Craig Kimbrel Phillies
You could see it on the faces in the clubhouse and hear it in the relatively brief answers given in front of the cameras. Whatever momentum the Phillies had in the National League Championship Series is gone. 
 
Sloppy play in all facets of the game resulted in a stunning 6-5 meltdown for the Phillies on Friday in Game 4 of the NLCS. The victory evened the series and put the Diamondbacks in a position to take a stranglehold of things in Game 5 on Saturday. 
 
Craig Kimbrel, who just several days ago was fielding questions about the Hall of Fame, came up short for a second straight day for the Phillies. Arizona scored three runs in the eighth, the highlight an Alec Thomas two-run blast that landed in the pool in right-center that tied the contest at 5-5. He then allowed two more runners to reach base before manager Rob Thomson called on Jose Alvarado to try and clean up the mess. Alvarado surrendered a single to Gabriel Moreno, allowing the D-backs to push across the eventual winning run. 
 
"The last two games sucked," Kimbrel told reporters afterward. "I rolled up in here and cost us two games. The bright side is we're still tied at 2-2 and we've got a game here tomorrow, then we get to Philly." 
 
The Phillies were five outs away from taking a 3-1 series lead. Now they enter Game 5 even with a D-backs club riding high on two late victories. Compounding matters is the fact manager Rob Thomson has exhausted the bullpen, meaning Zack Wheeler will need to pitch late into Game 5 to give the Phillies a legitimate shot of coming home with an advantage in the series. 
 
Orion Kerkering, Jeff Hoffman, Alvarado, and Kimbrel have all pitched on back-to-back days, so they're unlikely to see action on Saturday. 
 
"We'll check in with them tomorrow and see how many guys we've got available," Thomson said. "We're certainly not going to put people in jeopardy, but this is a tough group, and they want to play." 
 
Cristopher Sanchez started the contest for the Phils but was yanked after just 2 1/3 innings. He surrendered two runs, one earned. He lasted just 38 pitches, but that was partly due to design as he hadn't started a contest in nearly a month. 
 
Pitching aside, the Phillies made other costly mistakes on Friday. Sanchez missed an opportunity on a double-play ball in the second inning when he forgot how many outs there were, plus Alec Bohm airmailed a ball to first earlier in the frame. 
 
"We have to play better baseball, and that's all there is to it," Thomson said. "I thought our at-bats were good tonight. We did make a couple of good plays on defense. But, yeah, the wild pitches and not knowing how many outs there are, that's just a fundamental error." 
 
The Phillies need Wheeler to toss a gem in Game 5 to give the bulk of the bullpen a needed rest. He's carrying a 2.63 ERA and a 0.70 over nine career postseason starts. 
 
Thomson's decisions regarding the bullpen this series are questionable, as is the reasoning for having Taijuan Walker and Michael Lorenzen on the NLCS roster if neither could contribute in a bullpen game. 
 
There will be a time to question those decisions, but for now, the spotlight turns to Wheeler in what arguably will be the most important start of his Philly career. 
 
"As a starter, I think your goal every time is to throw a complete game with no runs scored. I think that's the goal every time," Wheeler said prior to Game 4. 
 
Ironically, that's exactly what the Phillies may need to come home with a series lead.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post