It was almost poetic in how it happened.
The Giants were facing Corey Knebel in the top of the ninth inning, the game tied at two. Nick Castellanos and Rhys Hoskins had homered on the day, Kyle Gibson made a single bad pitch, a two-run home run to Wilmer Flores, but this game was going to come down to the final innings. Even though he had gotten the first two outs rather easily, anyone watching the game could sense the undercurrent of paranoia around this outing. It wasn’t a matter of if Knebel would blow it, it was a matter of when.
Evan Longoria stepped up and, well, we knew it was coming.
It’s just kind of expected at this point. The bullpen hasn’t been good in two years under Joe Girardi, so what would make us think that it would all of a sudden start now?
Of course as we know only the Phillies could, Kyle Schwarber stepped up and deposited the second pitch of the inning from starter Logan Webb, who Gabe Kapler inexplicably left in to start the ninth, over the centerfield wall, barely eluding the grasp of center fielder Stuart Fairchild.
These kinds of moments of ecstasy as a Phillies fans have been few and far between, and that would prove to be true yet again. The top of the 10th began with a runner on second base, as the new rules dictate, and Andrew Bellatti stood on the mound.
Flashback to Saturday night.
The Mets were already leading the Phillies, 8-2, in the eighth inning when Joe Girardi walked to the mound, ready to change pitchers in the suddenly meaningless game, only to bring in…
Dominguez would get the only batter he faced out, but his usage clock was now started. Day one: in the books.
Sunday night, eighth inning. The Phillies had taken the lead from the Mets on a stunning home run from Nick Castellanos. Badly needing the win, Girardi summoned Dominguez yet again to protect the lead, perfectly acceptable since he is arguably the team’s best pitcher. Dominguez held down the fort, though the team would go on to lose the game thanks to another troubling outing from Knebel.
However – day two of Dominguez: in the books. And we all know what that means.
Flash forward to today and with the game tied and Knebel burned, the Phillies needed one of their better arms on the mound for the tenth inning, especially since the inning began with a runner in scoring position. It’s how normal bullpen work, where the manager puts in one of his better pitchers in the game since it’s already a high leverage situation made that much higher due to the zombie runner.
Yet in this situation, through no one’s utter incompetence but his own, Girardi was forced to use Bellatti. No matter how good he has been, this is not the spot for Andrew Bellatti. But thanks to Girardi, that was the situation the team found themselves in.
We all know what was going to happen.
Now, to be fair, Joe Girardi didn’t throw the pitch. He didn’t hang the slider that was crushed with the left fielder moving nary a muscle. But Joe Girardi’s job is to put the Philadelphia Phillies in the best position possible to win baseball games, and with his decisions on how to use the bullpens, he has not done this with a starting record of consistency.
You may find the word “incompetence” harsh, but when the same kinds of bullpen decisions are being made night after night after night, decisions that are hard to determine in their logic, it’s the only word that can be used to describe what it is that Girardi is doing. No manager is actively trying to harm his team. If that were true, he’d no longer be employed. Yet these decisions that are being made, it’s so very difficult to say that they are helping the team.
It’s hard to put into words how depressing it is right now to follow and analyze this team. The issues that they have are plain as day, yet nothing is being done to correct them. No team with this much talent is truly out of it yet, but the manager is actively harmonizing this team. He is costing them wins. Usually, when that is occurring, the team will remove what is harming the team from the team, yet we see nothing from above by the twisting of thumbs and the shrugging of shoulders.
Until there is a change with this team, be it a firing, a trade, a release, this cycle of incompetence and baffling moves will continue. And those in charge will have no one to point the finger at but themselves.