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Are the Phillies choking, or are they just gettin’ beat?

Oct 21, 2010, 10:36 AM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Oswalt walks off the field after Game 4 of their Major League Baseball NLCS playoff series in San Francisco

“I feel like we didn’t really lose. We just ran out of innings.”

Joe Blanton, always looking on the bright side of life.

That came from Jeff Passan’s postgame article over at Yahoo!  More interesting than Blanton’s take was Passan’s. After calling the use of Oswalt in relief desperate — and I kinda agree — he says this:

And that’s what the Phillies, an on-paper juggernaut, have turned into: a group clawing for any sign of life against a Giants team that against great odds is making Philadelphia look not just mortal but frightened . . . The Phillies look beat up and beat down. The Giants sterilized their bluster, thieved their momentum, made mortal the pitching deities who were supposed to slay them. After four games, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and now Oswalt all have losses. H20 looks more like H2No.


I’ll go with Jeff on the tone here — there is definitely a sense that the big Russian has been cut and doesn’t quite know what to do — but I think the take on the pitching is a bit off.  I don’t view Oswalt’s volunteering to pitch yesterday and subsequent failure to be his problem nearly as much as it was Charlie Manuel’s. If I were a manager I’d want any of my pitchers to want to go out in any game. It’d be up to me to tell them no, and Manuel didn’t do that.

More broadly speaking, the big three haven’t really failed here. Halladay didn’t have his best game in Game 1, but he pitched well enough. He made a couple of key mistakes and his offense didn’t help him out facing a pitcher just about as good as he is. Oswalt certainly did his job in Game 2. A team with Philly’s offensive tools shouldn’t be resigned to defeat simply because Cole Hamels gives up three runs. Matt Cain just whupped them.

I think Charlie’s moves were regrettable in Game 4, but ultimately, I view this as less as the Phillies choking or being frightened or running out of innings or however else it’s being described than them simply gettin’ beat. I’m not alone in this, by the way:

“They’re beating us.  It’s plain and simple. They are beating us right now.”

That’s Shane Victorino, saying pretty much all that needs to be said.

  1. nps6724 - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    They’re choking. Both teams have great pitching, but one team is loaded with offensive stars. And that team has been held to 14 runs in 4 games, including being shutout.

    • xagamez - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:04 PM

      Then as Giants fans we have seen teams choke all year. You can not take away from the way the giants are pitching and especially in late innings were the bullpen comes into play. These Phills may be good hitters during the regular season, but the giants pitching staff is REALLY that good. We have seen it all year. The giants when through a great winning streak this season where they were almost unhittable…. you may be loaded with offensive stars but not as good as the giants are pitching against them.

      • nps6724 - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:17 PM

        When lesser teams lose (as is the case with most of the Giants’ wins this season since San Fran made the playoff and most of their opponents didn’t), it’s not choking.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    To say the Phillies are choking is a slap in the face to the Giants. They aren’t choking…they are playing with their butts so tight, you could put in a piece of coal and pull out a diamond. But make no mistake, the Giants are playing well and nobody on the Phillies is…except the big three. Halladay was mortal game 1, but he still pitched well enough to win. Oswalt was great, and Hamels was a shade below great himself. Blanton is BIG, but he isn’t the big three and he had no business out there yesterday.

    Uncle Cholly is managing tight…how does he not have Rollins bunt in the 8th? How does he leave Durbin in to pitch to Kung Fu Panda when Bastardo would have turned him around? How does he pitch Oswalt in the 9th, but not Halladay in the 1st? How does Perlozzo send Ruiz on the play with one out? How does Shane not end up on 2nd Base? WTF is wrong with Utley? How does he not once send Shane from first on a hit and run with Polanco up….to avoid the double play?

    Cholly is the best manager of people in baseball…but as I have said in the past, his decision making skills during the game leave a lot to be desired. When they are mashing, there isn’t much he has to do. But when there is even the slightest bit of adversity, he is worthless on the bench. It is what it is.

    • nps6724 - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:57 AM

      That offense scoring 3.5 runs per game IS choking. Especially when a much weaker offense is scoring the same amount against just as good of pitching.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:04 AM

        Well, we just differ on how valuable pitching is in the Playoffs. I said it all along that Pitching beats hitting in the playoffs. I was right, but for the wrong team. The Giants big three has pitched better than the Phillies big three. Unfortunately, Cholly decided to go with Blanton yesterday, and it cost the Phillies a game. Now there is ZERO room for error and if you thought the Phillies were tight already, you have to believe they are going to be tight now. Look over the last 4 years…when have the Phillies won under duress? Last year in the LDS they showed alot of heart against the Rockies, but the Rockies pitching wasn’t nearly what the Giants pitching is and they never trailed in the series. The rest of the time they have blown teams away or lost the series. Yankers in 09, Rockies in 07…the Phillies get behind in a series and they do not come back. Maybe this year will be different…I sure hope so…but they aren’t choking. The Giants are pitching very very well and the Phillies aren’t adjusting…that and some very spotty managing leads to a 3-1 deficit.

      • nps6724 - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:10 AM

        The much better team is losing and not playing up to their capabilities. Sounds like choking to me.

        Either the Phillies are choking or anyone who ever said the Braves choked in the playoffs were wrong. Because they’re doing exactly what the Braves did multiple times.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:15 AM

        Did the Braves ever lose to a staff that included a 2-time Cy Young winner and a 2nd banana as good as Matt Cain? Not to mention a #3, SanCHEZ, who isn’t chopped liver himself? I don’t feel like going through all the years, but I chose the 97 ALCS just as a sample. I see the Marlins had Brown, Fernandez, Saunders, and Leiter against Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, and Neagle, who threw a 4 hit shutout and was their best pitcher that series. To me, you lose with that staff against those tomato cans(except Brown) and you choked. The Phillies are not choking. They are just not hitting very very good pitching.

      • nps6724 - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:27 AM

        The Braves also never had an offense like Philly’s. San Fran has very good pitching, but the Braves with Brooks Conrad as a starter and without 2 of their best hitters scored 9 runs in 4 games against the exact same arms Philly has faced. And the Braves didn’t get to hit in that sardine can ya’ll call a stadium.

        The ’97 NLCS isn’t exactly the best choice since the most famous game of that series involves Eric Gregg and the absolute worst strikezone ever employed in a single game.

        ’98 I would call a choke. Atlanta was a much better team than San Diego (scored more, allowed less, won more) but we blew it big-time. Kevin Brown (back-to-back years) and Sterling Hitchcock (!!) did us in.

      • God Himself Can't Make Me Root for the Yanks, But Fiorentino Might - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:52 PM

        Much as it pains me to be on the same side of an issue as Fiorentino, this notion that a 4 game stretch with only 14 runs is proof of choking is just silly. If that’s the standard than the Phillies, the best team in the NL this year, “choked” in 45 different 4-game stretches this year. That’s 28% of the time, an awful lot of choking for a team known for its offense, and that’s even without comparing to the quality of pitchers they are facing now. Here’s some better explanations… luck, random variation, and good Giants pitching.

      • nps6724 - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:00 PM

        Luck and random variation are present in every short series and it never stops anyone else to deem a team is choking. If we go by past definitions of choking, then they are.

        And after all that talk about it being a foregone conclusion that NY and PHI were making the WS (from both writers AND fans), I’m counting it.

        And again, it’s no different than when the Braves choked in the playoffs multiple times. Either the Braves never choked or Philly is.

      • hank10 - Oct 21, 2010 at 3:41 PM

        If you followed the Phils all season, you would know that they have struggled offensively for most of the year. From mid-June until late August, it looked like they would not even make it as a Wild Card. The offense finally kicked in and they cruised through Sept. They were shutout 11 times this year. They’ve been on the downside offensively since midway through the 2009 campaign.

        Phils have a history of being unable to manufacture runs ‘small-ball fashion’ and always look home run first. The Giants on the other hand are playing sound, fundamental baseball.

        So there is no choking involved. They are playing the way they did all year.

    • mikedi33 - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:04 PM

      Could not have said any better especially about Charlie. He Also washed his hands of the oswalt decision and blamed it on Dubee. Every move made by Bochy wad a double switch and we all know Charlie does not do them .

  3. yankeesfanlen - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    The Giants and Rangers are just enthusiastic suitors, waiting for their hearts to be broken.
    Send in the clowns.

  4. mcsnide - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    I feel like Philly won’t lose this series. They might run out of games, though.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM

      I feel like Blanton should have stayed asleep in the stands and Cholly should have gone with Doc on short rest. Especially since the bet woke up and they scored 5 runs. Sadly, that was not enough for Heavy B.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:40 AM

        “Especially since the bet woke up and they scored 5 runs. Sadly, that was not enough for Heavy B.”

        How many runs did he give up again?? You want to be so right about using Blanton you’re totally ignoring the fact he was pulled too early and he didn’t blow it, the bullpen did. he threw just 63 pitches when he was pulled. He didn’t need more runs, the bullpen did. You know as well as I do Joe has way more than 63 pitches to give. Third base coach Sammy P really blew it by sending Ruiz in to be tagged out too. The hit after proved that. You can’t just focus on Joe pitching because you called for it to be the downfall for this series. Joe did a good job and left prematurely with a lead.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:47 AM

        But my point is that if Halladay was in there, his history shows he would have fared better than being in big trouble at 63 pitches. He is 4-2 with a 2 something ERA on short rest. It is not a stretch to say he would have pitched better because of his pride being hurt from game 1 and he is a gamer. Look, it doesn’t matter now. I just think that pitching Halladay in game 4 and Oswalt in game 5 on short rest, when BOTH HAVE GOOD CAREER NUMBERS WITH SHORT REST, would have been better than throwing Blanton out there. Blanton wasn’t terrible…4.2, 5 hits, 3 ER and a walk. 2 WPs as well. But Halladay would have been better. We both know that. And the series would be 2-2 right now.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:30 PM

        All we know is Halladay PROBABLY would have pitched better. As we know it’s a mistake to assume Halladay = win. I’m not trying to break balls here but you did sound as if Joe blew it when he didn’t. Cholly blew it, and Sam Perlozzo blew it, and Davy Lopes blew it, and Chad Durbin Blew it, and Oswalt blew it, And Utley blew it, and I could go on, but nowhere would Joe Blanton be on my list.

  5. amhendrick - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    I think maybe everyone just overrated the Phillies and underrated the Giants. They had the same run differential for the season, and the Giants pitching is better. Plus, it’s only 4 games, anything can happen.

  6. Jonny 5 - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    They really don’t like the image of the “big Russian” They really liked being Rocky. So now they are Rocky again. ADRIAN!!! Apollo!!!! It’s on fellas, just when you think they’re down for the count.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:25 AM

      I love the enthusiasm Jonny, and I really hope you are right. Unfortunately, history doesn’t lie. And this team has never come back from a series deficit in the playoffs the last 4 years. They didn’t have Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels to throw either, so I’ll give you that. But the offense has to score, and to do that, they have to do it early. If they are either tied or losing after 4 tonight, they are likely to be finished. Hate to say it, but they are a downhill team…meaning they like to get up and beat you up and if they don’t do that, they don’t respond well. Hopefully, this year will be different.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:45 AM

        It’s true they aren’t the “come from behind team” they used to be, but this is the same group of guys here. I know they can pull it off. Put it this way. Would anyone have been suprised if Philly won the first three games with H2O on full rest? I don’t think many people would have been shocked. That’s what they now NEED to do.

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:06 PM

        And how many times have they had to come back from being down in a series? I can think of two: 2007, when they were swept by the Rockies, who swept their way through the second half of September and the NL playoffs, only to be taken down by the BooSux; and last year against the Wankers.

        They have always been tied at worst. And you know what? The last series against the Reds was their first series in which they didn’t lose a single game.

        Sure, I guess I just drank the KoolAid (which I did spike with a little something, ’cause I need it) and feel they can and will pull it out, but don’t go and say that they can’t do something because they haven’t in the past.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:00 PM

        I don’t think I said they CAN’T come back. I said I hope they do. I just don’t have much confidence right now. Tonight’s game is big. If they win this one and get it back to white towel waving CBP, for two night games, anything can happen. I just wish Ibanez would have caught that f’ing ball in game 1 😉

  7. kander013 - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Chris, what do you do for a job? All you do is comment on other people’s comments.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 3:34 PM

      This is my job…didn’t you know that? Craig sends me a check once a week, and I comment on other people’s comments. I don’t have any original thought on my own, of course. I just spit out the standard line, which is why everyone loves me and every thread I comment in coincidentally ends up with 30+ posts.

  8. Ace - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    I think a lot of folks just got too carried away with the idea that the Giants were extreme underdogs. The old saying goes that pitching and defense win playoff series. Well, in the regular season SF ranked 2nd in the majors in UZR (and first among playoff teams) at 56.4, and Philly was a very mediocre -5.8. While the two pitching staffs were quite comparable, the Giants did wind up with the lowest ERA in baseball. I think if you average those two areas of the game, it would be quite fair to say the Giants are the best pitching/fielding team in the playoffs, and as such, we shouldn’t be too surprised at their success.

  9. cintiphil - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Just like Philthy fans. There must be something wrong if they don’t win. Sorry, but the Giants are just out playing them especially in the pitching dept. You can not expect to throw a no no every time you are on the mound, and that applies to Hamels and Halladay. the game is just catching up to them. And,, the Giants are HOT now.

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:38 PM

      Leave the “Just like Philthy fans” crap at the door. The one poster here holding that they are choking–and thereby saying the Giants aren’t that good–is nps6724, who is an unabashed Braves fan who just showed back up after his team did exactly that, which helped the Phightins regain the NL East.

  10. curlybird99 - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    I’d say the Giants are peaking at just the right time. Their pitching, for the most part, has been stellar all season. It seems like when they need a key hit, someone gets it. All they do is find a way to win. Last night was a prime example, Uribe comes in and makes a great defensive play in the top of the 9th and sore wrist notwithstanding, hits a sac fly deep enough to plate the winning run. This is a team of youngsters and castoffs that just want to win. If you watch the faces of the players, that will tell you all you need to know. The Giants seem loose and relaxed, while the charcoal/diamond analogy Fiorentino made fits perfectly for the Phillies.

    The point has been made time and again, in a short series, great pitching will beat great hitting nearly every time. The Giants are making adjustments and the Phillies are not.

  11. htown025 - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Thank you Fiorentino. I’m glad someone questioned the managing on this game. I completely agree that the Phils had their chances but blew it on sending Ruiz from second with only one out in the inning and the top of the lineup coming to bat and not playing for the lead and bunting Werth to third in the 7th inning (I think) with no one out. I do disagree however that Blanton was a bust. He left the game with Phils up, and I don’t think they could have asked for much more. If the managing of the baserunners was better, I think the Phils could have snuck out with the “W” without having to call on the Wiz to pitch in the 9th, or at least have been in a position to only have to maintain the lead in 9th. So anyway, like Girardi said, it’s one game at a time from hear on out for the Phils.

    In other news, it’s funny that when Ron Washington got questioned on his bullpen management in Game 1 against the Yanks (because I’m sure he told Darren Oliver to walk two guys intentionally, etc.) but not much was said about his management of the bullpen in Game 4 which didn’t seem any different from what he did in Game 1. Oh yeah, the only difference is that they won game 4. It is easy to criticize what a manager does when it isn’t successful, but unless he totally acts out of character from what he’s done all season (in a successful season), it’s unfair to bust on him simply because the result is bad.

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 21, 2010 at 2:05 PM

      Uh-oh…someone thanked Chris for something he said….

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 3:30 PM

        LOL shut up man…

  12. apbaguy - Oct 21, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Lot of Orange around the Bay Area today, and it wasn’t just the leaves. People are smiling again, as if unemployment had suddenly dropped another internet bubble had appeared. Everyone in the gym this morning was huddled around the Sportscenter replays and slapping backs. I have never seen that in my 6 years here.

    So we’re set up perfectly for an ultimate heartbreak. Timmy is pitching, and nobody in the stands will be whistling. Scalper tickets for standing room are $ 75. A little high cloud today, so conditions won’t be absolutely perfect, but not bad. Many, many fingers are crossed. We do not want to go back to Philly. That’s a very tough place for the visiting team to win.

    Meanwhile, across the Bay, the A’s brain trust is…hiring a new hitting coach. Hmm. That’s inspiring. How about some new hitters?

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 3:31 PM

      If the Giants lose tonight, I’m guessing all the cockroaches will scurry back under their rocks? And what’s this “we” stuff…first, you don’t play for them…but second, I thought you were an A’s fan?

  13. 013hip - Oct 21, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Listen up, Both the NLCS and ALCS is turning out to be some “Must See T.V.”!!!
    Great Pitching from all teams.
    Several Defensive Gem’s.
    Catcher’s being tested, outfielder’s arm’s being tested.
    Un-likely hitter’s reaching superstar status, and superstar’s struggling.
    Favorite’s to Win fighting hard to right -the-ship.
    Underdog’s showing “No Fear”!
    This is the Best October that I have seen in a long time!!!

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