Journalists and bloggers throughout the realm will struggle to write their ledes this morning after a bizarre night of baseball in south Florida. No, their abilities will not have suddenly deserted them; rather, too many issues and events will compete for top billing. For what it's worth, here is one blogger's decision:
After days of overuse by his manager, closer Brett Myers, the only reliable relief pitcher on the staff, may have injured himself mopping up in a game in which he had no good reason to be appearing in the first place. To literally add insult to injury, Myers blew a four run ninth inning lead and had to be removed from the game clutching his right shoulder. The Phillies went on to win the game in the top of the 10th inning despite themselves. More on that later.
Myers had appeared in games on May 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20 and 23 before last night's game. The issue of his heavy workload had been raised in several quarters but Myers brushed off the questions insisting he has a rubber arm and felt great. Like the poor handler of pitchers he has always been, Charlie Manuel listened. Worse, he leaned heavily on the young right hander who had never pitched in relief before this year, trotting him out there at every opportunity whether appropriate or not.
Myers is scheduled to return to Philadelphia for a MRI on the shoulder. Meanwhile, his predecessor, Flash Gordon, continues to recuperate from his own arm miseries. Suddenly, a bullpen made up entirely of righthanders is missing its top closers altogether.
As for the game, the Phillies squandered numerous opportunities to blow it wide open before they scored three runs in the top of the ninth and appeared to have put the Marlins away. In came Myers and the hits, some bloopers and some hard shots, started falling. Throw in a walk and hit batsman and suddenly you had lots of base runners and a closer on the ropes hanging on desperately trying to finish the game out. The Phils still might have escaped the inning with a two run margin of victory had substitute first baseman Greg Dobbs not inexplicably thrown home on a bunt when taking the sure out at first was the only legitimate option. Afterwards, Dobbs was at a loss to explain his mistake, probably because no explanation would have made sense. Both runners were safe and suddenly the four run lead was down to one. Myers almost worked his way out of this jamb striking out the dangerous Miguel Cabrera but he hit the next batter to put two men on with two outs.
The next play was one for the books. The categories are: (1) worst play by a catcher in the ninth inning of a game when leading by a run; (2) worst play by a catcher no matter what the score and inning; and, (3) worst play by a catcher who is presumably in the game for his defensive abilities. Aaron Boone singled off Myers to left and Hanley Ramirez headed for home from second base. Jayson Werth scooped up the ball and threw a perfect strike to Rod Barajas, Hanley was a dead duck but inexplicably Barajas fielded the throw and stood up instead of blocking the plate. Replays showed Hanley clearly slid under the tag and was safe. The throw had arrived so far ahead of Hanley that Harry Kalas was calling him out even while the umpire was signaling safe and Chris Wheeler was gently correcting his partner in the background.
Manuel raced out of the dugout to protest as did Barajas. Both were wrong and both were shortly gone.
One good thing about this game is that this sort of last minute collapse almost always deflates the Phillies but they came back in the top of tenth to score a run and win the game thanks to Abraham Nunez, who has frankly played his way into the starting lineup (which means Manuel will probably sit him as soon as Ryan Howard rejoins the club tomorrow). Chase Utley also had a productive game while Jimmy Rollins continued to slide, swinging anxiously and desperately at pitches nowhere near the strike zone.
It was a game marked by mental and physical mistakes by some of the players some of the time and one huge mental mistake by their manager for the umpteenth time. They were lucky to escape with a win.
If Myers' injury turns out to be serious, place the blame squarely on Manuel, who has a tendency to go to the same well far too often.