Monday, March 31, 2008

Phillies Drop Opener 11-6

Today's game was a study in frustration. The Phillies began the season with a game that embodied in microcosm all of the qualities of their worst losses.

Brett Myers was the man everybody was watching, and there were no fireworks. He wasn't lights-out. He didn't completely melt down. He just labored from the start. He didn't manage a quality start. He was just the kind of ineffective pitcher who has been making the Phillies fight uphill battles for years.

The offense made it a game. Utley and Rollins each had a home run on two hits, and Rollins easily assuaged any fears that might have lingered from his unproductive Spring Training. The Phillies played sound National League offensive baseball to perfection. They sacrificed and they ran, and they dramatically scraped together a tie when they needed it.

Today's game, though, was a home-opener emblem for all those games we remember watching and wondering if the Phillies could score enough runs to protect themselves from their own leaky bullpen. Charlie Manuel managed the bullpen in his usual "I have a plan and won't be swayed from it by such trivial distractions as what is actually happening during the game" style, pulling Chad Durbin and J. C. Romero after each had contributed a hitless inning so that he could replace them with Tom Gordon. Suffice it to say that Tom Gordon now has an earned run average of 135.00. No joke. Maybe Brad Lidge will spare us soon from such indignities.

So the Phillies begin the year with an agonizing loss. There are no real conclusions to be drawn on opening day, only observations. After all, last year's home opener was also a loss that Brett Myers started.

Today the defense looked rusty. Rollins and Utley looked good. Starting Feliz paid off. Myers looked subpar. I never want to look at Tom Gordon's face (or the half of it he actually dares to show in public) again. Some of these trends will continue and some won't. Cross your fingers.

2 comments:

Brian Raab said...

It's only been one game and I'm already starting to wonder how J.C. Romero is going to hold up this year. He pitched very well today, but it looks like, at least until Lidge recovers, Romero will have to pitch at least one inning in every close game.

On the bright side, he had to do that down the stretch last year and he was pretty effective in that role. Why not make him the temporary closer for now? He's clearly better than Gordon. Gordon has more experience as a closer, but he also has much more experience getting booed off the field for blowing saves.

To paraphrase an Old Spice ad:
If you have it, you don't need it. If you need it, you don't have it. If you have it, Phillies fans need less of it. You shouldn't need it to get it (unless Charlie Manuel is your manager). The point is, if you've had a lot of it, people just seem to know.

IT is experience being awful. Tom Gordon's got IT, do you?

Jeff Raab said...

Of course Manuel will always want to use Romero. He's the lefty in the bullpen. It's always good to have an inning pitched by pitchers from each side of the mound during a game.

That's what Manuel would say in response to Brian's post.

The thing about the game is we're not in Spring Training anymore. The games are no longer about warming up for the season by using one pitcher per inning. The game was managed like a Spring Training game...and they no longer can be.

What's baffling is why Chad Durbin only pitched one inning. He's there to be a long reliever, even a starter if they need it. He's supposed to be pitching multiple innings in relief, especially if the starter leaves early. Even Clay Condrey can go multiple innings, and is usually better when he does than when he only pitches one.

As strange as the bullpen plan was, it was Gordon who blew it, and Gordon would have come into the game even if the rest of the bullpen was used wisely. Gordon should be better as a setup man. It's hard to imagine him having another outing like this.

But they clearly need 12 pitchers on the staff. If Myers isn't going to go for a lot of innings, it gives them only one starter who can go deep into games. Hopefully they'll find a taker for Helms soon.