The story of Tuesday’s game was missed opportunities against Atlanta Braves legendary Spencer Stryder, but the Phillies, after another stellar outing by Ranger Suarez, needed baseball again against the best lineup in baseball.
It’s a daunting task, but it wasn’t an impossible task given how good his bowling has been this year. Instead, the unit gave up three runs in the last three frames, but perhaps things would have gone a little differently if better decisions had been made.
With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Rob Thompson went to Jeff Hoffman’s right-hander to keep the game scoreless against three right-handers in the bottom of the Braves lineup. Right-handed hitters snapped .18/.257/.344 against Hoffman heading into Tuesday’s game. Eddie Rosario, the lefty on a hot streak, would have hit Kevin Pillar in the inning, but regardless, the rivalry made sense when you look at the splits.
Hoffman hit a 2.57 ERA coming into the game, but his rushing speed dropped from about 98 mph during his June 4 appearance in Washington to 95 in Tuesday’s game.
Hoffman walked the first batter to Orlando Arcia and allowed Rosario’s double. Then Thompson was faced with a decision: Take your chances with Acuña Jr. Or walk it up and go to Ozzie Albies batting in from the left side.
There are no breaks in the Atlanta lineup, so Thompson chose the latter and was unsuccessful. Acuña Jr. led the team. On a go-ahead run on a base hit into center field. Another run to score on an RBI groundout came from the Albies.
Hoffman, who signed a minor league contract March 31 and had his contract optioned May 4, is a luxury to be a middle manager. He can miss at bats with his slider and he can get more than three hits on a given night.
It’s not ideal when you have to put it to great leverage against the strongest lineup in baseball, but that’s the situation Thompson and Phils find themselves in.
Jose Alvarado, Junior Marty and Matt Strahm weren’t on the field Tuesday, Thompson said after the game. The next morning, Thompson said he was looking forward to giving Alvarado two days rest after the left fielder pitched two days in a row for the first time since his injury. Thompson wanted to give Strahm and Marte two days off after both players threw “top-down outings” on Saturday, meaning they finished one inning and came back to start the next inning.
There may be an argument that Thompson should have pushed Marty or used one of Gregory Soto or Craig Kimbrel before the eighth and ninth innings, but the front office deserves some of the blame for Tuesday’s missed opportunity.
For weeks, the Phillies have been holding Dylan Coffey in the bullpen as a collegiate relief option. Tuesday marked only his fourth out-of-the-pen appearance this month. When the Phillies acquired him off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was extended as a traditional starter. Since his first solid outing against the Diamondbacks on May 23, Covey hasn’t thrown more than 35 pitches in an outing. It’s fair to wonder how much “big size” Covey can provide the Phillies with and whether the Phillies need him badly since they have other multi-inning relievers and their starting pitchers have been constantly giving them the length.
And while Kofi deserves props for throwing a scoreless ninth inning, carrying Kofi around and not using him regularly for weeks at a time has a cascading effect.
The Phillies had Connor Brogdon and Andrew Pilati, two reliable men finishing in key postseason roles for the Phillies, and pitching in Triple A. A case of leverage when the bulls had to do some heavy lifting against the A over the weekend. The Phillies probably won’t have to go into Tuesday’s game with three relievers if the front office doesn’t feel inclined to continue carrying Kofi for weeks.
You can blame Thompson’s restrictive usage rules, but that’s just the way things are in today’s game. It’s a conversation that rarely happens this year since the Phillies have had a legitimate depth of game in the majors and in Triple A.
The front office deserves a lot of credit for building that depth, but they also deserve blame for failing to take full advantage of it.
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