For the third time in a row, the Phillies were able to get a lead with Cliff Lee on the mound, and for the third time in a row, they’d end up losing the game. This time, it was a painful loss in extra innings, as the Blue Jays prevailed 6-5 in ten innings. Defense was the coup de grace today for a Phillies team that can’t seem to get things going back in the right direction.
It’s June 16th, And Cliff Lee’s Still Winless:
– I understand that wins are a virtually meaningless statistic for pitchers, but it’s June 16th, Lee has thrown very well, and he still doesn’t have a win. It’s getting a little ridiculous. It’s actually a perfect example of why the win statistic needs to be thrown out. Still, you can tell the guy is frustrated by it.
– Lee wasn’t his usual sharp self today. He allowed five earned runs in 7+ innings, though three of them were probably more on the defense than Lee (more on that later). But it was a battle as he allowed a season-high twelve hits. He worked out of jams in the third, fourth, and sixth innings. In the third he was helped out by some poor baserunning by the Blue Jays and in the fourth a ground rule double prevented a run from scoring. It looked like he may be able to get to Jonathan Papelbon with the lead by himself as he entered the eighth inning, but then…
Rollins Adds Insurance, Squanders It Away:
– In the top of the eighth inning, Jimmy Rollins was able to give the Phillies a 5-2 lead when he doubled in a run with two outs. It wouldn’t matter. His throwing error with no outs in the bottom half of the frame would cost the team two runs and allow the Blue Jays to pull within a run. What felt like certain victory with a three-run lead, Lee on the mound and Papelbon in the ‘pen for the ninth quickly dissipated to nervous tension. The drama only heightened when the Blue Jays tied the game at five a few batters later with Chad Qualls pitching, making Rollins’s error even more costly. Lee was charged with all three runs, but Rollins and Qualls didn’t do him any favors.
– That’s not to say Lee should be immune to criticism. Lee played with fire today, and it finally burned him in the eighth. His walk to start the inning should not go unmentioned, as it started the three-run rally that eventually cost the Phils the ballgame when the Blue Jays walked off in the tenth.
– The Phillies have now made fourteen errors in their last ten games. They’ve gone 3-7 in those games, and a lot of them were winnable, if not for the errors. During their five-year stretch of division titles, the Phillies were consistently one of the best defensive teams in baseball. This year, that has changed. They seem to botch a lot of plays they would’ve made in years past, and when you give teams extra outs with errors as much as the Phillies have, it’s going to come back to bite you. Of note: It’s no coincidence the first game of this recent stretch of inept defense came on June 6th–the night Freddy Galvis injured his back. Galvis is one of the best defensive players this game has seen in a long time, and his absence is clearly hurting the team in the field.
Runs Early?! You Guessed It!
– The Phillies were able to take an early 1-0 lead in the first inning when Hunter Pence drove in Placido Polanco with a rare hit with runners in scoring position (Pence is hitting just .213 with RISP). They’d make it 4-1 when John Mayberry hit a three-run homer–his second in three games–in the third inning. They’d score just one run in the final seven innings.
– Scoring runs early has been the Phillies modus operandi over the last couple of weeks. In their last ten games, they’ve averaged three runs through the first three innings (30 runs total). To compare, they’ve scored 2.2 runs per game from the fourth inning on in those same games (22 runs total).
– I’ve never been a big believer in the idea that scoring runs late is more important than scoring them early. After all, if you score ten runs, why does it matter if they all came in the first inning? However, there seems to be something to the idea that the Phillies inability to score late runs is messing with the psyche of the pitching staff and has them pressing in the later innings. Think about it: The team has scored 5.2 runs per game over their last ten, yet they’ve gone 3-7. In their first 57 games, they scored 4.1 runs per game, and went 28-29. Theoretically, if they’re scoring more runs, they should be winning more games. And yet, they’ve played worse, and a lot of it has been because of the pitching. There’s a lot contributing to this skid–injuries, mental errors, lack of ability–but this seems like one more thing to add to the list.
– The loss today marks the eighth time this season the Phillies have lost on a walk-off win.
– The Phillies will turn to Kyle Kendrick tomorrow when they try to avoid the sweep north of the border. Brett Cecil will make his 2012 debut for the Blue Jays.