Saturday, September 10, 2011
Halladay vs. Marcum game diary
By Matt Philip
With the Phillies and Brewers basically locked in for their playoff spots -- Baseball Prospectus has them at 100 percent and 99.8 percent likelihood, respectively -- Friday night's showdown featuring former teammates Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum possibly presaged a postseason pairing.
AROUND THE SWEETSPOT NETWORK
Disciples of Uecker
Nyjer Morgan makes me uncomfortable. Well, that's not exactly right -- everyone else's reactions to Nyjer Morgan make me uncomfortable. Morgan is many things: A fast, above average fielder who makes some great plays, but also occasionally bungles a tough play spectacularly, magically transforming, say, a double into a triple. He's a contact hitter with smart location, so he gets a lot more extra base hits than you'd expect. He's usually a good baserunner, but he gets caught stealing far too often. It hasn't been much of a factor this year, though, so it's perhaps excusable.
It's Pronounced "Lajaway"
My hope for the remainder of the season is that Kipnis, Chisenhall, Carrera, Phelps and Hagadone get more playing time and more major league experience to prepare them for next season. And belated props to Shelley Duncan for two two-homer games in one week; I'm glad they've kept him around. What about you, fellow Indians fans? Short of a late-season miracle surge, anything you'd like to see in the last 20 games?
We Marlins fans are not prone to complaining. Generally speaking, we don't have high expectations going into the season, and are hardly surprised when we fall out of contention. But this year was different. We had a young core of position players, some good young starters, and had supplemented these with a veteran pitcher (Javy Vazquez) and catcher (John Buck). Now that young core of position players is in doubt, our lack of starting pitching depth has been exposed, and our two free-agent pickups don't look quite so savvy as they once did. To put salt in the wound, starting pitcher Andrew Miller started to show some ability for the Red Sox, and center fielder Cameron Maybin has come into his own in San Diego. How do we deal with our first real letdown? I propose that, instead of just complaining to make noise we start discussing what went wrong, to allocate blame appropriately.
For all of Halladay's dominance of batters this season -- he leads the majors with a 2.12 FIP -- he has been troubled by the Brewers' two main wallbangers: Ryan Braun had a .625 OBP/1.000 SLG mark in eight head-to-head appearances, and Prince Fielder .600/1.100 in 10. For his part in small-sample-size terror, Marcum has had his hands full with the bulk of the Phillies’ lineup: Ryan Howard (.571/1.500, seven PAs), Placido Polanco (.556/.667, nine PAs), Chase Utley (.429/.857, seven PAs) and Hunter Pence (.500/1.000, six PAs). With little room to hide (Utley didn't start), what would Marcum do?
First Inning True to form, Pence (along with Shane Victorino) singles. He'll score, as Marcum digs himself a big hole by throwing all fastballs to Howard, who jumps on a belt-high pitch on the inner half of the plate for a three-run blast. Even though it's Miller Park, that might just be enough for Halladay tonight. Indeed, Braun continues to knock Halladay, but Fielder fails to deliver like his counterpart, so the frame ends with the Phils already up 3-0.
Third Inning Marcum isn't going to let Howard beat him again, and walks him after getting ahead 1-2 by pitching him exclusively low and away. He wasn't about to miss middle-in again, as he had on Howard's home run. He apparently doesn't want Chooch Ruiz to get a hit again, either, and loses him on a full count.
Halladay settles in, K’ing baseball's tallest leadoff man since Frank Howard, then inducing an out from the straw that stirs both the Brewers and their opponents, Nyjer Morgan, on a first pitch.
Fourth Inning The Brewers still can't convert on Braun's latest hit, as Halladay dances around two knocks and a walk by enticing Yuniesky Betancourt, who doesn't hit many line drives, to ground into a twin killing. Not only does Halladay have tremendous overall command, walking only 1.15 per nine innings, he gets more than 50 percent of his balls in play on the ground. And they usually happen to be the kind that his infielders can get to.
Seventh Inning The odds are finally catching up with Marcum, as he yields a double to Polanco. That probably should be shower time, but Ron Roenicke must like to gamble. The starter gets by Pence, but without a LOOGY to use in the game, he's compelled to intentionally walk Howard, then loses a disadvantaged matchup against the lefty Raul Ibanez. Do the Brewers not have any left-handed relievers? They apparently haven't used one since July 10. Can that be right?
The once-dominant Takashi Saito proves too hittable and lets in two of Marcum's charges. With apologies to Ben Kenobi, he's not the reliever the Brewers are looking for. Phils go up 5-0.
Thus empowered, Halladay hits the mound and starts pumping in strikes. Bold prediction: He's not going to walk another guy this game. Hey, when the Brewers reach safely on less than a third of the balls they hit into play (.294 BABIP), the odds are with him. Let them hit the ball. Even when Betancourt drives in Casey McGehee with a sac fly, the Brewers' win expectancy falls (from 5.2 percent to 4.5 percent), because an out is an out. The Brewers are on the board, although even that's debatable, as Angel Hernandez forgets to call McGehee out after McGehee forgets to touch home plate after Carlos Ruiz forgets to tag him.
Eighth Inning Fielder makes a fine stop of Victorino's grounder.
Well, there goes my prediction: Halladay walks Corey Hart. I shouldn't be so quick to make fun of Roenicke as a betting man, but it’s no matter, as the mercurial Morgan grounds out. Halladay got her to pull an outside pitch. That's just a joke, Brewers fans. (I got your back, Albert!)
After striking out Braun, Halladay is at 120 pitches. Is it worth letting him complete the game? All risk, little reward for Charlie Manuel.
Ninth inning Enter a man who seems to spell neither of his names correctly, as Kameron Loe is the Brewers' third right-handed reliever to replace their right-handed starter. He promptly mows down Howard, begging the question of where he was in the seventh.
Lefty Antonio Bastardo gives the Phils ace the rest of the night off, but he can't get the job done. Or maybe he just has a deal with Ryan Madson, who replaces him, to get him more save opportunities. The Brewers start threatening, and another out-for-run trade brings them within two runs. Roenicke has to pinch hit for Loe; he might have used Rickie Weeks, who came off the DL on Friday and has had some success against Madson (a couple of hits in six PAs). Instead, he picks the Greek God of Swinging at First Pitches, George Kottaras, who promptly ends the game.
It wasn't the pitchers' duel it could have been, but that wasn't through any fault of Halladay. The good news for the Brewers is that they should have another chance at this come October.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
What's more disconcerting: The White Sox, green for a day, or Alejandro De Aza's barehand catch?
Matt Philip is the founder of Fungoes, a SweetSpot network blog about the St. Louis Cardinals. You can follow him on Twitter here.