels will oppose Anibal Sanchez.
(Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.)