It was there for the taking, but the Phillies could not grab it.
The Phillies dropped Game 3 of the four game series, 6-5 in 10 innings, as the offense squandered several opportunities. With the game tied at five in the ninth and Wilson Valdez standing on third with two outs, Carlos Ruiz grounded out to the pitcher to end the threat. In the 10th, Jayson Werth struck out with Chase Utley standing on third, but that wasn’t the story of that inning.
Placido Polanco walked with one out and attempted to reach third on a bloop single by Utley, but was gunned out by Padres centerfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. Ryan Howard followed Utley’s at-bat with a single of his own, which would have tied the game had Polanco stayed at second. Hindsight is always 20-20 and Polanco said after he wanted to be aggressive. However, in no uncertain terms, you can’t be tossed out in that situation. Polanco was – and it likely cost his team the chance at a comeback.
Prior to Polanco’s misread, the Padres scored a run off the sieve that is Danys Baez. The big righty has had only two clean performance (no hits or walks) in the last month. Today, he allowed the go-ahead run to score in the top of the 10th on an RBI single by Oscar Salazar.
Let’s not place all of the blame on a baserunning mistake and a shaky inning by a middle reliever. The offense as a whole had chances all afternoon. Instead, 15 men were stranded on base. And while the offense has scored 11 runs in the last two games, their inability to plate guys numerous times is still an issue.
Unlike the offensive and their shortcomings, starting pitching hasn’t been problematic overall, although Joe Blanton is not where he wants to be.
What has happened to Blanton? Last season, he was a surefire quality start each time he toed the rubber. This season, he’s struggling and just doesn’t look like the same guy who received $24 million before the year began. Against a less-than-scary Padres lineup which started five players batting under .240, Blanton allowed 11 hits and five runs through five innings. In those five frames, Big Joe tossed 96 pitches, including 33 in a three-run first frame for San Diego.
Not much has gone right for Blanton since rejoining the team on May 3rd following his trip to the DL. Through seven starts on the season, he’s recorded only two quality starts and hasn’t yet pitched past the seventh inning. In just 43 1/3 innings total, Blanton has seen the ball leave the yard nine times against him. Those aren’t figures that make anyone comfortable.
After his paltry outing, Blanton reiterated that he’s not quite back to being that consistent force of a year ago. “I feel like I’m pretty close to being where I need to be, I’m just letting a couple of pitches, you know, hurt me,” said Blanton. Luckily for the Phillies starter, the Padres starter was even more woeful.
Kevin Correia lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on four hits and three walks. Throughout Correia’s brief outing, he left countless pitches up in the zone and the Phillies made him pay. Placido Polanco tied the game at three with a two-run single to left field in the second inning.
Ryan Howard gave the Phillies a 5-3 lead on gift base-hit two batters later which should have been called an error. Howard’s hit was a rip-shot into the shift which glanced off the glove of Padres second baseman Lance Zawadzki. It was a well-struck line drive with ridiculous top spin on it, something that Howard has done plenty of recently. Once that top-spin turns into backspin, these baseballs should be flying out of the park. Right now, they aren’t. Even so, Ryno’s three RBI on the day paced an offense that has snapped out of its two-week funk.
Take away that gracious defensive lapse by the Pads and Howard has himself another sub-par day. He finished Sunday going 1-for-5 with three strikeouts around his RBI hit, which was a homer call by the official scorer. A smattering of boos could be heard throughout the ballpark aimed at the Big Man himself. Since signing his mega-contract extension, the $125 million man has slugged just six homers. Howard is scuffling, as are the two men who surround him in the order.
Chase Utley continues to clash with his swing as he’s seen his average drop 53 points in the last three weeks. It has dipped to an unheard of .263. The last time Chase has gone yard? Try May 20.
Werth hasn’t been able to figure it out, either. Today’s 0-for-5, 3 K performance is another magnification of just how poorly he’s been swinging. Put aside last night’s two-run home run and he’s managed just two hits over his last 31 at bats. Fastballs that were once hittable for Werth are now blowing past him. Off-speed pitches are fooling him out of his shoes and he generally looks lost at the plate. It’s a 180 from the first month of the season when Werth could not do wrong.
In an odd change of events, the offense scored runs while the pitching suffered. However, the onus still falls on the lineup as a whole. Fifteen left on base is unacceptable. The glimmer of an offensive explosion is still there, they just haven’t put it all together. Yet.