CHICAGO – The Phillies came into Wrigley Field on the heels of two losses in Texas in which the bullpen could not protect a late lead.
So pretty much the last thing Phillies fans wanted to see Friday afternoon was Ryne Sandberg popping out of the dugout with one out in the sixth inning to remove a starting pitcher who was pitching with a lead and doing quite well.
Really? You’re entrusting this bullpen to get 11 outs, Ryno?
Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Antonio Bastardo, Mario Hollands and Jeff Manship made Sandberg’s decision to go to the ‘pen early a good one, as they combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings in the Phillies’ 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at the 100th season opener at Wrigley Field (see Instant Replay).
The Phillies are 2-2 on the young season.
They’d be 4-0 if the bullpen had pitched as effectively in Texas as it did Friday at chilly Wrigley, where the game-time temperature was 38 degrees with a wind chill of 28.
The offense, a major concern in spring training, continued to click as the Phillies out-hit the Cubs, 11-3. Chase Utley belted a two-run homer to give the Phils the lead in the fifth inning and added an RBI single in the seventh. Utley is 7 for 18 (.389) on the young season. John Mayberry Jr. came off the bench with a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth to push the Phillies’ lead to four runs. Mayberry has four RBIs in two pinch-hit at-bats so far.
The extra cushion made life a little less stressful on the relievers, but there was no denying their effectiveness: None of them gave up a hit. Bastardo walked two batters in the eighth, but kept it together and rolled an inning-ending double play ball.
Roberto Hernandez became the second Phillies’ starter to get a win as he held the Cubs to two runs over 5 1/3 innings.
Hernandez was at 73 pitches when Sandberg came out to get him after he struck out the first batter in the bottom of the sixth.
The decision to remove Hernandez immediately raised eyebrows, but the manager had his reasons.
“I had an eye on him,” Sandberg said. “He hadn't really thrown to hitters in nine days because of rain. He had a simulated game in the cage in Florida, which wasn't real life at all. His velocity went down to 85, 86 (mph). He still had movement on the ball, but they had the middle of the lineup -- the left-handed bats -- coming up so I elected to go with Diekman there.”
The lefty Diekman made quick work of two lefty hitters and De Fratus, who hadn’t pitched since spring training, got the third on opening the bottom of the seventh.
The lefty hitters were a big concern to Sandberg because the wind was blowing out to right at 23 mph. He figured Diekman had a better chance of neutralizing them than Hernandez, a right-handed sinkerballer.
Sandberg said it took no extra nerve to go to his bullpen, though he would have been second-guessed all the way back to Philly if the ‘pen didn’t come through.
“The guys in the bullpen need to pitch,” he said. “It's early in the season. They need that experience. To see them come through, like Hollands two days in a row, that's all part of it. The guys are going to pitch. I've already seen improvement.
“They all chipped in and did a good job with matchups.”
Sandberg managed as if this was a must-win and for him it probably was, though he wouldn’t admit it. These are the Cubs, after all, the team with which he enjoyed a Hall of Fame playing career, the team he dreamed of managing until he had to go to Philadelphia to find managerial upward mobility. Sandberg was part of a Hall of Fame foursome, joining Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins in throwing out a ceremonial first pitch.
“Well, it was Opening Day and that’s a big deal out here,” Sandberg said. “It’s a big deal at Wrigley Field today. It’s good to take the first game and set the tone for the series. We’ll get after it again tomorrow.”
By going deep into his bullpen, Sandberg could have manpower issues in the coming days. The Phils are scheduled to play Saturday, Sunday and Monday before their next off day. However, none of the relievers who worked Saturday were extended much. Diekman threw 12 pitches, De Fratus 13, Bastardo 18, Hollands 10 and Manship 2.
Sandberg heard a few boos from the chilly crowd when he brought Manship in to face the final batter of the game. Sandberg just wanted Manship to get some work before cobwebs developed on his body. Brad Lincoln still has not appeared in a game. Sandberg said Lincoln was healthy. The right-hander was acquired from Toronto in the offseason and was a shoo-in to make the team because he is out of minor-league options.