It was like 2008 all over again. Behind strong pitching by Cole Hamels and a decent offensive display, the Phillies imposed their will on an AL East team. Hamels went seven strong innings, mixing in his fastball with a devastating change to hold the Red Sox to a single run, on a first inning solo homer by catcher Victor Martinez. Hamels struck out eight and allowed only four baserunners in his second consecutive solid outing.
Jayson Werth also had a strong night, contributing a double and a fifth-inning home run (and a nifty running catch in right field to end the eighth inning). Ryan Howard also had a big night, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a home run. John Lackey, Boston’s big-money offseason acquisition, continued to look, well, lacklustah, allowing four runs and throwing 107 pitches in only five innings. All of this sounds pretty pissa, right? Well, there are a couple caveats.
After the Juan Castro and Exxon Wilson Valdez experiment, it was good to see the Phillies’ informal captain back in the lineup at short this past week, but Jimmy Rollins’ stay in the starting lineup might turn out to be short-lived. J-Roll (1-for-3 with a walk tonight) tweaked his calf again running out a grounder in the bottom of the sixth and was relieved by Castro. Rollins insisted that it was not as bad as the first time, when he spent a month on the DL after a bizarre incident just before the home opener, and insists that the injury has already started to feel better.
“You never wanna get injured twice when it’s the same area, but it happens. You deal with it,” Rollins said after the game. He seems to be relatively optimistic and is listed as day-to-day.
Second, Hamels looked strong, but with all the brouhaha over Roy Halladay throwing 132 pitches in Tuesday night’s loss to the Pirates, it should be noted that Hamels, who does not share Halladay’s workhorse reputation, tossed 116 balls in tonight’s game.
Finally, that ninth inning near-miss needs to be mentioned. Danys Baez came out for the ninth with a four-run lead, and while he got a quick first out, it turned into a save situation in a big hurry. J.C. Romero came on, retired J.D. Drew, hit Adrian Beltre to load the bases, and got pinch-hitter David Ortiz on a fly ball to the warning track in center with the bases loaded and two out to end the game. Baez continues to be untrustworthy, as I’m sure many of you have noticed.
Here’s some food for thought. David Appelman of FanGraphs came up with statistics called Shutdowns and Meltdowns, based on WPA. For those of you who are interested about the specifics, you can read about it here. For those of you who aren’t, shutdowns and meltdowns are supposed to improve on saves and blown saves by incorporating the closeness of the game and more accurately valuing middle relief appearances. Want to guess who tied for the major league lead in meltdowns last year? That’s right–Danys Baez. The post-Contreras bullpen situation bears monitoring.
Action resumes tomorrow evening at 7:10 , as Kyle Kendrick faces Daisuke Matsuzaka. If the Phillies win this series, coupled with the Flyers’ comeback over the Bruins, the national media has got to reconsider which Northeastern city with a rich political history, an inferiority complex, and mouthy fans it frames as a rival to New York. Move over, Boston–here we come.