Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Phillies embarrassed by Mets again

PHILADELPHIA – The return of Cliff Lee on Wednesday means the Phillies will have to make a roster move before he takes the mound that will take one arm away from the bullpen.
The Phillies could subtract the second lefty, Joe Savery, from the relief corps and ship him back to Allentown. They could send Brian Sanches out on waivers. They could option Michael Schwimer to the IronPigs, too.
All three of those players began the season at Triple-A and they made up nearly half of the bullpen Charlie Manuel has had at his disposal for the last week. But the weakest link of the Phillies team isn’t the last three members of the pen as much as it is the relievers at large.

The Phillies bullpen entered play Tuesday with a major league-worst 4.86 ERA. They did little to inspire a revival in a 7-4 loss to the Mets.
After Joe Blanton got into trouble in the seventh, walking the leadoff batter and going on to give up back-to-back, two-out hits, the bullpen could not save him.
Both Chad Qualls and Antonio Bastardo gave up hits to the first two batters they faced in the inning as the Mets turned a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead.
To be fair, the defense behind the Phils’ relievers gave the Mets’ bats an assist.
On David Wright’s two-out single off Qualls, John Mayberry Jr., making his 14th career start at first base, failed to cut off Hunter Pence’s thrown to the plate. What followed was a rundown with Wright stuck between first and second and Kirk Nieuwenhuis ready to bolt home from third base.
The Phils first tried to nab Wright, but when Nieuwenhuis lingered off third, Pete Orr fired wide to the third base bag. Nieunwenhuis, the game-tying run, scored on the play.
Wright moved to third and scored the go-ahead run when Bastardo took over and gave up the Mets’ fourth consecutive hit, a single by Lucas Duda.
Tuesday marked the seventh time this season the Phils were tied or had a lead in the seventh inning or later and lost. Four of those losses have come in the last week.
Despite fronting a starting pitching staff with three All-Stars and two reliable right-handers in Blanton and Vance Worley, the Phillies (14-17) are three games under .500.
While the inconsistent offense wore the blame in April, the shaky bullpen has come into focus in May.
Of the 121 runs the Phils have allowed this season, 46 of them, or 38 percent, have been scored off the bullpen. When those same relievers account for just 26 percent of the staff’s 269 1/3 innings, you have a problem.
The loss was the fourth in the last five games for the Phillies and it assured their second straight series loss to a division rival. It was also just the fourth time in 15 games the Phils had lost despite scoring more than three runs.
Although they went down quietly in the game’s final seven innings, the offense gave Blanton a 4-0 lead early.
Hunter Pence popped a two-run home run off Mets starter Miguel Batista in the first inning. The home run was the fourth in the last five games for Pence, who joined general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. in the list of Phillies to hit a home run off of Batista.
The 41-year-old Batista, who has pitched for 10 teams in his 18-season career, gave up a home run to Amaro in his major league debut with the playoff-bound Pirates in April 1992.
The Phils got two more runs off Batista in the second, when Mayberry reached on an error, Orr followed with an RBI single and Shane Victorino added a two-out, RBI double later in the inning.
Coming off his first shutout with the Phillies, Blanton was sharp through the game’s first six innings. Pitching with a 4-0 lead, Blanton didn’t allow a hit until the fourth.
Blanton pitched into the seventh, which was moderately surprising since his third at-bat of the night came in a pinch-hitter friendly spot. With one out, a 4-1 lead and runners on second and third in the sixth, Blanton wasn’t pulled back.
Perhaps in fear of turning the ball over to the bullpen too soon, Manuel had Blanton hit. Blanton grounded out to second before Jimmy Rollins ended the inning by striking out as the Phils stranded two runners in scoring position.


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