By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
PHILADELPHIA—I know it’s only early May, but can you wake us up when we can get a true gauge on who this team is and who they’re going to be.
So far this season, the Phillies have given you glimpses of how good they can be and you have seen how awful they can be at times. On a day-to-day basis, you really don’t know what you’re going to get. The Phillies are a team that Forrest Gump would compare to a box of chocolates.
On some nights, a brilliant starting pitching performance gets negated by poor hitting, bad defensive or a bullpen that can’t seem to get anybody out. Even in the wins, the starting pitching may struggle, but then the offense comes through.
Tuesday’s 6-5 extra-innings loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizen’s Bank Park was a microcosm of the season to this point.
The Blue Jays jumped all over Phillies starter Cole Hamels for five runs on 10 hits including a pair of home runs. Meanwhile, the Phils offense spent the first five innings stumbling over themselves with base-running mistakes and bad plays on defense.
Most notably in the second inning when Freddy Galvis hit into a fielder’s choice double play. Marlin Byrd, who doubled to begin the inning overran third base and got caught in a run-down. Galvis was tagged out at second after being run down by the Toronto infield to complete the double play.
“We played some sloppy baseball for the first six innings,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “A lot of little things that added up with some runs coming in and some runs being stranded on the bases.
“A lot of little things that in a one-run game that, if you look back, if you execute, you play good fundamental baseball, it could have been a different outcome.”
But in the sixth, the Phillies exploded to score five runs to even the game—with the big blow coming on a grand-slam homer by third baseman Cody Asche, who finished the game with career highs in hits (four) and runs batted with four. First baseman Ryan Howard had an RBI single to score the Phillie’s first run.
Just when you thought the much-maligned Phillies bullpen was going to have a perfect night, the 10th inning comes along and Phils reliever Antonio Bastardo starts the inning giving up a pair singles to Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista. Cabrera eventually scores the winning run on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Juan Francisco.
“Bullpen did a good did a job putting up three zeroes (in three innings), giving us a chance to score and take the lead, but came up short in the end, ” Sandberg said.
But that’s the kind of year it’s been the Phillies who are now 15-16. That record is the very symbol of a team’s woefully inconsistency. As former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells used to say you are what your record says you are and it reflects how the season has been up and down.
The Phillies would probably be in first place if they were a more consistent team in every phase of the game. Some of their losses have come in the form of mistakes on defense, a bullpen that couldn’t stop teams from scoring in the late innings and a team that can’t find its offensive groove when the pitching is going well.
What’s really confusing about this team is that they are a lot better than what we thought they were going to be. The issue is how good this team could be if they can be consistent with pitching hitting and defense on a regular basis.
Notes—Shortstop Jimmy Rollins missed his second straight start with a pulled right groin strain, Sandberg said. He came into pinch hit and grounded out to second.
“Jimmy needs another day. He still has some sensation in his upper leg area,” Sandberg said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. He’s going to come out and field some ground balls and do some light stuff.”