While much of the focus after the Phillies' loss to the Marlins on Sunday was directed at Joe West and his controversial and puzzling "ground rule out" call, the Phillies themselves did little to help their cause.
Some alarming patterns have been rearing their collective ugly head as of late, and they had a lot to do with the outcome of the Marlins series this weekend.
The most alarming has to be the less consistent performance of Roy Halladay. The 2010 Cy Young winner has not quite been the same since Bruce Bochy used him on three days' rest in the All-Star Game. His first game out of the break saw him surrender three runs on seven hits in just four innings vs. the Cubs, with this game against the Marlins featuring a mediocre nine hits and three runs in six innings—all in all, it just seems as though there has been something off about him lately.
It seems he struggles with leadoff men, has had trouble getting "clean" 1-2-3 innings and at times looks exhausted on the mound by the third.
Halladay apparently doesn't handle the heat too well, as evidenced in the game against Chicago this July where he had to leave due to heat exhaustion and this past weekend's game in Florida. Luckily for the Phils, the chances of playing a playoff game with temperatures above 80 degrees does not appear too likely.
But the fanbase is anxiously waiting to see that dominant force from last season re-appear to take over his role as staff ace.
The bullpen is also becoming cause for concern. Notwithstanding David Herndon's less than stellar performance on Saturday and Sunday (that 14th inning Sunday truly was one for the ages for all of the wrong reasons), it is worrying that Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson seem to struggle if they have to pitch in three straight games.
This is a possibility come playoff time. The Phillies can't be concerned that their two late-inning men/dual closers are gassed come Game 5 of a series because they had to pitch Games 3 and 4.
Finally, the inability to play small ball hurt them big time Sunday. In the 12th inning Michael Martinez led off with a double. Nobody out with a man on second should lead to a run, especially against a team that is 28 and a half games out of first place.
Chase Utley showed bunt on the first pitch and then promptly pulled back. It was the only moment during the inning when anything resembling a strategy to move the runner seemed to be considered. Utley went back to hacking away and hit a shallow fly ball for an out. Ryan Howard was intentionally walked. With first and second and one out the Phillies still looked to be in good shape. But Hunter Pence lined out and Raul Ibanez grounded out to the pitcher.
With the game in extra innings and the Phillies' bullpen almost completely depleted to the point where David Herndon, a pitcher who gave up back-to-back-to-back home runs less than 24 hours prior, was being depended upon to go multiple innings, it is inexcusable that they did not do everything they could (bunt, hit and run, steal, shorten swings, etc.) to move the man over and get him home.
Instead of playing small ball—and smart ball—the Phillies reverted to their bread and butter: swinging away.
Granted, there may be a letdown of sorts involved, considering the gigantic lead the Phillies have on the rest of the division and a postseason appearance virtually assured.
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