If you read a box score and see the Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth all hit home runs, without looking at the final score you would assume the Phillies won in big fashion. Well last night you would be wrong. In a game loaded with scoring the Phillies dug themselves in a hole with now five games left as they lost to the Braves 10-6.
I’m not one to blame umpires for a team’s loss, but C.B. Bucknor’s strike zone really cost the Phillies last night… In the first inning, Jamie Moyer had Mark Teixeira was on the ropes at 0-2. Moyer threw two pitches that appeared to be strike three, but became ball one and two… Moyer is a finesse pitcher who relies on the corners, but Bucknor obviously doesn’t agree. Moyer was forced to put the ball over the plate and Teixeira put the ball over the center field wall giving the Braves a 3-0 lead…
For the rest of the game Bucknor’s calls were marginal at best, and the result was Phillies bats pushing and chasing pitches (it’s not like they are normally patient at the plate). Although they did hit four home runs, they only had six total hits in the game. They also struck out eight times.
The pitching also failed last night… Moyer is taking some heat, but he didn’t pitch bad, the strike zone really hurt him. Geoff Geary who has been untouchable since his recall in August (1.50 ERA), gave up two runs in two-thirds of an innings, and Tom Gordon ended a ten appearance scoreless inning streak when he gave up a two-run home run to Chipper Jones.
Honestly, the Braves were more prepared for the game. Manager Bobby Cox managed the game as if it was Game 7 of the World Series. He took no chances with his pitching, getting the bullpen active early. Once starter Chuck James got in the slightest bit of trouble, he was pulled. Cox used his best bullpen arms and didn’t uses lefty on lefty match up just for the sake of doing it. His lineup was patient at the plate, making the Phillies pitchers throw good pitchers.
The Phillies didn’t do that. Charlie Manuel has managed the team the same way all season. At this point in the season, you cannot take any chances and must make in-game adjustments. All pitchers must be kept on a short leash, and the bullpen should always be active. Manuel tried to push Moyer* an extra inning, hoping to save the bullpen. At this point in the season, that’s not an option. All they needed was five innings out of Moyer, which they got. After that the ball should have been handed to the bullpen. Stats have shown Geary is a better pitcher when he starts an inning as opposed to inheriting runners. Right now Manuel might be managing for his job. The Phillies have not commented whether or not Manuel will return next season. I know Manuel isn’t good at managing on the fly, but if he’s unable to make those in-game changes, then he needs to prepare better.
Back to Bucknor – He’s been voted the worst umpire in the league by the players multiple times, and the fans seem to agree. There’s actually an online petition calling for his head. If you’re interested in signing, you can find it here…
Last night’s loss definitely set the Phillies back. With the Rockies and Padres both winning, the Phillies are now tied with the Rockies, one game behind the Padres for the Wild Card. With five games left to play, the Phillies cannot afford another loss.
*While Moyer didn’t struggle, the stats were against him. Stats show Jamie Moyer’s worst inning is the 6th, where he allows more extra base hits and home runs then any other inning (outside the first). He was also over 75 pitches when the 6th inning began. When Moyer exceed 75 pitches, his batting average against skyrockets over 70 points.