Borrowing advice from elementary school teachers everywhere: the Phillies need to put on their thinking caps (thinking cap pictured below).
Beerleaguer got an e-mail this morning that pointed out that if you take away the first week of the season, the Phillies have gone 11-8, a pace that translates into a 94-win season.
They’ve been damn lucky.
Sad but true: On this road trip, the Phils matched up pretty evenly with Pittsburgh and Florida. True, the Phils had another gritty comeback last night. True, they did so off Ricky Nolasco, who spent all of last season with Double-A West Tennessee. Nolasco gave up two walks a hit and a home run in 2-3 innings of work. The bases-loaded triple by Aaron Rowand came off Matt Herges. Herges is a bum.
Good teams beat weak competition. The Phillies haven’t done that. A big reason why is the Phils are playing foolish baseball. They aren’t thinking. Their lack of focus has blurred every portion of their game, from the number of times opposing pitchers have been allowed to hurt them with the bat, to base-running mistakes, like Pat Burrell getting thrown out three times in six games at second base. Offensively, their poor marks with RISP speak volumes about their inability to zero in and execute. Most of the lineup has burned themselves at least once with an impatient at bat when the opposing pitcher had been struggling. In fact, several pitchers they struggled with this season were sent back to the minor leagues.
The Marlins are a very, very poor club and managed to climb back into the game yesterday thanks to some amateur-hour plays from Sal Fasano and Ryan Howard. During the broadcast, Chris Wheeler said every game for the Marlins will be an adventure because of their inexperience. I laughed, and then cursed, because the Phils looked just as horrendous.
Pitching hasn’t been sharp, either. Jon Lieber has pitched better than his line would indicate, but he’s made several costly errors, including last night. Against a lineup that had been fooled on every breaking ball away, Lieber tested free-swinging Reggie Abercrombie with a slider that arrived dead-center. Abercrombie turned it into an RBI triple. With such a one-sided matchup, vet-vs.-rookie, that should never happen.
The Phillies won’t be able to rely on ridiculous breaks (like a 3-2 bunt double play) when they face Atlanta tonight, a team that plays intelligent baseball. More than any team I’ve seen the last 10+ years, the Braves find ways to capitalize on mental breakdowns.
I look at tonight's matchup, Smoltz vs. Myers, and feel like it's the first non-exhibition game they've had in weeks. John Smoltz (1-2, 4.09 ERA) isn’t just a great pitcher, he’s a fearless captain and confident fielder.
Will the Phillies finally turn it around at home?
Put on those thinking caps, boys.