Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'm Just Getting Warmed Up

I'm not saying it's never happened before, I'm just too tired to look right now. But have you ever seen a team use its Game 3 starter AND its Game 4 starter during the sixth and seventh innings of Game 2 of a playoff series, let alone a five game playoff series? Well, if you saw today's Phillies-Rockies game you did.

Phillies' starter Cole Hamels pitched five unspectacular innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, though he did strike out five and didn't walk anyone. One of those hits was a 2-run, 2-out home run to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who had two home runs all year. Could Hamels have used more focus? Well, he left the stadium right after he left the game for a pinch hitter in the 5th inning, because his wife was in labor. Certainly understandable why his focus might not have been sharp.

But what happened next should give Phillies fans pregnant pause. Manager Charlie Manuel used Game 3 starter Joe Blanton for an inning. Fine, you say, he's just getting in work that he would have gotten in during a bullpen session anyway. Ok, I guess, but he is starting in two days, so you better hope he doesn't get hurt. Which brings us to the next decision, to use Game 4 starter J.A. Happ in the 7th inning. One line drive off the leg later, and the Phillies starting pitching is suddenly as iffy as the back end of their bullpen has been.

So now you have a team that doesn't know who's getting the ball to close games (Lidge? Madson? Bueller?). You don't know whether Happ will be able to go in Game 4. You don't know whether Hamels will regain his on again, off again crispness. The defending World Champs now head to Colorado, with the series tied 1-1, and Manuel has burned his ships to stay in the New World. As Lt. Colonel Frank Slade would say, "Now here's Charlie. He's come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path...Let him continue on his path."