Friday, October 16, 2009

Utley, bullpen waste Pedro's brilliance, allow Dodgers to even series

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Talk about wasted opportunities. Through 7 innings in Game 2 of the NLCS, the Phillies were cruising with a 1-0 lead, riding Pedro Martinez's brilliant 2-hit shutout performance. Then, the Phillies turned to their bullpen and everything went downhill from there.

Why the Phillies chose to take Pedro out after only 87 pitches will remain a mystery, but Charlie Manuel turned the game over to Chan Ho Park in the top of the 8th inning. Park subsequently gave up a pair of singles but then forced Russell Martin to hit a double play grounder to Pedro Feliz. Feliz made the throw to second baseman Chase Utley for one out, then Utley did the unthinkable, wildly throwing the ball past first baseman Ryan Howard. The error allowed the Dodgers to tie up the game and gave them new life. From there, the Phillies used four more pitchers in the inning and eventually J.A. Happ walked in the game winning run for the Dodgers.

It's hard not to place the entire blame for this game on Utley. A double play in that situation wouldn't have guaranteed that the Phillies get out of the 8th without giving up a run, but it would have gotten them one out from ending the rally. What makes that play particularly disappointing was that it was Chase Utley that made an error for the second day in a row. If the most reliable Phillie is letting the team down, what chance do they have of getting past the Dodgers?

There is plenty of other blame to be spread around today, though. The bullpen once again couldn't close things out. Charlie Manuel also has plenty of explaining to do as to why he pulled Pedro Martinez. You can't let the bats off the hook, either. Except for the homer by Ryan Howard, where was the Phillie offense? They couldn't get more than one run off of Vicente Padilla?

While this is as tough a loss as you are going to see, Phillies fans need to look at the big picture. The Phillies did split the first two games in L.A., something the team would take every time. While the opportunity to really command the series went out the window, the series is shifting back to Philly for three games and the Phillies do have Cliff Lee taking the mound in Game 3. All hope is nowhere near lost.

It was just one game, folks. One brutally disappointing game, but it's just one game. There's still plenty of series left to play.

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