Tuesday, April 24, 2007

We Can Lose The Close Ones Too

They did everything but win the game tonight, wasting another pretty good outing from the out-of-nowhere Jason Bergmann.

This team isn't good enough to nurse a lead (they had a 3-1 lead in the 6th). Unfortunately they're not good enough to extend a lead either.

As with many of their losses -- certainly all of their non-blowout ones -- it's their complete inability to do anything with runners on that's killed them.

They didn't get runners home in the 3rd or the 7th, and it's the 7th inning which lingers in my mind.

With a 3-2 lead, Felipe Lopez singled to left, then moved to second on a grounder. Ryan Zimmerman followed by lining a Ryan Madson pitch right back through the box for a sure run-scoring play. But the Phillies had him perfectly played, and 2B Chase Utley had no business playing where he was. He ranged behind second base, caught the liner, and stepped on second to complete the easy inning-ending double play. Excruciating.

Jon Rauch picked a bad night to give up his first walk of the year. Despite his and Micah Bowie's inability to do the job, Manny Acta handled it perfectly, letting Bowie stay in an extra inning to try to get Utley and Howard, saving Rauch for Burrell and Helms.

The second pitch Bowie threw to Utley went behind him, and appeared to knick his left arm, as he backed up into the pitch. Bowie did well to buckle down and get Howard on a tough slider for a K. Rauch wasn't sharp tonight. Despite getting ahead of Burrell 0-2 -- the crowd was tingling in anticipation of releasing their boo -- he fired four wide ones, putting runners on first and second. He jammed Helms, but he muscled it into center field on a weak flare -- the worst kind of hit in that situation in that it's clearly a hit off the bat, and it's slow enough that there's no chance to nab the runner.

Ryan Church smartly threw to third, and the cutoff man let it go through. Ryan Zimmerman had to step off the bag to his right to nab it, but it bounced and went up and over his glove, but between his legs for an error -- Zimmerman's second error on wild throws this year. The ball rolled to the dugout and an extra run scored, and with the extra base the batter gained, he was able to score on Carlos Ruiz' ensuing single. Sigh.

Things happen. You can make the right decision and not have it work, just as you can make the wrong decision and have it work out beautifully -- I'd make a comment about Frank and '05, but then I'll just have to answer more angry emails.

I feel for Jason Bergmann. He's starting to make a bit of a believer out of me. I wasn't ready to knight him after one start. Not even after two. But now this is three solid starts in a row, and three solid starts where the batters -- save for the Burrell RBI double -- didn't really have much of a clue on his breaking pitches. He walked two batters, and struck out five, and his ERA is down to 3.27 now -- which is amazingly not anywhere near the league lead.

I'm not ready to anoint him as our savior yet. I remember being burned by a Ramon Ortiz hot stretch. But the signs are there; the batters don't usually lie, and he's fooling them more often than not.

Along with Chris Snelling, Jesus Colome, and Sean Hill, he's certainly been the most pleasant surprise of the season.

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