This was really what we expected when the Phillies put together this rotation: that the Phillies would go into a weekend series and have three starting pitchers give up a combined three earned runs over 23 innings in three days. The formula worked the past two nights, but Rangers lefty Matt Harrison matched Roy Oswalt as the Rangers beat the Phillies 2-0 to avoid a sweep and maintain their position in first place in the AL West. Oswalt suffered his first home defeat in a Phillies uniform.
Oswalt, in only his second start back from his DL stint, was effective if not particularly sharp, scattering twelve baserunners over seven innings while only allowing one earned run on a Mitch Moreland double in the sixth, but those hobgoblins of the 2011 season–offensive ineptitude and bizarre bullpen management–prevented the Phillies from winning their third straight.
After lifting Oswalt for pinch hitter Carlos Ruiz in the bottom of the seventh, Charlie Manuel brought in J.C. Romero, he whose career OPS allowed is roughly 200 points higher than against right-handed batters than left, to face Adrian Beltre, the Rangers’ most dangerous right-handed hitter. Beltre, predictably, knocked a double off the left field wall and advanced to third on Moreland’s grounder, at which point Uncle Cholly lifted J.C. Romero for David Herndon. I know we say there are pitchers you don’t want on the hill in a key situation, but coming into this appearance, his career batting average against was .325, which, if it were a career batting average for a single hitter, would be the 43rd best of all time, between Jimmie Foxx and Earle Combs.
At any rate, Herndon came in with a key insurance run on third and one out and immediately hit Moreland to put him on base. Then, Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry put down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt while in the process of diving out of the way of a pitch that, if he had missed it, would have hit him in the chest. Beltre scored on the bizarre play to put the Rangers up by the final margin on 2-0.
For the third straight day, both teams’ starters pitched well–lefty Matt Harrison got a win out of a very good performance where C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis could not, going 8 1/3 shutout innings, allowing only five hits, and recording a WPA of .540 despite only striking out three and recording 14 of his 25 outs through the air. After walking Ben Francisco to bring the tying run to the plate, Ron Washington went to closer Neftali Feliz, who got Raul Ibanez to ground into a double play, then retired Ross Gload on a fly ball to end it. The Phillies have now scored three runs or less in nine straight games, the longest such streak in major league baseball.
Of course, all need not be gloom and doom: the Phillies are still atop not only the division but the league table, and they’ll get another crack at a win tomorrow night against Cincinnati.
UPDATE, 4:30 pm: The Phillies will activate Chase Utley from the disabled list on Monday, Pete Orr will be sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Also, the Phillies have reportedly signed veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik to a minor-league deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. With a laughable offense, they’re trying anything and everything.
Joe Blanton also officially heads to the DL, back to Philly goes Vance Worley.