The Phillies struck early and often, scoring 4 off of Tommy Hanson and 2 off of Cristhian Martinez, and looked to have a comfortable 6-0 cushion headed into the bottom of the 5th. But Doc Halladay could not hold off a series of dinks and dunks until he was done in on a breaking ball gone bad to let the Braves tie the game on a 2-out Brian McCann grand slam. Jason Heyward’s 1-out, 2-run 6th inning single put the Braves ahead 8-6 and chased Halladay out of the game.
Fans and beat-writers, myself included, joked throughout the night that they could turn their televisions off. Six runs would surely be enough for Halladay who had been a perfect 107-0 when given a lead of 4 runs or more. But a sweaty and exhausted Doc exited the field after surrendering 8 runs and 12 hits for the first time since August 24, 2009 against the Rays and 8 earned for the first time since May 5, 2007 against the Rangers. With runs at a premium this season, the Phillies looked like they were in line for an epic meltdown as they approached the Braves vaunted bullpen.
But then Ty Wigginton drew his second walk in the 7th. And John Mayberry Jr. hit a flare into right. Carlos Ruiz capitalized on an Eric O’Flaherty mistake and drilled a three run home run into the left field stands to make it 9-8. The Phils would add three more on a bases-loaded Chooch double in the 8th. It looked like the Phillies had the game in hand. But it was just one of many false finishes in a game that had hits and runs a plenty.
Shane Victorino beat out an infield single in the top of the 9th with two outs to score Juan Pierre, who lead of the 9th with a pinch hit walk and timely steal of second to hand Craig Kimbrell his first blown save of the year and tie the game up at 13. Brian Sanches made his return to the Phillies in the 9th after being called up yesterday to replace David Herndon and finished a shaky 9th by retiring Michael Bourn on a shallow fly to center. Chipper Jones would hit a 2-run HR in the 11th off of Sanches to end the game and wrap-up a 15-13 Braves win.
Doc wasn’t the only pitcher to have a bad day. Joe Savery and Antonio Bastardo worked a solid 1.2 innings before Jose Contreras and Michael Schwimer combined to allow 5 runs, 3 earned, to let the Braves claw back into the lead. Schwimer’s 1 out bases loaded walk of Michael Bourn almost proved to be the difference as Bourn scored on a Freddie Freeman sac-fly to give the Braves a 13-12 lead. The Phils ‘pen only allowed 3 ER on that run, 5 ER including the Jones HR; on the other end, O’Flaherty and his Brave bullpen cohorts allowed 9 ER. According to Jayson Stark, this was the first time any combination of Venters, O’Flaherty, and Kimbrell recorded two blown saves in a game.
Questionable Bullpen Management
The Braves sent two relievers, Johnny Venters and Kimbrel, to the All-Star Game last season and had a good case to send a third, O’Flaherty. While Venters has dominated batters of both handedness, O’Flaherty entered the game with .272/.362/.370 life time split against righties, obtaining most of his success against lefties (.210/.271/.291). With Kris Medlen and Chad Durbin, both righties, available, it is very questionable to have O’Flaherty come to the plate against two hitters who have much better success against lefties (Wigginton and Mayberry). Oddly, the third batter O’Flaherty, has almost an even split (.267 against righties, .265 against lefties), so O’Flaherty against Chooch should have been the right call, but Chooch made him pay.
Meanwhile, the Phillies left both Contreras and Schwimer in just a little too long and used Sanches for 2+ IP while Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable. Yikes.
And a bright spot:
Chooch Has a Big Day
To say Ruiz had a big day would be an understatement. Chooch went 3-5, including a HR and a 2B, and racked up 7 RBIs. He single-handedly kept the Phils in this game. According to Todd Zolecki, since RBIs became a stat, Chooch is the first Phillies catcher to get 7 in a game.
What a Wild Game Looks Like From a Probability Standpoint