First, the Phillies missed facing Rangers' ace Yu Darvish. That was an amazing gift for the Phils as they opened the season with a 14-10 offensive outburst, (maybe pitching rust), which decided the game. Two nights ago, we watched the Rangers walk off after the debut of Mario Hollands; who maybe wasn't quite ready for his major league debut in that situation. Then there was last night. The Phillies, and especially Kyle Kendrick got "Papelbombed." That was the most pathetic attempt to close a game I have seen in a long long time. Almost as bad as a Tom Gordon save attempt back when everything had slowed down for him.
You might find it hard to believe, but the Phillies could have swept this series. They could be atop the NL East going into Chicago, who has dropped the first two of their series at Pittsburgh to open the year, and on pace to pick up a few more wins before coming back to CBP for the Home Opener. No disrespect to the Rangers in the least bit, they are a great team, with a good lineup top-to-bottom, when healthy. But that's just it, the Phillies landed in Texas at the most opportune time to steal some wins, but they did not take advantage of the fact the Rangers were missing a few of their key players. While its easy to instinctively lash out at the bullpen for absolutely sucking, there is actually more blame to go around.
More blame to everyone's favorite, Ruben. Why did he neglect to fix a bullpen that was clearly sub par in 2013? Sure the offense was putrid last season, but money was not evenly distributed throughout every facet of the roster. BJ Rosenberg, Mario Hollands, Brad Lincoln? Not the names that strike fear into your opponent. Also, Ryne Sandberg deserves some blame as well. Bringing in the middle infielders with 1 out was also a risky decision that certainly did not pay off. Papelbon, after the game tying hit was sent up through the middle, had a clearly negative visual reaction to seeing where his defense was aligned. Did he not check before? If that was discussed in a mound visit, why wouldn't you voice your aversion to that alignment? There are many many things that went wrong in the bottom of the ninth the last two nights. Blame isn't on one guy, and that is what is causing the most concern.
Now to this idea of a microcosm of a season. It's really hard to say that the 2014 Phillies are not perfectly represented in the first series of the year. Taking 1 out of 3 from a battered opponent, showing signs that you could beat them, then blowing two games embarrassingly. The Phillies certainly have talent to beat some of the more elite caliber teams on paper. Ryan Howard has looked good. AJ Burnett pitched wonderfully, and so did Kyle Kendrick last night. These are all good signs of guys that may have had a question mark over their heads to start the year. The bullpen has looked absolutely horrible, and the man with the biggest contact is the one that all fingers are pointing at, and absolutely should be doing so. The Phillies are the best at giving false hope. Nothing better than getting a lead, the offense going to sleep, then the bullpen called in to blow it. It's going to happen a lot this year and I fully believe that if no changes are made, then we are going to see a lot of games and series in 2014 that look exactly like the Phillies opening series against the Rangers.
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