Good win for Phils, but that bullpen – yikes!
DENVER – This was a game that at one moment made you think the Phillies have a chance at making a second-half surge, and in the next made you think there’s no way in hell they can pull off a sustained run of success.
The Phils got a clutch start from Vance Worley and plenty of clutch work from the bats in beating the Colorado Rockies, 8-5 (see Instant Replay)
, on Saturday night. The win, just the Phils’ second in the last 13 games, snapped a five-game losing streak and left everyone in the clubhouse breathing a sigh of relief as the increasingly rare sound of postgame music played in the background.
The mood would have been starkly different if the Phils had lost this game and if you tuned in you know that was a real possibility when Charlie Manuel had to go to his bullpen.
“We have a tough time,” he said of the Phillies’ Achilles heel. “We struggle to get outs. We have a tough time getting to [closer Jonathan] Papelbon.”
Jake Diekman and Brian Sanches had trouble getting outs in the eighth inning and that forced Manuel to go to his only dependable reliever, Papelbon, for a five-out save.
With Antonio Bastardo having become an adventure, Manuel tried to get through the eighth with rookie lefty Jake Diekman. The Phillies were up 6-2 when Diekman went to the mound for the bottom of the eighth. He got the first out, then hit a batter and walked a batter. In came righthander Brian Sanches to face right-handed hitting Wilin Rosario. Three pitches into the at-bat, Rosario smoked a three-run home run over the leftfield wall to make it a one-run game.
Manuel brought in Papelbon to get the final two outs of the inning. He said he thought about using Papelbon instead of Sanches, but, with a four-run lead, didn’t want to burn Papelbon for a possible appearance on Sunday.
“I thought about using Papelbon, but I figured I needed one more out,” Manuel said. “If Sanches got the out, Pap was coming in for four outs.”
Big hits by Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley gave Papelbon some breathing room in the ninth inning. He was very fired-up after striking out Carlos Gonzalez to end the game.
“I tend to show emotion more as the game dictates and tonight was a big win for us,” said Papelbon, who threw 19 pitches and should be OK for Sunday.
It was a big win, to use Papelbon’s words, because the Phils need to go on a major run and any run starts with one win.
But it’s still difficult to have faith in this team and the work of the bullpen is the biggest reason why.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is looking to improve the bullpen with a trade, but the market is difficult because so many teams are looking for the same thing. Amaro’s best trade chip for a reliever might be Victorino. He snapped out of a month-long funk with a double, a triple, a pair of runs and a big throw from centerfield. His first extra-base hit since June 13 ignited a four-run rally, highlighted by Carlos Ruiz’ three-run homer, in the first inning.
Did Victorino know it had been that long since he had an extra-base hit?
“Yeah,” he said. “I had an idea. It’s been mentioned. But I don’t dwell on those things. My focus is on helping us win.”
Victorino was asked if he believed his days as a Phillie were numbered.
“Not at all,” he said. “I can’t concern myself with that stuff. I’m only focused on what happens on the field. I’m a Phillie. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Hitting with runners in scoring position has been a major problem for these Phillies, but they were 5 for 7 in this game. Worley had one of the hits, a two-run double in the sixth to give the Phils a four-run lead. Worley entered the game 0 for 21 as a hitter. He had an infield hit in his first at-bat and was so gassed running to first and tripping face-first over the bag that Colorado first baseman Michael Cuddyer told Worley, “I’m not going to bother holding you on. You’re not going anywhere.”
Despite his big hit, Worley’s biggest contribution was with his arm. He was resilient, pitching out of trouble at times, particularly in the fifth when he struck out Cuddyer on a full-count sinker with the bases loaded.
Worley credited Ruiz for calling for a sinker. He said Ruiz sensed that Cuddyer was looking for a breaking ball.
“Great job by Chooch,” Worley said.
All in all, a good win for a team that desperately needed one. But that bullpen. Yikes.E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com