Phillies Score 13 Runs, Lose Anyway

Do not adjust your browser, this is not a duplicate game recap. Charlie Manuel mismanaged his bullpen and led the Phillies to lose what was otherwise a very winnable game. The Braves won in the eleventh inning on a Chipper Jones walk-off two-run home run to deep center field off of recent call-up Brian Sanchez, in his third inning of work. $50 million man Jonathan Papelbon sat in the bullpen, once again unused.

The game, as you can tell from the FanGraphs win probability chart on the right, was topsy-turvy. The Phillies chased Tommy Hanson out of the game in the fourth inning after taking a 6-0 lead, but Roy Halladay broke down in the fifth. Brian McCann had the key hit with a game-tying grand slam, resetting the game at six apiece. That should have ended Halladay’s night as he was ineffective and laboring heavily, sweating profusely. However, Manuel allowed Halladay to take the mound for a sixth inning. After a single and a double, Jayson Heyward drove both runners in with a line drive single to right field, putting the Braves ahead 8-6. Halladay left the game and Joe Savery entered, and the lefty finished the inning with no further damage.

The Phillies stormed right back in the top of the seventh against lefty Eric O’Flaherty. A Ty Wigginton walk and a John Mayberry single brought Carlos Ruiz to the plate with runners on first and second and no outs. After taking a first-pitch sinker for a ball, Ruiz turned around a slider and crushed a fly ball well beyond the left field fence for a three-run home run, putting the Phillies ahead 9-8. Antonio Bastardo got through the bottom of the seventh with no damage, thanks to two rather interesting plays on fly balls to left field by John Mayberry — neither of them graceful, but exciting nonetheless.

Ruiz put the team on his back once again in the top of the eighth. The Phillies managed to load the bases with two outs on two seeing-eye singles and a walk, bringing up their beloved catcher. Ruiz offered at a first-pitch Kris Medlen fastball and sent it down the right field line, clearing the bases and staking the Phillies to a 12-8 lead. Manuel called upon veteran Jose Contreras to start the eighth. The skeptical among us simply hoped Contreras could manage a clean inning to avoid any leverage-related misuse of relievers. Unfortunately, that was not the case tonight.

Dan Uggla led off with a single to right, bringing up switch-hitter Chipper Jones. Jones hit a ground ball up the middle, but within range of Jimmy Rollins for at least one out. Rollins, in a shocking turn of events, bobbled the ball and no outs were recorded, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Despite baseball orthodoxy, which states that you cannot use your closer on the road, this is when Jonathan Papelbon should have started warming up. The next batter, Matt Diaz, struck out and it looked like Contreras might have been able to see his way out of the inning. Unfortunately, the light-hitting Tyler Pastornicky smoked a line drive to center field, driving in Uggla and moving Jones to second base. If not after Jones’ at-bat, Papelbon should have been warming up after Pastornicky’s single. Contreras walked Jason Heyward to load the bases and was finally taken out of the game. And replaced by Michael Schwimer.

With the bases loaded with one out and a three-run lead, you want a pitcher that misses bats — a strikeout guy. Sure, you can bring in a ground ball pitcher and hope for a double play, but ground balls become hits 23 percent of the time on average. Besides, with David Herndon on the disabled list and Chad Qualls theoretically unavailable, the Phillies didn’t have any such pitchers. Papelbon has posted a double-digit K/9 in each of the past five seasons and was averaging a strikeout per inning so far in 2012. Additionally, Papelbon has excellent control, averaging 2.4 walks per nine innings. Schwimer, on the other hand, has 16.2 Major League innings to his name with a 4.08 xFIP. While he has shown an ability to miss bats, he hasn’t been fooling hitters as he entered the game with a 5.40 ERA and a 4.3 BB/9. Schwimer was absolutely the wrong choice, but he was the only choice, per baseball orthodoxy.

Unsurprisingly, Schwimer walked Michael Bourn on four pitches, forcing in a run and bringing the Braves to within two runs at 12-10. Next, Martin Prado singled on a sharp line drive to right field to drive in two, tying the game at 12-all. Freddie Freeman put the cherry on top with a sacrifice fly to left field, ending the inning with his team having overcome a four-run deficit. Schwimer induced one swing-and-miss out of 15 pitches.

With their backs against the wall against All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, the Phillies small-balled their way to a tie. Juan Pierre walked to lead off the inning, then stole second base. After Jimmy Rollins struck out on a very questionable called strike three, Pierre moved to third when Placido Polanco hit a slow grounder to shortstop for the second out. On his team’s last legs, Shane Victorino hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, gloved by the slick-fielding Jack Wilson. Victorino’s speed was too much, however, as he barely beat the throw. The Phillies were back at 13-13.

A tie game on the road in extra innings. We’ve been here before. Twice, actually: April 7 in Pittsburgh and April 18 in San Francisco. The Phillies lost both games and in both games Papelbon went unused. They also lost on April 8 in nine innings, but Papelbon should have been called upon in that game as well. There’s a connection here. Tie game on the road, adhere to baseball orthodoxy, lose the game as your inferior reliever surrenders predictable runs while your best reliever rots on his seat in the bullpen.

Brian Sanches was Charlie’s man for the tenth inning. Who is that, you ask? He was in the slop section of the Phillies’ bullpen back in 2006-07 and spent his last three seasons with the Florida Marlins. He hadn’t thrown an inning in the Majors until tonight, having spent all of his time with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. That’s not to say Sanches is bad; he is patently quite capable as a reliever. However, if you are in a tight game against a division rival on May 3, I will go with my $50 million reliever pitching in his third consecutive game than Triple-A filler who had yet to face a Major League hitter. What’s the point of paying a reliever $50 million if you are not going to use him in the most important spots, right?

Sanches beat the odds, though, holding the Braves scoreless not just in the bottom of the ninth, but the tenth as well. Shows what we know! The Phillies, meanwhile, could not scrape any more offense together, going into the bottom of the eleventh still knotted at 13-13. Sanches took the mound for his third inning of work. The Phillies still had Papelbon and Kyle Kendrick available, so Manuel must have thought this game was destined to reach the 19th inning, perhaps still gun-shy from last year’s debacle.

Dan Uggla swung at Sanches’ first pitch of the eleventh, an 89-MPH four-seam fastball, sending a ground ball past Polanco at third base and into left field for a single. 40-year-old Chipper Jones came to the plate, looking to go home before the clock struck midnight. He, too, swung at Sanches’ first pitch, this time an 88-MPH two-seam fastball. Jones took an obvious home run cut and missed wildly. Jones worked the count back to 2-2 before striking fear into the hearts of Phillies fans, striking a foul ball just to the right of the right-field foul pole. It was mere foreshadowing. Jones worked the count full, then sent an 88-MPH two-seam fastball deep into the center field seats for a walk-off two-run home run, pinning the Braves to a 15-13 victory.

The Phillies came into the game averaging fewer than 3.5 runs per game, yet lost a game (started by Roy Halladay no less) in which their offense managed 13 runs. It, like the three aforementioned April games, were salvageable with better bullpen management. Unfortunately, the Phillies do not have such a tactician at the helm and have paid for it with four preventable losses in 25 games.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

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  1. Doz

    May 02, 2012 11:38 PM

    Just wanted to note that it was Jack Wilson, not Tyler Pastornicky, that made the play on Victorino’s ground ball that tied the game at 13. Nice writeup on that mess of a game, though.

  2. clivejameson

    May 02, 2012 11:41 PM

    Beer status: Not high enough in alcohol content, switching to scotch.

    Pretty steamed about that loss, you guys.

  3. Adam

    May 03, 2012 03:39 AM

    As a regular follower of the Braves sweetspot blog Capitol Avenue Club. I’m not here to gloat about the win. I’m here to sympathize that if this game were played in Philadelphia the Phillies would have won. All of the bullpen woes that plagued your team would have plagued ours and its time managers truly learned how to use their bullpen whether they are home or away. Or in the case of Fredi Gonzalez at all, seriously the man is absolutely terrible at managing the bullpen the Braves were exceedingly lucky they were at home

  4. WiffleBall1

    May 03, 2012 05:59 AM

    I can understand the desire to see Papelbon and with one out in the eighth I thought about it but instantly dismissed it. It’s May 2nd. If his arm blows out in August you would be pointing to this game as why Cholly and Manuel are idiots. It’s a long season, the problem tonight was Halladay, not how the bullpen was managed.

  5. LTG

    May 03, 2012 06:47 AM

    Cholly and Manuel? So you are very familiar with the Phillies and this blog then.

    (Squinting…can’t tell if trolling.)

  6. me

    May 03, 2012 06:52 AM

    If he blows out his arm in august because of 10-20 pitches in may, then he was going to blow it out regardless.

    Paying a guy that much money then being afraid to use him is doing it wrong. If you are going to lose, id rather see them do it with the best players on the field in that situation, not the best players sitting on the bench spitting seeds.

    It is this early into the season & charlie/dubee have already blown what? 4 games due to complete mismanagement of the bullpen. I hate how people talk about “its only so and so date early in the season, loss doesn’t matter”. Bullshit..a loss is a loss & they add up. A win could have been a HUGE momentum swing for the phils.

    Things were overlooked when they were scoring 4 5 6 runs a night at ease. Now, the problems really show.

  7. hk

    May 03, 2012 07:12 AM

    The hoops through which some people will jump to defend Charlie are incredible and becoming humorous. If you criticize Charlie for having his starter throw an extra 15 pitches in the 8yh inning of a game with a 5 run lead, the defenders will say “he’s just stretching them out.” If you criticize Charlie for not having his best reliever thrown an extra 15 pitches in the 8th inning with a lead and the tying and winning runs on base, the defenders will say “don’t complain if the closer saves this game, but blows out his arm in August.” Defenders, you have it backwards. If you want one of your best pitchers to throw an extra 15 pitches, you want it to be the guy who is only going to throw 60 innings this year, not the guy who is going to throw 220. You also want it to be in an important situation, not a blow-out. Remember, games in April / May are equally as important, if not more so, than games in September.

  8. JC

    May 03, 2012 07:31 AM

    Re:Charlie on Papelbon/saves (from Gelb’s article): “We never do that,” Manuel said. “It’s just not the way it is. Papelbon is in the ninth inning for a save. When we ever have a lead, when we start the ninth inning, he’s gonna save.”

    Wokka wokka wokka

  9. JM

    May 03, 2012 08:23 AM

    I don’t have a real problem with what Paps role was last night. I would rather have him in to lock it up than KK or any AAA role player. What we should be complaining about it Manuals’ inability to remove his aces (yes any and all of them) when they are obviously laboring. I saw Doc tonight, still out of breath at the end of the big ining, after he had been sitting for 15 minutes. Charlie needs to back them down and take them out when they are cooked. Put AAA guy or Contreras in at that spot. Better a 2B to Mccann than that momentum bomb…

  10. Phatti

    May 03, 2012 08:32 AM

    First of all, I agree that Manuel is mishandling the bullpen, but the real mistake was using Schwimmer instead of Papelbon.  The real “save situation” was bases loaded, one out in the eighth,
    But it’s overstating to say that bullpen management has cost us four games .  Putting aside the eighth inning for a minute, there were four games in which Papelbon could have come in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game.  regardless of whether he played or not, the odds were against the Phillies.  If they used Papelbon, the Phillies would need the following to win:
    Papelbon had to get through the ninth without allowing any runs
    The Phillies needed to score runs before the other team
    and once the Phillies did that, whoever was the replacement closer had to not allow any runs.
    Fangraphs says the home team is 62% likely to win a game in that situation.  I think the odds are actually worse than that for the Phillies because of their weak offense and lack of bullpen depth.  But, odds-wise, the Phillies were only likely to win one of the four even if they did it the “right way”.  And frankly, they’ve been a little unlucky that they’ve lost all four games–at some point, you figure the breaks have to go the Phillies way.
    I put the blame for this loss (in order) on Halladay, Schwimmer, Contreras, and then either Manuel or Rollins

  11. Gaël

    May 03, 2012 08:39 AM

    What do we make of Halladay’s struggles? I don’t mean yesterday in particular, or rather, I mean yesterday as a symptom of a larger issue. The “his velocity’s down” claim has been pretty thoroughly debunked, but given his plummeting K rate (and, to a lesser extent, his rising BB rate), a night like last night was bound to happen eventually. Sure, there was some BABIP luck involved, but that’s kinda the point: if you’re not missing bats, there’s bound to be nights when BABIP will do you in. (And it cuts both ways: Halladay got unlucky on a few hits last night, but he got lucky at other times, for instance with the Bourn line drive that was caught by Wigginton in the first).

    I don’t mean that in a “the sky is falling” kind of way (for all we know, it could just be a temporary control issue, especially since Halladay insists that he’s fine and there’s no reason not to believe him), but I sure would love to see his K rate go back up a bit.

  12. Noah

    May 03, 2012 08:41 AM

    This game and the Lee 10 inning shutout hurt way too much. They were both entertaining but I got so used to these going the Phils way last year. Sad.

  13. Richard

    May 03, 2012 08:44 AM

    Here’s what gets me. I’m not all that bothered by not using Papelbon in a tie game on the road. I think the complaints about that typical move are overblown. Or, rather, I can see both sides of the argument.

    I can also understand not wanting Papelbon to pitch more than an inning, after working three of the previous four days, and so early in the season.

    However, I absolutely fail to understand how bringing him in in the 8th (which is unequivocally the correct move), means he has to pitch the 9th. Why would he have to pitch the 9th? Why? To get the save? Why does he need the save? (He already has his big contract!)

    No: you bring in Papelbon to clean up after Contreras. If he succeeds, then you are under no obligation to bring him back out for the 9th. I’d be a lot more comfortable with Schwimer in that 9th than I was in the 8th. Why is this not an option? The answers Charlie is giving are all in response to the mythical four-or-five out save, which “we never do”. Wrong question.

  14. nik

    May 03, 2012 09:06 AM

    How many managers DO use their closers in tie games on the road? I bet less than 10. So Manuel is in the majority, not sure why everyone is wasting their breath over this issue, its NOT going to change while he is the manger.

  15. Gaël

    May 03, 2012 09:06 AM

    Richard: If it helps, think of saves as Pokemon, and of closers as trainers. Gotta catch them all! What else are you going to do?

    (I guess in that analogy, Heath Bell’s fastball isn’t being very effective against wild save opportunities right now.)

  16. Gaël

    May 03, 2012 09:10 AM

    nik: I’m not sure I follow. Nothing written on this blog by anyone is going to change what Manuel does (or what Amaro or the Phillies as a whole do, either). Discussing whether Brown should be called up or why the Phillies really should stop trying to bunt is just as much a waste of breath as talking about Manuel’s bullpen use. We can’t influence Manuel’s decisions, but that’s not why we discuss them in the first place.

  17. NickFromGermantown

    May 03, 2012 09:14 AM

    Ugh. Why did I feel the need to read these comments? They are just re-angering me after I was finally starting to relax.

    The game last night was a disgrace. There is really nothing more to say. Maybe it’s better that they lost though since people just can’t glaze over the mismanagement by falling back on saying, “Well, you can’t complain about a win.” This game was mismanaged by the Phillies throughout. It’s very frustrating.

  18. nik

    May 03, 2012 09:20 AM

    Gael: we can talk about it, but there is no reason to get mad or upset. This is something that you just have to accept and not get outraged the next time it happens.

  19. KH

    May 03, 2012 10:14 AM

    You can’t lose this game. The purpose of this blog I would think is for fans to discuss the Phillies not influence Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel. For one thing no one could convice Ruben Amaro of anything he has a smug forcefield around him so powerful a nuclear bomb couldn’t penetrate it. Charlie could never be influenced either he manages by the mythical baseball book. Still doesn’t mean we can’t pick him apart when he cost this team another game.

  20. hk

    May 03, 2012 10:22 AM

    Richard hit the nail on the head. Losing the two Cliff Lee starts in walk-off fashion without using Papelbon in tie games is somewhat defensible. Losing the Sunday game in Pittsburgh and last night’s game, two games in which the Phils led by >= 3 runs with < 6 outs to go, without using Papelbon is indefensible.

  21. Ryan

    May 03, 2012 10:31 AM

    When is Charlie finally going to move Chooch up in the lineup? He belongs somewhere 2-5 in my mind. Rollins, Polanco, Chooch, Victorino, Pence would look good to me. He’s being wasted at the bottom of the order when he’s our best on base guy. He is also one of our better power guys at the moment.

    It’s good to know that Halladay had some personal issues instead of being hurt. That gives something of an explanation for what happened last night (I hope).

  22. LTG

    May 03, 2012 11:07 AM

    I’ll third Richard’s point, with a caveat that the decision not to use Paps in those games already tied is defensible if we are worried about overworking him. It is not defensible if a closer-principle is being applied. Since I suspect the latter, I get disgruntled.

  23. Charlie Manuel

    May 03, 2012 11:31 AM

    Not your target audience? That hurts, Bill.

  24. jauer

    May 03, 2012 11:52 AM

    So now were worried about Papelbon being overused? This is the guy who was used with a 6-run lead, a 4-run lead, and a 3-run deficit in three different 9th innings, right?

  25. Cutter

    May 03, 2012 12:53 PM

    I don’t think Papelbon being “overworked” was an issue last night. He was going to be used if the Phillies had a lead at any point from the 9th on.

    If you’re so worried about him, just bring him in for the jam in the 8th and let Schwimmer start clean in the 9th.

    And yet, I’m listening to Wheeler defend the move.

    You’d have to think that Amaro is a little heated seeing his big investment wasted like that.

  26. Mitch Goldich

    May 03, 2012 01:08 PM

    I was digging through old game logs last night and found this random tidbit:

    Manuel used Lidge in the 9th inning of a tie game on the road exactly one time in 2008:

    This game was April 10, the Phillies lost, and he didn’t use Lidge like that again the rest of the season. Or in 2009, or in 2010. And Madson didn’t do it once in 2011.

  27. Phillie697

    May 04, 2012 10:02 AM

    I had forgotten how many negative WAR I credited to Cholly before the season started. A month into the season, he’s making me look like a genius.


    Sorry, it’s not defensible to save a closer even if you’re worried about overworking him. Saving anything for an imaginary situation that may or may not come later is not defensible. If you use him today, we win, and tomorrow he’s unavailable and someone blows a save, you’re no worse than you started, and the chances of 1) we won’t need him the next day and 2) someone else can pick up the slack are much greater.

  28. Tim Craven

    May 04, 2012 10:29 PM

    what babies. now the coaches can tuck papelbon in since they rescued him from having to throw any pitches tonight and give him a big kiss and maybe a couple more days off. why use your best pitcher in a key situation in a big game. what was I thinking?

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