Friday, August 24, 2012

Phillies - Reds: When You Can't Say Yes And You Can't Say No

The Five Tool Ninja (yes, he exists, from the ancient days of the blog, back when others would write) and I went to the Phillies-Reds game tonight in Philly. He's home for the week sans kids, and I'm at that magical place of the summer where you look at your kids and fantasize about breaking into the school and locking them there for six hours, just to get them out of your house. Love them, need them, can't live without them, but good God Almighty, it's time to get them back to school. With a quickness. But I digress. And also fled the house to take in a game, for a pittance of the usual price, since that's what happens to also-ran teams at the tail end of their empire. They play to full stadiums, but not to the people who bought the tickets in the first place.

And here's your soundtrack for the night. I promise it makes sense.

Tonight's matchup was Johnny Cueto vs. Cole Hamels, or basically an ace duel... and while neither guy out and out disappointed, they also really weren't at their best. Hamels struggled in a sudden downpour at the start of the game to give up the first run, then let two more go through on weak defense (a Ryan Ludwick laser that Michael Martinez could not spear at short, then a Laynce Nix error that did not involve spelling his name wrong after a Todd Frazier double)... and it looked like another thin night for the home team.

But Cueto wasn't sharp either -- 8 baserunners in 5 innings to a Phillies team that might have three credible regulars in it at the start of the game in Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and maybe Domonic Brown -- and with his pitch count ballooning, Dusty Baker asked his bullpen for 12 outs. They got 8 before the lead was spent, with the Phillies unleashing the most terrifying form of offense known to man -- the sacrifice fly -- and better bully work of their own. Finally, after three straight innings of teasing us with the unbridled thrill of a fourth game winning sac fly, John Mayberry Jr. plated the final run with a base hit (as if *that* was what we wanted to see), and that was that.

Oh, and this 11-inning game took nearly 4.5 hours, mostly because the Baseball Gods knew that the Ninja and I have not done nearly enough fantasy football prep, and should not sleep, or win. Ever. GAHHH.

A few takeaways from the game...

> Phillippe Aumont, who the Phils got from the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal that cleared the boards for Roy Halladay, made his debut tonight. He has no clue where the ball is going, and might be the least comfortable at-bat in the majors for right-handers, this side of Carlos Marmol. Dude is huge, throws hard, and seems to drop down a bit as part of his natural motion. Terrifying. And probably not really effective, but fun anyway.

> Brown had all kinds of chances to be the big hero tonight, with two late-inning opportunities to have the game-winner, and missed in both. He still went 2 for 6 with 2 runs scored, and his slide on the sac fly was all kinds of great, but I'm really not sold on him as a regular yet. I mean, when you fail at home against the soft underbelly of the Reds bullpen -- Alfredo Simon is alive! -- that's not a great sign for your chances moving forward. Also, the 1 HR so far this year in 75 ABs is getting disturbing already. I know, I know, small sample size and all, but when it comes to suspect prospects, small sample sizes matter a lot.

> Sam LeCure blew the save tonight for the Reds on two well-hit singles that set up a Jimmy Rollins sac fly that scored Brown, then of blew a rod when Ludwick wasn't able to get the baserunner kill. Notable, really, in that he seemed borderline unhinged from the play.

> Kevin Frandsen is nobody's idea of a top-tier third basemen, but he can play a little, and he pulled off an amazing bit of Jedi Madness tonight when he dodged a tag on a bunt, then got Miguel Cairo to drop the ball before throwing it to first for the out. Seriously, I've watched baseball for 35+ years now, and I've never seen this play before. Cairo should be ashamed.

> Philly Fan has no love for Jonathan Papelbon. Philly Fan's instincts are correct. And you have to wonder if Metallica will ever be able to stop being the soundtrack for meatheads...

> The Philly bullpen tonight: 5 innings, 2 baserunners, both walks, 4 Ks, no errors, no runs. Impressive. Deserved to win.

> If you were just watching this game and not this season, you'd have no idea that the Reds were a runaway division winner.

> Finally, if you are wondering about the title... the Phillies left 16 (!) on base tonight, had a man (Juan Pierre) gunned down at home plate, and took nearly 4.5 hours to play. Or 3 full plays of "Exile on Main Street", which sounds like a much better idea, really...

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