Thursday, April 06, 2006

It All Seemed Inevitable

After the opening day debacle everyone, yours truly included, had to step back and take a deep breath.

After last night’s tough loss, however, I am not so inclined.  As noted here and elsewhere many times before, a good jump out of the gate is critical to any team’s long-term success.  Compounding my gloom this morning is the realization that the collective wisdom that worried about the Phillies pitching appears well-founded.

The cold weather notwithstanding, Brett Myers showed us again last night why he is unlikely to become the ace of this or any other staff.  For those who would argue how difficult it was to get a good feel for the ball under the circumstances, just take a look at Geoff Geary and Ryan Franklin.  Neither of them had a problem.  Neither did the Cardinals’ contingent.

Myers allowed ten base-runners in five innings, equally divided between walks and hits.  He was consistently high and outside to left-handers when throwing the fastball, which he relied on because the curve wasn’t there either.  Worse, he just seems to grab the ball and throw without the slightest indication he has a plan or, on the off chance he begins with one, can make adjustments.  Always quick to lose his focus if not composure, color analyst Larry Andersen wondered at one point whether it was time for Mike Lieberthal to go out to the mound and calm Myers down.  I can imagine Myers greeting him with “What the &%#!@ do you want?”  Rich Dubee drew the short straw and the assignment but it was to little effect.  Myers is a thrower not a pitcher.

Lost in the process was the small advantage gained by his mates in the opening frame when J-Roll doubled to lead off the game, extending his hitting streak to 38 straight games, and Aaron Rowand dropped a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move Jimmy to third and Bobby Abreu drove him in with a sacrifice fly.  Just like that, one, two, three and the Phils had manufactured a run in a fashion to which they were unaccustomed all last year.

Then Myers went right back out there and gave it back to the Cardinals.  The Phils tied the game on David Bell’s two run homer in the late innings, but closer Tom Gordon blew his inaugural appearance as a Phillie and in the bottom of the ninth Mike Lieberthal grounded out with the bases loaded to end the game.  I could see it all coming right after Myers gave up the tying run in the top of the second.


Anonymous said...

Yes I agree that moving the runner with a bunt was a beautiful thing although Larry Andersen made the comment before the run was scored at how he hated to see Aaron Rowand give away an at bat when maybe he could have hit the ball the other way. Is anybody ever happy!!!

Tom Goodman said...

I don't know what the difference is in Andersen's mind between hitting the ball the other way and a sacrifice. Usually, hitting the ball the other way is just as likely to mean giving oneself up to move the runner along as it is to get a base hit. The bunt was the right play in this instance not only because it led to a run but also because it demonstrated to the opposition if not the Phillies themselves the utility of the sacrifice and small ball. It doesn't hurt to mix up the offense rather than strictly rely on the long ball.

Oisín/Wizlah said...

I don't want to let up on Myers to much, but neither franklin nor gordon were blameless on the walk front.

We've still got to take a big deep breath. Opening series against the most formidable hitting line-up in the NL is not an easy start. And as nice as rowand's bunt was, I would have swapped it for a solid hit to right when jimmy got another double.

rubbing salt in the wound is that that other reknowned pouter (y'know, the one with the world series ring) won for the sox last night.

ho hum.

Tom Goodman said...

I read where Myers had this to say about Pujols' tomahawked home run off him:

"That was a purpose pitch to set him up. That was impressive. Not too many guys in the world can do that."

Ah, yes, Brett, but Albert is not just any guy with a bat, which was evident on opening day had you been paying attention.