Post Party Bluesby Joseph Birmingham
The past two nights the Phillies are looking like a team that gave it’s all to clinch the division and are not all that concerned about home field advantage for the championship series. With the exception of another towering homerun by Howard in the bottom of the first (his 44th) the Phillies offense was flat. Joe Blanton looked equally flat as he allowed 5 runs in 6 plus innings and never seemed to be on top of his delivery.
Charlie Manuel rested Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino took over the leadoff spot for the night and went 1 for four. Tracy got his 4th pinch hit in the 7th inning, but was stranded on base as were all the Phillies that reached base after that one blast from Howard. The real story was the bullpen auditions that occurred after Blanton handed it over and took a seat.
All the writers on this blog have commented time and time again about the dire situation looming in the Phillies bullpen that will almost certainly factor into whether this team can repeat as world champions this year. We know they can hit, and we know there are at least four quality starters, and we know they are an experienced, good fielding team.
One also can not help but notice that the relief pitchers loaded the bases two innings in a row, and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk. If not for several good fielding plays, this game would have been a rout. As it was the 7-2 final score hardly made the Phillies appear to be a 92 win team poised to go to the playoffs.
The bullpen has had a revolving door on it this year, after being one of the primary reasons for the Phillies success last year. The only reason they were able to clinch the division was due to the strength of the offense.
Tonight the Phillies utilized Eyre, Condrey, and new call up Escalona, and finally Durbin, once the game was out of reach, even for our hard hitting Phillies. None of them were particularly effective in doing their job. It is hard to say who can provide middle relief and who can close for this team at this point. I do know the combination of a slow offensive start with a weak bullpen as was evidenced the past two nights can only spell disaster for the Phillies playoff hopes.
Tomorrow I will be reviewing all the remaining ptichers statistically, how they match up against right and left handers, and give you my vote for middle reliever and closer. I must say, with the loss of Moyer and Romero in the past week, the pickings will be slim. It is almost a sure thing that Happ will have to play some sort of role in the post season, and it is possible that his move back to the bullpen, if it happens, could prove to be the action that propels him to a possible MVP with a Phillies series victory.
When was the last time a rookie won MVP ? Has it ever happened ? Wouldn’t that be the follow up to last years championship run, to do it again with the help of a young, untested rookie pitcher who steps in at the last minute to carry the closer load on his shoulders ? I have to admit, although I have been lobbying for Happ to get his chance starting in the post season, I would be equally interested in seeing him back in the bullpen, but in a closer role. He has certainly proven himself to me this year, and I believe he has earned the right to show the team if he can hold down a larger role now that the overall roster depth has so drastically changed.
Well, one thing is for sure, no matter if we play the Rockies or the Dodgers, we are going to be in for one wild ride. I am just glad that for a change, we can actually sit here in October and talk about this and that, instead of the usual “what if”, or “if onlys” that I am used to from most of my late season Phillies watching days ! Let us give credit to this team, for all they have been through, they are one of only four teams in the National League still standing, and who knows how far they can go ? That is why we play all these games ! I will be rooting from the front row, every chance I get !