Bad bullpen. Inconsistent line-up. These are the two major concerns that have sent the baseball pundits knocking each other over to choose Atlanta as the division winner. In addition, one of the Phillies vaunted starting pitchers has come up lame. Roy Oswalt has battled back problems over the last few seasons and he grabbed as is lower back after a sacrifice attempt in the bottom of the sixth inning. Hopefully the fact that Roy was lifted from the game was strictly precautionary given his past back trouble, but it is still terrifying to imagine replacing Oswalt with Kendrick.
Before the injury, Oswalt looked good. He went six innings allowing four hits, two runs and striking out six. Oswalt did not allow a hit until a solo home run by Logan Morrison in the fifth inning. He allowed another run the sixth when Chris Coghlan and Omar Infante hit back to back doubles. Oswalt did his best work against Mike Stanton making him look silly in all his at bats. Hopefully the emphasis is on the minor in the description minor back stain. Again, I can not stress enough how much I do not want to see Kendrick.
The hell did the Phillies not knock the living crap out of Javier Vazquez? In the first inning the Phils pushed across two runs with a Ryan Howard sac fly and an RBI single from Raul Ibanez and it looked like Vasquez would not be around for too long. Remarkably Vazquez made it through five innings and only allowed three runs and five hits. He walked four and was taken to the warning track a number of time throughout the game. This is a guy that the Phils should have pounded and they managed to score three runs. This is a touch disconcerting, but the situation has not yet reached alarming.
The bullpen, on the other hand, is alarming. Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson are really quality pitchers and do not induce terror when they enter a game. Conversely, Danys Baez and J.C. Romero in high leverage situations are diarrhea causing. Romero took over for Oswalt in the top of the seventh inning to face left hander Logan Morrison and promptly gave up an infield single. Adding gasoline to a fire makes the fire more intense. This expression is often used when an attempt to mitigate a situation results in a complete deterioration of said situation. Danys Baez is the personification of a gas can reliever. Baez entered the game, walked Gaby Sanchez, gave up a single to John Buck and gave up the lead by allowing a two run single to former Phillie Greg Dobbs (where the hell was this Dobbs over the last two years?). As soon as he trudged to the mound, you could feel the flames engulfing the game. The bullpen took over with a 3-2 lead and in 1/3 of an inning, the Marlins took a 4-3 lead. Antonio Bastardo entered the game with men on first and second and got out of the inning without allowing any more damage. I know that he is inexperienced, but it is starting to look like Bastardo is pitching his way into the LOOGY role.
In summation, Oswalt got hurt, the bullpen imploded, another former Phil came back and hurt the team and the team couldn’t knock out Javier Vazquez. Cole goes tomorrow to make us forget about tonight.
Editor’s Note: I just saw a post-game interview with Oswalt. He claims that he could have pushed through the seventh and that the injury is in no way related to his prior back issues.