There's no doubt about it. That was a heart breaker. And while the Phillies have their Big 3 lined up to attempt to climb out of the hole they find themselves in, they'll be facing a Big 3 every bit as formidable—at least in these playoffs—of the Giants.
So what went wrong in Game 4? Well, the Phillies finally scored some runs. Five of them in fact. But they had chances to score more.
Every bit as important (and fatal) was poor run prevention. Here's what I saw happen in Game 5:
THE BIG PICTURE
- I feel like every game has featured an inconsistent strike zone. It was, however, consistently poor for both teams.
- Madison Bumgarner, despite striking out five batters his first time through the Phillies order, didn't scare me. His fastball was straight and his offspeed pitches were not overly impressive. The Phillies could have and probably should have put more runs on him before getting into the Giants' bullpen.
- Joe Blanton pitched OK, recovering from early command issues. However, his inability to pitch deep into the game exposed the Phillies' lack of bullpen depth. The assumption is that our bullpen is fine—and it is when Doc, Oswalt or Hamels go seven, but outside of Madson, Contreras and Lidge, the teams lacks power relievers. While it's tough to be hard on a guy who pitched just one-third of an inning against the Reds in the postseason, Chad Durbin did not get the job done tonight. His fastball was lifeless and he was lucky to survive the sixth inning allowing just two runs.
THE LITTLE THINGS
- I know what a balk is and so does Mitch Williams. First base umpire Jeff Nelson apparently does not.
- Tim McCarver is the worst.
- After prodding from Fox, I considered purchasing stock in Giants Starting Pitching on E-Trade...searched and searched, but couldn't find it.
- That was the best bunt of Joe Blanton's life in the fifth inning. He really shocked me there as outside of Halladay, he has to be the worst bunter on the starting pitchers.
- Third base coach Sam Perlozzo cost the Phillies a run when he windmilled Carlos Ruiz home on a Shane Victorino single in the top of the fifth. The team would have had runners on the corners with one out for Chase Utley who singled in his at-bat.
- Shane Victorino showed inattention to detail when he failed to move up to second base on the play at the plate on Ruiz. This did not end up hurting the Phils as Placido Polanco came up with a huge two-out double, but when the offense is struggling, you need to take advantage of every opportunity.
- Jimmy Rollins went 0-3 with RISP and had a particularly horrendous at-bat in the top of the eighth. After Howard and Werth started the inning with back-to-back doubles, Rollins lofted a weak pop-up to shallow left field, failing in his duty to advance Werth to third.
- Second guessing Charlie: Why not bring in a lefty to pitch to Huff in the bottom of the fifth? Why not pinch-hit for Ben Francisco with Ross Gload or Raul Ibanez against Sergio Romo in the top of the eighth? Yes, Francisco can hit a fastball from either a lefty or a righty, but Romo had no intention of giving in and threw him three straight sliders.
- Leadoff walks to Andres Torres in the fifth and Pat Burrell in the sixth turned into two runs for the Giants. YOU CAN'T WALK THE LEADOFF MAN. Especially, when those leadoff men are Torres and Burrell.
- Placido Polanco misplayed a potential double play ball in the bottom of the fifth that would eventually allow Torres to score. Combining a leadoff walk with a misplay with a bad matchup of Blanton vs. Huff for a run was a frustrating result.
- I think it may have been a mistake to include Domonic Brown on the playoff roster. He's basically useless as a pinch-hitter, going 3-for-17 on the year as a substitute. As terrible as Greg Dobbs was on the year, I'd prefer his experience to seeing Brown look simply overmatched in his two postseason trips to the plate.
- Juan Uribe made the play of the game robbing Ross Gload of a hit to lead off the ninth. Of course, Gload could easily have been called safe (tie goes to the runner, si?).
- Brian Wilson is either a lot better than I thought he was or he's simply pitching right now a lot better than he actually is. As Buck and McCarver correctly pointed out, he hasn't given the Phillies a chance to do much damage against him. He's stayed on the outer half of the plate and thrown strikes. I do not fear his beard.
- I still don't know what to think about tossing Oswalt out there. Obviously the move didn't work, as Roy was charged with the loss and apparently he had already thrown his bullpen session in preparation for Saturday's (hopeful) start. Seems a bit risky to me, but then of course, Charlie's alternatives were Kyle Kendrick and JC Romero. Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess.
- Just in case he reads this, Dan Lauletta correctly pointed out on Facebook that Carlos Ruiz has to be questioned a bit for some of his calls behind the plate. First and foremost was the offspeed pitch he called against Juan Uribe that turned into the game winning sacrifice fly. I'm guessing his thought process was to surprise Uribe after four straight fastballs but the move backfired. In addition, the high fastball he called for in Pablo Sandoval's at-bat wasn't my cup of tea. 89 MPH fastballs at the belt can get smashed in the big leagues, and the Panda smashed Durbin's offering.
- Cody Ross. What a pain in the neck. I'm not going to blame Chooch for the ongoing Cody issues. I can't remember a pitch he's hit well where Chooch wasn't moving his glove. I'm pretty sure he's not calling low inside fastballs, but that everyone keeps missing their spots. I think whoever is facing him is just psyched out by his present aura of invincibility and is trying to be too perfect. As a reminder to Phillies pitchers everywhere: He's still Cody Ross.
- The Phillies had kept Buster Posey under control in the series so far. Until tonight. It didn't look like anything they threw him would get him out. Each and every at-bat was very impressive. Oswalt had him down 0-2 in the bottom of the ninth and after just missing a double down the line and spoiling a tough two strike pitch, he poked a single down the line that setup the game-winning sac fly.
There is still light at the end of the tunnel. The offense showed a pulse in Game 4 and I'd say contrary to popular belief, Lincecum didn't exactly dominate the Phillies in Game 1. They can hit him, but as Wee Willie Keeler would say, the key is "to hit it where they ain't."
I don't see Halladay making the same mistakes he made in Game 1. The key is to bring the series back home and get the crowd involved. The friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park should produce a few home runs and for an offense struggling to sustain more than one (if that) rally per game, the long ball can be a cure-all.
It'll be difficult, but this remains a winnable series for the Phillies. I still believe...a little.