Apr 15, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (26) rounds third base after hitting a home run during the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Phillies 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies Bats Screw Over Cliff Lee Again; Phils Lose 4-2


It’s a good thing the Phillies have two hitting instructors. Can you imagine how bad this offense would be if they only had one?

Playing a tune reminiscent of 2012, everyone not named Chase Utley did their best to screw over Cliff Lee last night in Cincinnati, mustering just five hits in a 4-2 loss to the Reds.

Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, he of the career 2-7 record and 6.55 ERA in 10 starts against the Phillies, shut down a Phils lineup that started the game with Utley getting the night off, matching Cliff Lee with six frames of  three-hit, no-run baseball. In the seventh, the Reds offense finally broke through, scoring two runs, one of which came on a wild pitch that catcher Erik Kratz should have blocked.

Still, the Phils answered right back in the top of the eighth, thanks to the only Phillies position player who has been anything close to consistent at the plate this year, Chase Utley. Utley, who it seems has had more big hits in the first two weeks of this season then he had in the last two years combined, smoked a pinch-hit two-run shot out to right-center field, tying the game at two and ending Arroyo’s night after 7 2/3 innings.

Unfortunately, Major League Baseball rules dictate Utley is not allowed to pinch hit more than once in a game. Which is kind of a bummer, seeing as everyone else on the roster has forgotten how to hit a baseball, especially with any power or with runners in scoring position.

The Reds answered by scoring two lucky runs in the bottom of the eighth off hard-luck loser Jeremy Horst, who gave up a swinging bunt single, a sacrifice bunt, a looping base hit into shallow right field that Laynce Nix should have caught, and then an intentional walk to load the bases. He then exited for Mike Adams, who promptly gave up a hard-hit single to right, just out of the reach of a diving Freddy Galvis that plated two runs. Nix might have had a shot at the second runner at the plate had he not thrown the ball straight into the ground, severely injuring a ground hog near the pitcher’s mound.

Some have questioned why the Phillies used Horst in that spot instead of Mike Adams or Antonio Bastardo.

“Utley hit a home run with two outs,” manager Charlie Manuel explained after the game. “We didn’t really have very much time to get someone in. Horst hadn’t pitched in five days and he was ready. Actually, with Adams, we’re using him a lot. I’m concerned about him. We were kind of hesitant [to use him]. Also, with the way their lineup was with left-handed hitters coming up at the top of the order, we wanted a lefty. When the guy hit the swinging bunt and then the flare into right field — that broke everything loose. It wasn’t like Horst did badly. Actually, it was bad luck.” – quote per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury

For the record, Horst is a very good pitcher who is absorbing an extreme amount of unfair hate at the moment. Bringing him into the game in this spot made sense and, had he gotten better luck, would have come out of the inning unscathed, as Crashburn Alley points out.

Cincinnati then closed things out in the ninth with one of the best closers in the game, Aroldis Chapman, doing his 100 mph-thing, retiring a terrified Freddy Galvis, over-matched Jimmy Rollins and befuddled Ryan Howard with ease.

The Phillies have scored just eight runs in their last four games, three of which came against the putrid Marlins. By my fifth-grade math, that equates to two runs per game. Utley’s home run was the Phils’ only extra-base hit of the night.

Even with a pitching staff that has shown signs of improvement over the last week, that still isn’t enough to win most nights.

It’s fair to wonder what two hitting coaches are supposed to get you.

So far, it hasn’t been much.

When It All Went Wrong

When Horst gave up a bloop single to right that Nix clumsily over-dove for, putting Horst and the Phils in a tough spot. Nix’s failed attempt put runners on second and third with one out, leading to an intentional walk and a two-run single given up by Adams to Brandon Phillips. Those two runs were the game-winners for Cincinnati, who broke a five-game losing streak with their win last night.

Hero

It’s impossible to choose between Cliff Lee and Chase Utley for this one, so I’m going to cop out and give it to the Phillies’ best pitcher and best position player. First, Lee was masterful last night, giving up just five hits and two runs in seven innings. Lee finally saw his streak of consecutive innings without allowing a walk end at 169 batters and 44 2/3 innings. Lee had not walked a batter since Sept. 17 and Jay Bruce had actually struck out in the at bat when he went around on his swing, but the third base umpire incorrectly ruled he did not. Lee has a 1.52 ERA through three starts in 2013.

Then, there’s Utley, the only player displaying consistent extra-base hit power, blasting another home run to center field in a huge situation. His hit last night came on the heels of his game-winning triple in Miami on Friday. He good.

ALSO, Ben Revere‘s superb defensive evening probably saved at least a couple runs from scoring early in the game. And this catch will likely go down as the best catch of 2013. It’s hard to imagine any catch by an outfielder beating out this one this year.

Villain

The Phils’ offense NOT named Chase Utley was disgraceful last night, much as it has been for the last four games. The inconsistency is what’s most maddening. Among the key contributors to the malaise is the aforementioned Revere, who is hitting just .222, Rollins, whose average is down to .240 after a hot start, Howard, who has seemingly forgotten how to hit home runs…

 

Domonic Brown who’s hitting just .250, and Erik Kratz, who has really struggled as the starting catcher, batting a measly .171.

Where is Wally Joyner when you need him?

Oh, he’s still with the team. Um… OK… this is awkward.

TBOH’s Thoughts

 

 

 

 

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