The Phillies lost a pitchers’ duel on Monday in a very entertaining game that saw Cliff Lee and Bronson Arroyo throw very well and Ben Revere make one of the best catches in team history. Things fell off the rails for the Phillies in the eighth inning, however, when small ball and a defensive miscue broke the 2-2 tie and put the Reds ahead.
The Reds’ two runs in the eighth were credited to Jeremy Horst, who loaded the bases before exiting with one out. His performance drew the ire of many Phillies fans, as this isn’t the first time Horst has been plagued by poor results in a crucial moment this season. However, most of what happened was out of Horst’s control that inning and he shouldn’t even have been pitching in the first place.
In the eighth inning of an important game, with a fully rested bullpen and the starting pitcher removed, Mike Adams should be on the mound. In fact, one could argue that Adams should have been on the mound even if the Reds had a bunch of lefties due up. Adams has faced exactly 745 righties and lefties in his career and has no platoon split whatsoever. His career wOBA allowed to lefties is .260 and it’s .254 against righties. Both are exceptional numbers and, for reference, Antonio Bastardo‘s wOBA allowed to lefties was .254 in 2011-12.
Charlie Manuel said after the game that Horst was the only pitcher warming up because the Phillies trailed 2-0 heading into the eighth. That’s perfectly justifiable, but after Domonic Brown singled and the decision was made to pinch-hit with Chase Utley, Adams or Bastardo should have started warming up as at least a precautionary measure in case the Phillies tied the game or took the lead. Worst case scenario is they sit back down.
Manuel also mentioned that he was hesitant to use Adams because he had thrown in four of the last five games. Another valid point, however, it wasn’t as if Adams really overexerted himself. He threw three pitches to finish off Cliff Lee’s outing against the Mets on April 9. He threw 19 pitches on April 10 against the Mets. He threw 16 pitches against the Marlins on April 12, and another 11 pitches against the Marlins on April 13. Yes, technically, that’s four outings in five days, but we’re talking about an average of 12 pitches per game spread out over that span. These weren’t all consecutive games, and it’s highly unlikely that his arm needed more than a day to recover after throwing 11 easy pitches against Miami.
Mike Adams was signed for that type of situation, just like Jonathan Papelbon was signed for crucial late-inning situations, regardless of any other ancillary factors. The Phillies have not handled Papelbon optimally since acquiring him, and if Monday night’s game against the Reds was any indication, the team might not handle its setup man correctly either.
Horst may have given up the runs and taken the loss on Monday but he wasn’t to blame. To blame was the decision to bring him in over Adams regardless of the results. Even if Horst had thrown a 1-2-3 inning with three strikeouts on nine pitches, the right call in that situation is to use a rested and healthy Adams, as he presented the Phils with the best opportunity to keep the game tied.
For those who want to relive the very strange inning, here is the play-by-play, accompanied by my commentary.
Horst relieved Lee in the eighth and opened the frame by allowing a swinging bunt single to Derrick Robinson. Howard couldn’t hold onto Horst’s low throw and Robinson was safe. Robinson was going to be safe anyway and Horst did everything correctly on this play. Robinson is fast and just happened to hit it in a spot on the field that was tough for anyone to make a play. Shin-Soo Choo then sacrificed Robinson to second.
Zack Cozart lofted a flyball to shallow right-center that fell past a diving Laynce Nix for a double. In watching replays, I’m convinced that Revere should have authoritatively called Nix off of this ball. Nix is a decent fielder but that was a tough play for him and Revere had all the momentum carrying towards the ball. He might not have even needed to dive to make that catch. Either way, a play that could have, and probably should have been made, wasn’t, and the Reds had runners on second and third as a result. From a process standpoint, Horst induced a fairly weak and relatively shallow flyball that happened to fall in. Cozart didn’t smash a double down the line.
With runners on second and third and one out, Horst then intentionally walked Joey Votto. Yes, I get that Votto is one of the best hitters on the planet and that this set up the force, but it always seems weird to me to have a LOOGY-type intentionally walk a lefty hitter.
Charlie Manuel lifted Horst for Adams with the bases loaded and one out in the tie game. Adams got ahead of Brandon Phillips, 1-2, before the exuberant second baseman grounded a single to right field just past Freddy Galvis‘ glove. Had Galvis been positioned a bit more to his left, or had Phillips swung just slightly earlier or later, we’re possibly looking at an inning-ending double play.
These are the events that actually transpired and, as a result, many fans directed their anger towards Horst, who essentially fielded a swinging bunt well, induced a weak and shallow flyball and was asked to intentionally walk a lefty. The eighth inning was not his fault, nor was it Adams’ for allowing the two-run go-ahead single. The fault for last night’s outing belongs to the mismanagement of the bullpen.
The Phillies have $18 million per year invested in Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams and continuously have lesser relievers pitching in make-or-break situations. This represents a material disconnect between the front office and the manager. It isn’t prudent to spend lots of money on players who are used sub-optimally when the salaries they were given are only merited by their most effective usage.
This isn’t to say that Adams was a lock to have a 1-2-3 inning and extend the game. But from a process and decision-making standpoint, the Phillies made an error in not using him to start the eighth.