Think about how much planning went into Joe Girardiâ€™s night for the Phillies.
He made a change from his usual lineup by inserting backup catcher Andrew Knapp in for JT Realmuto; Knapp hit a home run off Ian Anderson last Sunday and rewarded Girardi again tonight by drawing a walk. From there he had to adjust his lineup a little bit because his usual clean-up hitter, Realmuto, had the night off.
He carefully scoped out a spot for Realmuto to pinch hit in a tie game in the seventh. He made a corresponding double switch to keep Knapp in the game without losing Realmutoâ€™s bat. He took a chance on Archie Bradley getting Ozzie Albies out so he could bring in Jose Alvardao to face Freddie Freeman in a key lefty-lefty match-up. Alvarado got a tailor-made double play ball off Freemanâ€™s bat.
Girardi probably arrived at the ballpark five or six hours before first pitch as most managers do, and he spent that entire time trying to figure out match-ups that could give the Phillies an edge in this game. For the most part, it was all working.
Then his shortstop forgot he had to cover second base on a double play ball, and a half day of planning went completely down the drain in two seconds as Ehire Adrianza scored to make it 5-4 Braves, a score that held up the rest of the game.
Baseball is an extremely complicated game, but sometimes it really is as simple as one player making a mental mistake by forgetting to perform one of the most basic fundamentals in the sport and allowing the game-winning run to score.
- Sure Didi Gregorious standing like a statue at shortstop instead of covering the bag was objectively hilarious, but it only came to pass because the bench stepped up again. Adrianza poked a two-strike fastball into left field for a hustle double, Ronald AcuÃ±a Jr. pushed him to third with another hit and that gave him the opportunity to score on the Gregorious gaffe. Like we said all spring, this bench is an offensive juggernaut.
- The Braves never let this game get to the â€œhere we go againâ€ stage. Even last night had a little bit of that feeling until the dam broke on Zack Wheeler in the fifth. Tonight they responded from going down 2-0 by grabbing three runs in the bottom of the first. Zach Eflin settled in brilliantly after that first inning, so getting those early runs up was crucial.
- Speaking of settling in, Ian Anderson. He was far from perfect tonight; the fastball command was off and he left a few curveballs hanging in the strike zone. But the great part of his game is he stuck to his bread and butter. We know his best pitch is his changeup. Opposing hitters know it too; they canâ€™t hit it. He used the change a lot with two strikes, especially in the fourth inning when he struck out Gregorious and Knapp with it. Obviously you would like it if he had all three pitches working, but the fact he trusts his best pitch even when the others arenâ€™t effective is a great sign.
- The offense was balanced tonight. Nine hits from seven different players. Not only that, they were spread out on the field with five hits to left, one to center and three to right. The see-saw was just a flat block of wood tonight, but in a good way.
- A week ago I used this space to write about Sean Newcombâ€™s control issues, and how he still has the same issues in 2021 as he did in 2017. Of course tonight he looked electric with four strikeouts. I donâ€™t even know anymore with Newk. You tell me.
- While weâ€™re on the subject of the bullpen, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith were both phenomenal. Smith in particular looked the sharpest he has since Opening Day with his slider running in on the right-handed hitters.
- Thatâ€™s two series wins in a row and an opportunity for a sweep tomorrow. What 0-4 start?
- Look, there were no illusions about Cristian Pache coming into this season. Heâ€™s here to be Superman in the outfield, The Flash on the bases and, uh, definitely not any kind of superhero at the plate. Heâ€™s a 22-year-old kid still learning how to hit at this level, and thatâ€™s fine. But woof, it looks rough right now. Sooner or later it will come for him, but that is a black hole in the lineup right now.
- No, you shouldnâ€™t panic, but yes Swanson, Ozuna and Albies are a combined 12-for-87 at the plate this season. Theyâ€™ll be fine, but thatâ€™s a negative until they are.
- The BABIP luck is still biting the Braves. A two-run single in the first inning with an exit velocity at 65 MPH? Really, baseball gods?
- I really hate to say it, but the Phillies might have patched up some of their bullpen issues. If nothing else, they have one relief ace in Alvarado. There has to be something somewhere in the Geneva Accords that makes throwing 101 MPH sinkers from the left side a war crime. Good grief.
- There was an opportunity to knock Eflin out early and put some serious pressure on Matt Moore tomorrow, but the Braves let him off the hook and saved a lot of work for that aforementioned bullpen ahead of the series finale.
Former Brave Of The Day:
Mark Melancon picked up his fourth save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth in a 7-4 Padres win over the Rangers.
Quote Of The Game:
â€œNinety percent of this game is half mental.â€
â€” Yogi Berra
You know that rush of adrenaline you get when youâ€™re playing Uno and get the reverse card? The goal for the Braves tomorrow is to drop the reverse card and turn the table on the Phillies with a sweep.
Thanks Alan, I like the format you use, works for me.
2 pinch hits, 6 bases
can field in any one of thirty four places.
It isn’t your sweet conversation
that brings this sensation
Its just what steers us to sue.
there is a place
called second base
where hot shots tend to gather
i’ll wheel and throw
but would you know
they nothing do but blather.
I really like the perspective this was written from, in the beginning of the piece, thinking things through from Girardiâ€™s perspective! And the various other sections are very helpful to someone who hasnâ€™t been able to watch a full game yet.
Great write up!
I know Pache is struggling but seeing him run down that last fly ball wearing #25 reminded me of another guy that used to do that. I can live with his adjusting to big league pitching so long as he plays good defense and the 12-87 trio pick it up. I feel reasonably confident in two of the three of them to do so.
I thought Gregorious was playing too far in to get to second. If that was the plan (not that it would have been the best plan…), maybe that’s on Alvarado for not knowing the whole infield would be in, or on someone for not telling him. Otoh, Gregorious may have taken a couple of steps in when it looked like the ball might go over Alvarado’s head.
Separately, by my calculations Newcomb has given up a .667 BABIP and a 1.5 WH(+HBP)IP this year. Back to the alternate site, I guess.
Well done, Mr. Cole. Go Braves.
Man, love the writing. Very fun, very good analysis.
Yeah, just got dinked in the first inning. This team is better than itâ€™s showed, and Ozuna/Albies/Swanson will get fired up.
It hasnâ€™t taken long, but Iâ€™ve now just assumed Pache is an automatic out. Oh well; let him play.
Excellent writing style. Many articles lose me and I stop reading. More my fault than the writerâ€™s. Attention issues. But your style keeps it easy for me to stay focused. Also like your humor.
@6–I just looked at the replay, and Gregorius was in on the edge of the grass. If he had immediately gone to the bag, Alvarado could have gone to second and had a good shot at the dp. But Didi did indeed come in a couple of steps when the ball was hit (understandably), making the force at second impossible. I think it’s on the catcher see that and to yell at the pitcher to come home as soon as he fielded it, in which case Adrianza would have been out easily.
The radio guys said that Gregorius was shouting “Home! Home!”
Thanks for coming over, GMan! Keep coming back. Youâ€™ll like it here.
Sean Newcomb sporting that 24.3 K/9.
I think the Braves will let Pache play for awhile. If we get to July and heâ€™s still a black hole I suspect that they will look for an outfielder.
On a tapper back to the pitcher, the SS covers 2 because his first action, from a regular shortstop position, (which would be both deeper and more leftfield-ward of 2B) takes him BOTH toward the ball AND to the bag.
But here the infield was in because that was the game winning run, and Gregorius was pinched up the middle because it’s Freddie Freeman. From that position, Gregorius first move had to be to play the ball, which precluded an adjustment to 2B.
If that arching chopper arched over the pitcher, he couldn’t be standing on second while the ball trickled through to the OF.
With the infielders in past 2B, there was never a DP to be had.
That play had to go home from before the ball was pitched. Realmuto was pounding his mitt before the ball even came down.
As I saw the play, the physical gaffe was on Alvarado such as it was, because the only play was to home and he turned around looking for the double play that was never there. Now, where did the communication break down leading to that, and was Alvarado properly informed that he had to go home on a comebacker? Only the Phillies know the answer to that. Also, why wouldn’t you be playing the middle infielders far enough back to turn a double play that can get you out of the inning in that situation? That doesn’t make a whole of sense to me, and that issue is on Girardi.
We are preoccupied by the myriad technicalities of a jumble to which there is no one solution.
The real gaffe is whoever had the shortstop and 2nd baseman playing in instead of at double play depth, then.
The decision about where to position the defenders, what base to throw to in various eventualities, whether a baserunner should break on a batted ball, etc., is one of my favorite things about baseball. I’m not sure whether the play we’re discussing is “myriad of technicalities of a jumble” but I’m pretty sure there was one best solution–and the Phillies blew it. We all know that the Phillies messed it up, and that effective communication among the Phillies would have prevented the run from scoring.
I can’t watch a football game and follow all the intricacies of pass coverage and blocking schemes, and therefore know who blew the coverage or the protection. But something like the play last night is understandable by any serious baseball fan.
Why was the double play never there? It was definitely there with Freeman running. But Segura broke towards the ball, as he should have done, so he was caught in no man’s land, and Alvarado was screwed. Any ball hit to the left side of the picture would have created that scenario.
Neither Austin Riley nor Pache have the bat speed to ever hit MLB pitching.
Riley has about a season’s worth of career ABs and he’s put up almost -1.0 WAR. Prorated to 550 ABs, he’d probably be at about -1.2 WAR. IOW, one of the worst players in MLB.
They were playing the infield way too far in. The way they were playing, the double play was never there. It would’ve been very difficult for one of the middle infielders to make it back to the bag. That’s on Girardi (or whoever’s responsible for defensive positioning, which eventually comes back to Girardi). You’ve gotta play the infield halfway there, at worst. There’s no point in playing the middle infielders that far in there. Any ball to one of them should’ve resulted in them trying to start a double play, obviating the need for them to be playing that far in. A throw to the plate shouldn’t have even been on the table for a middle infielder there, but they were playing them in like they wanted them to throw home on a grounder to one of them.
See #15 for a good explanation.
Have to agree with @18. Everyone thought they should be playing for the DP except the Phillies.
@23 Missed it. Great explanations, jjschiller and Nick.