If there’s one lesson that I took from this weekend’s 3 game series with the Marlins it’s this: pitching is not the only thing that will let the Phillies down. In fact, I think after the games on Saturday and Sunday, I have even more confidence in the Phillies pitching than I did before.
Yes, the Phillies lost both of those games. But it wasn’t the fault of the pitchers. On Saturday, Jamie Moyer had a typical Jamie Moyer first inning, giving up five runs. In the next five innings, Moyer struck out seven and walked none. Ignoring that first inning, it was a great performance from Moyer, the oldest active player in Major League Baseball. (All writers are obligated to mention that when writing about Jamie Moyer.) Even with that first inning issue, I had no doubt that the Phillies would be able to come back. They had a string of 10 hit games, and up until Saturday’s loss, they were averaging almost 8 runs per game. Hell, even in the 9th inning with 2 outs, I still thought that maybe they could put up the runs and win the game. But it was not to be.
Sunday’s game was a similar mix of good and bad. When the game started, I was concerned about Cole Hamels’ pitching. I wasn’t concerned about the Phillies hitting. By the end of the game, I was, and any concern I had for Cole’s arm was long gone. Cole gave up just two runs, one of them an Uggla homer, on seven hits. He struck out eight and walked none. That’s right. Cole Hamels walked no one. He had a couple of runners-in-scoring-position jams he had to pitch out of, and he did. He pitched just short of a complete game, leaving after a hit in the 9th and relinquishing the ball to Ryan Madson, who promptly allowed the runner on first base to score. At no point did the offense make it easy for Cole, notching just four hits on the afternoon. That brought their grand total of hits to just 9 over the past 18 innings, with one run scored in that time. When Cole walked off the field in the 9th, the fans gave him a loud, sincere standing ovation. He’d take the loss, but he pitched like a champ.
It’s frustrating to see the Phillies get so close to putting it all together and just miss. In Doc’s three games, the Phillies have managed to combine stellar pitching and top notch hitting. This weekend, Moyer put in 5 great innings after digging the team into a rather shallow hole (5 runs is not great, but it’s not 10, and it should be easy for this team to overcome), and Cole turned in 8+ fantastic innings of one run ball, and both times the offense failed to show up. The Marlins weren’t starting Sandy Koufax, it was Nate fucking Robertson, who had an ERA in the 5-6 range during his last two years playing for the Tigers.
The Marlins are now just a half a game back behind the Phillies for first place in the NL East. Despite appearances, it’s a tight race all around, with even the last place Mets showing some grit this past weekend. The Marlins now head to Houston to face the Astros, and the Phillies pack up for their trip to Atlanta to face the Braves (and Magical Rainbow Baseball Jesus). The Marlins have several easy wins coming their way (unless they fuck it up, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility), and the Phillies are going to have to hardcore battle with the Braves to get their groove back.
Please note that I say all these things knowing full well that we’re a whopping 12 games into the season, and there are another 150 to go. I’m not really worried, especially considering that May will most likely bring Blanton, Romero, Lidge, and Rollins back to the lineup. There is time for the Phillies to put great performances by Moyer and Hamels together with great hitting. Regardless, here’s hoping that they find their bats in Atlanta.