Where do you even begin talking about today’s game? You wait six months for the happiest day of the year and then bam! It’s waking up on Christmas morning and realizing the Grinch stole all your presents. Of course, the silver lining for today was the fact that Jimmy Rollins extended his hitting streak to 37 games. As for the rest of the game, well, they have an expression here in England that when things go bad, they say it "went pear shaped." In the fourth inning, things certainly went pear shaped for Jon Lieber and the Phils. As any novice golfer knows, you gotta keep the snowman (8) off the scorecard. As I watched the game while hanging out at the PhilliesPhans.com message board, I said in the second inning, "Gotta be impressed with 3 Ks. I’m just worried the second time around the Cards lineup will hone in on Lieber since he’s throwing all strikes. We have a great defense, but they cant keep the ball in the park." Yikes!!
I’m not going to completely deride Lieber just yet, saying we saw the "real" Lieber today. Let’s just hope after a great end to last season, followed by a poor spring he just needs a couple starts under his belt to get going. Still, the Phils can’t afford to throw any games away, especially coming off a season that was one game away from the playoffs.
Offensively, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard kicked off the season with home runs as every Phillies starter recorded a hit. That would be good news if not for the counterargument that over the course of two innings every Cardinal starter took a turn crossing home plate. Chase Utley’s double off the top of the new left-field wall in the ninth would certainly have been a home run last year. Like we’ve said before, the new wall’s supposed to save some home runs, but half (or probably more) would have been hit by the Phillies.
I’m glad JRoll got his hit, it certainly salvaged the day for the fans who toughed it out in the raining while watching the home club get thrashed. I just hope the streak doesn’t affect the way the game is played or managed. Should Jimmy have swung at a 3-0 pitch? Well, in the context of a 36-game hitting streak on the line with your team getting blown out, sure no problem, swing away. But what if the score was 3-2? According to Jimmy, "If he had thrown a ball and I couldn’t get to it, I wouldn’t have swung. I wasn’t going to give the at-bat away." I can only hope that from now on, Jimmy gets all his hits early in the game as to get the streak business out of the way so everyone can focus clearly.
All in all, there’s no point in trying to extrapolate today’s horrendous performance into any armageddon scenario for the entire season. It’s only one game. However one thing I do want to make note of are some questionable moves by manager Charlie Manuel. I’m going to be real nit-picky, some calls are really minor points or even highly debatable, but they’re all at least questionable and given his track record, I figure its something to mention.
- Should Lieber have started over Myers?
- Should Sal Fasano, Lieber’s battery mate, have started over Lieberthal and his Opening Day streak?
- Should Nunez, with his lifetime .248 AVG /.314 OBP /.326 SLG, have been batting second?
- Why he wait until Lieber went 1-0 to Pujols before bringing in Santana?
- Should Franklin have been brought in for long relief in the fourth?
- On that note, are the "good" relievers (Franklin, Rhodes, Gordon) only saved for close games, while today saw just the "scrubs"?
- Was it smart to intentionally walk Jim Edmonds to load the bases for Scott Rolen even if hindsight wasn’t 20/20?
- With 2 men on and 2 outs in the bottom of the fourth was right-hander Alex Gonzalez the best choice to pinch hit against the righty pitcher with lefty Dellucci and switch-hitting Victorino also on the bench?
- Why didn’t Pujols and Rolen receive HBPs everytime they approached the plate?
Ok, the last one was kinda brutal, but it definitely would have mitigated some of the damage. So, would reversals of any of these managerial decisions have made a difference today? Who knows? I realize I’m being overly critical of Manuel on just the opening day, but with a loss as bad as this I’m leaving no stone unturned. It’s been said before that blowout losses are easier to forget than close hard-fought losses. Hopefully this is true and the Phillies don’t harp on today’s debacle during their day off tomorrow. There’s 161 games left, everyone take a step back from the ledge.