Phillies Lose Another Head-Scratcher

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.)

Phillies Minor League Starting Probables

Originally written by Bradley Ankrom.

Probable starters for the next few games can be found below. Tuesday night’s Jonathan Pettibone / Drew Hutichison matchup at Reading is one to watch if you’re in the area.

Speaking of watching: it’s worth looking into an MILB.tv subscription – I believe it’s around $40 for the whole season – if you’re interested in watching all of Lehigh Valley’s games live. You’ll also be able to see all Reading/Harrisburg games as well as Lakewood’s tilts against Greenville, Hagerstown, and Lexington.

Monday, April 9
Lehigh Valley (Scott Elarton, 0-0) at Pawtucket (Doug Mathis, 0-0) – on MILB.tv
New Hampshire (Brett Cecil, 0-0) at Reading (Julio Rodriguez, 0-0)
Tampa (Zachary Nuding, 0-0) at Clearwater (Austin Wright, 0-0)
Lakewood (Colin Kleven, 0-0) at Greensboro (TBA)

Tuesday, April 10
Lehigh Valley (Dave Bush, 0-0) at Pawtucket (Ross Ohlendorf, 0-0) – on MILB.tv
New Hampshire (Drew Hutchison, 1-0) at Reading (Jonathan Pettibone, 0-0)
Tampa (Michael O’Brien, 0-0) at Clearwater (Perci Garner, 0-0)
Lakewood (Lino Martinez, 0-0) at Greensboro (TBA)

Wednesday, April 11
Syracuse (TBA) at Lehigh Valley (TBA) – on MILB.tv
New Hampshire (Ryan Tepera, 0-0) at Reading (TBA)
Tampa (Nik Turley, 0-0) at Clearwater (TBA)
Lakewood (Ervis Manzanillo, 0-0) at Greensboro (TBA)

Phillies/Pirates Game Thread 4/8/12

The Phillies will wrap up their series in Pittsburgh this afternoon at 1:35 PM. Vance Worley (3.66 xFIP last year) gets the nod from the good guys while James McDonald (4.46) will toe the slab for the bad guys.

The Fightins failed to score more than one run for the second consecutive game, dropping last night’s affair 2-1 to the Pirates in ten innings. John Mayberry has the club’s only extra-base hit on the season, a double that led to the first and eventual game-winning run in the seventh inning on Opening Day. Charlie Manuel has been trying to squeeze runs out of his club wherever possible, utilizing bunts and some non-standard pinch-hitting tactics, but to no avail.

Neither Roy Halladay nor Cliff Lee looked amazing in their starts, but were crafty enough to get the job done regardless. Halladay struck out five and walked none in eight innings while Lee struck out four and walked two in six innings. Worley is hoping to continue the trend in his 2012 debut, now with a change-up grip handed down from Halladay himself along with the two-seam fastball that brought him so much success last year.

Lineups

Phillies

Pirates

After today’s series finale, the Phillies head back to Philadelphia for the home opener, featuring Cole Hamels against Anibal Sanchez of the Florida Marlins.

The Bang-Bang Play

Last night’s ten-inning affair ended on a sour note for the Phillies as Alex Presley barely beat out an infield grounder, safely driving in Josh Harrison from third base. Pirates fans no doubt thought he was safe; Phillies fans thought he was out. These are the best looks I could get from MLB.tv. It looks like Presley was barely safe, but it’s not conclusive.

(Click on the first two images to view a larger version)

Safe or out?