|So, can he pitch out of the bullpen? Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images|
The buzz was expected and met with an appropriate action. With one seemingly majestic swing of the bat Chase Utley gave Phillies fans all over a sense of confidence that has been lacking all season long. Utley’s solo home run in the top of the first inning seemed like a sports writer’s dream as he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the 2012 season. Despite Utley’s impressive 2012 debut (3-for-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 HR), which included some decent play in the field, it was once again a familiar story when all was said and done.
The Phillies made the unconscionable decision to get through a game with their bullpen, essentially forfeiting a game to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The decision came about due to Friday night’s rainout. Rather than pitch Cliff Lee on Saturday and bump everybody back a day, Charlie Manuel put his team in a poor situation Wednesday night at a time when the Phillies cannot afford to give any games away in the standings. The Phillies were without a starting pitcher last night and instead of call up a starter from triple A Lehigh Valley or even double A Reading, a move that has been done in the past, Manuel decided to try and get lucky with his insufficient bullpen featuring minor leaguers Raul Valdes (2.0 IP, 3 ER, 1 HR), Joe Savery (2.2 IP, 5 ER, 1 HR), Michael Schwimmer (1.1 IP, 0 ER), and Jake Diekman (1.0 IP, 0 ER). While Schwimmer and Diekman got the job done while the offense started to put together a rally, it was painful to watch Valdes relinguish a 2-0 lead after one by allowing a three-run home run with two outs and the pitcher on-deck. Savery’s five runs allowed in the fourth and fifth innings was nothing short of de-moralizing.
But the goat of the night, as he has been so often this season, was off-season free-agent pick-up Chad Qualls. As the Phillies started chipping away at Pittsburgh’s lead, closing to within 8-7 after seven innings of play, Qualls etered the game with the task of holding on to the one-run deficit heading in to the bottom of the eighth.
Qualls allowed three runs on three hits, including one killer home run by Andrew McCutchen. Not even Utley’s return could overwrite the magical evening that appeared to be developing.
While Qualls was as much a disappointment as anything else, I still find valid reason to pin this loss on Charlie Manuel and his decision to arrange the pitching rotation in a manner that set this game up. I also put blame on the organization for not realizing that this was a terrible decision. I already have stated that this Phillies team will not be able to stay in any playoff hunt with a minor league bullpen, but how a pitcher capable of starting and giving the team five innings of work was not called up from the minors is inexcusable in my book.
Maybe any minor league starter would have struggled and been knocked out early, or been pinned with a loss. Fine. That happens. But to go in to a game prepared to essentially wear out the already floundering bullpen for nine innings is beyond comprehension, and now means that the Phillies almost have to get seven or eight innings out of Kyle Kendrick Thursday afternoon. Sure, he threw a complete game in St. Louis earlier this season but call me skeptical in saying I expect to see Kendrick get through six innings this afternoon. since his complete game Kendrick has failed to get through six innings in all but one outing.
The Phillies ar 7.5 games out of a wild card spot. This team cannot afford to give up any more games this season.