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Playing under Protest can’t hide Phillies’ putrid clutch hitting

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

Let’s get this straight right from the start. I know if Hunter Pence’s double in the top of the 6th inning wasn’t overturned, the outcome of the game could have been altered drastically. I get it.

Joe West should not even be umpiring in the major leagues and should have not been allowed back in after he lost his job in 1999. I get that, too.

Yeah, yeah, the game was being played under protest. All that means is for the most part is that West had to mention “home run” in a post-game conference and he is exonerated of any wrongdoing.  What transpired in the sixth inning of Sunday's game isn't exactly what you would call common. In fact, this was only the second time in baseball history that a player has been called out as a result of fan interference.

West claimed after the game that Charlie Manuel asked him to check instant replay in case Pence had homered, which Manuel flatly denies. Who do you believe?

Exactly

 


What I don’t get is how that one play inspired the Phillies’ bats to go unbelievebly cold afterwards. I know Ryan Howard got the big hit that put the team in the lead, but to be blunt, the Phillies as well as their Manuel-less staff did everything humanly possible to try and not win this game Sunday. It’s only fitting that the final game the Phils played at Sun Life Stadium (it seems the park literally has a new name ever year) was as wacky as this one.

For starters (no pun intended), why do I think of Kevin Millwood every time Roy Halladay pitches a game in the heat? As crisp as Halladay was against the Reds last week, he was that inconsistent against the Marlins. His failure to quickly get to first base led to a Marlins run and he lasted just six innings while throwing 91 pitches, leading the way for Michael Schwimer to blow yet another one of Halladay’s potential victories. And come to think of it, why in the world was Schwimer allowed to pitch in the seventh inning when Michael Stutes pitched in the ninth and tenth inning?! I have not been less impressed with the initial outings of a Phillies pitcher since I watched Paul Spoljaric in 1999. When they traded him to the Blue Jays for Robert Person during a BPS against the Padres that May, I bought a beer in celebration.

Then there’s David Herndon, who was thought to have been reversing roles with Stutes out of the pen. Don’t give me that nonsense that he battled. He only threw 27 strikes over three and two thirds innings and pulled a Houdini act just to last that long. Herndon was also coming off his Roger Mason-like performance on Saturday night. I never thought I’d say this, but Kyle Kendrick was sorely missed Sunday.

Then there’s the offense. You mean to tell me that Chase Utley, who pulls the ball to right field almost 100% percent of the time, can only muster a weak fly ball to left field while trying to advance Michael Martinez from second base with nobody out? Utley left six men on base today, was 0 for 7 in the game, and hit just .121 on the road trip. Placido Polanco has turned into nothing more than a ground ball machine. Not since Pacman hit the arcades in 1980 has there been so many white round objects gobbled up in a game.

What continues to infuriate me about this Phillies team is their inability to draw a simple walk. A walk is as good as a hit. The Marlins got the memo and won the game as a result. The Phillies on the other hand, couldn’t muster anything off of Florida’s bullpen after the seventh inning, and at times looked absolutely lifeless. 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position is unacceptable.

Bottom Line: The Phillies have no off days for the rest of the year and they really can’t afford to play any more innings than they have to, especially when you wear out your bullpen like they did today because they couldn’t generate a single run when it mattered most. Yes, they are still in good shape, but their pitching can only take them so far. Throughout the playoffs, Manuel can only rely on Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson. After that, forget it. Which means those two will be pretty burnt out by November, which could transfer over into 2012. Call me crazy, but stranger things have happened. The next seven games won’t exactly be a cakewalk against any cellar dwellers: the Braves and Brewers are both potential playoff opponents, so the Phightins better be on their A game.

 


In the meantime, Keep On Phightin!

Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.

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