Baseball is centered on the knowledge and execution of fundamentals more so than any other sport.
The Phillies showed this in their 8-7, 10-inning win over the Washington Nationals on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
A bases loaded walk brought Jimmy Rollins home and made a winner out of Clay Condrey (1-0), who pitched a scoreless top half of the 10th. Jesus Colome (0-1) took the loss for Washington.
For the first five innings, the Phillies looked more like the Bad News Bears than a Major League baseball team. The Phillies achieved this by playing poor fundamental baseball.
Philadelphia made three errors in the first two innings. Two of these errors led directly to Nationals runs, helping to put the team in a 5-0 hole before the "businessperson’s special" crowd even made it to their seats.
The Phils made a total of four errors in the game.
Good teams don’t make four errors, especially since pitching and defense win games. The Phillies will need to address the defensive shortcomings so they can be corrected.
Chris Coste put the Phillies on the board with a solo home run to lead off the third inning, cutting the Nationals lead to 5-1.
The Phillies had been shut out in the previous 13 innings, dating back to the seventh inning of Monday’s opener.
When Jamie Moyer allowed another run in the fourth, his afternoon was finished after just 73 pitches. Moyer is a ground ball pitcher, and did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground in his first start of the season.
Unfortunately, when the defense makes four errors, all on ground balls, it makes for a long day for a pitcher.
The Phillies rallied back in the sixth inning by stringing together eight consecutive singles and a hit-batsman to plate six runs and tie the game. Philadelphia ran the bases well in the sixth and displayed good situational hitting by moving runners around the bases.
Not surprisingly, when they executed the fundamentals; they had success.
Both the Phillies and Nationals missed opportunities to win the game in the later innings, but they failed to execute with runners in scoring position.
The Nationals had the bases loaded in both the eighth and ninth innings against a trio of Phillies relievers that included Ryan Madson, JC Romero, and Tom Gordon. The Nationals didn’t execute and wound up not scoring, even after Gordon allowed a one-out single in the ninth and then walked the bases loaded.
The Nationals weren’t alone, though.
The Phillies had two runners on base and a runner in scoring position from the sixth inning on, but failed to score in the seventh, eighth, or ninth against the Washington bullpen. The inability of the Phillies to execute with runners in scoring position could have cost them the game.
In the tenth, the game came down to execution of the fundamentals again.
After Rollins led off the inning with an infield single, Shane Victorino laid down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt. When Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman came in to field the bunt and Colome failed to cover third base, Rollins alertly noticed and went from first to third on a ball that may have only rolled 45 feet from home plate.
After Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were intentionally walked, Colome couldn’t find the strike zone against Jayson Werth. Werth understood the situation, wasn’t overanxious, and calmly let Colome walk him on four pitches to force in Rollins.
Fundamentals are what put the Phillies in an early hole, allowed them to climb out of that hole, and ultimately get their first win of the season against a team that didn’t execute those same fundamentals when it mattered in the late innings.