The Phillies return home after a tough road trip, but stumble out of the gate, losing to the last-place Mets 8-5 last night.
Sometimes it’s easy to just sum up the last few innings when doing these games stories, and sometimes it’s easy to just pluck numbers from the box score. This game isn’t one of them.
Many people will blame the two homers surrendered by Ugueth Urbina in the eighth as the reason the Phils lost this game, with the Mets putting it out of reach at that point 8-5. But at no point did the Phils lead this game. From the onset, you could tell something was off, and the problems can be traced to the very beginning.
His mistakes were typical J-Roll. When Jose Reyes led off the game with a weak roller, J-Roll lazed up to it without urgency allowing the fleet Reyes to reach easily. I believe that set the table for the Mets the rest of the way against Brett Myers, who lasted only 3 1-3, allowing six earned runs including a run-scoring balk in the first.
Then there’s J-Roll the table-setter, who led off the bottom half of the first by swinging at the first pitch and popping up.
The box score shows a healthy 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored for the recipient of a new $40 million contract, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t say that three of his outs came on a total of four pitches. In fact, his last hit would have been a game-ending double play had it not been for a lucky bounce. Oh, and he saw two pitches in that at bat.
I’ll reiterate what I said last week when Ed Wade re-upped J-Roll for five years. He’s solidly average to above-average both in the field and at the plate, and I don’t expect his approach to hitting to ever change.
There have been rumblings that fans would rather see Kenny Lofton in the leadoff spot. Lofton had an identical line to J-Roll last night (2-5, 1 RBI, 1 R), but his approach was much better. I would not be opposed to swapping them.
I’ll have more on last night’s game later this morning, including a look at the two bullpens. I'm disappointed the Phils didn't give the 43,000 in attendence the passionate game they deserved.
Bell and Lieberthal
Time to revisit the most informative Beer Leaguer comment thread this season.
Last night, David Bell and Mike Lieberthal hit seventh and eighth respectively, setting up a couple innings in which a Mets pitcher got to face a string of weak right-handed hitters, in addition to the pitcher spot.
Here’s what alert reader George S. observed a few days ago about batting Bell and Lieby back-to-back:
"Bell and Lieberthal, batting in sequence in the lineup, present an offensive black hole that the Phillies cannot usually overcome. Rally-killers extraordinaire.
I looked at all the Phillies' box scores and counted the games where neither Bell nor Lieberthal started, the games where one or the other started, the games where they both started, but batted apart in the order, and games where they both started and batted consecutively in the order.
Record with neither: 4-0 5.75 RPG
Record with one of them: 10-5 6.00 RPG
Record batting apart: 12-7 5.42 RPG
Record batting in order: 10-18 3.71 RPG
Start both: 22-25 4.40 RPG
Don't start both: 14-5 5.95 RPG
Bat them in order: 10-18 3.71 RPG
Any other option: 26-12 5.45 RPG"
I wouldn’t blame Bell and Lieberthal for last night, but it’s certainly frustrating how easy opposing pitchers can notch two or three-straight outs.
Brett Myers chin hair report
Brett Myers chin hair is beginning to curl forward in the tradition of Ming, mortal enemy of Flash Gordon.
Urbina and the bullpen
He’s been the as-advertised flyball pitcher we expected. On a team with so many groundball pitchers like Cory Lidle, Jon Lieber and Ryan Madson, the hanging action of Urbina’s pitches is like nothing else on staff. He picks his spots, and the ball arrives uninhibited. It’s easy to see how hitters can meet his pitches cleanly.
Aside from Urbina, the Phils received more strong innings from the B-list bullpen, including another great game from Aaron Fultz, who helped his cause with a neat little two-out single. Geoff Geary, Rheal Cormier and Billy Wagner also pitched scoreless sets.
On the other side, the much-maligned Mets bullpen held it for Kris Benson.
Losing within the division
After the game, Charlie Manuel expressed his frustration with losing to divisional foes. They’re now 12-19 against the NL East.
Year after year, their poor record against division rivals is a major reason they can't shake their "can't win in the clutch" stigma.