Phillies (1-3) vs. Royals (2-2)
7:05 p.m. – TCN
The Phillies’ middle relief problems have been apparent from the start of the season. Jeremy Horst, Chad Durbin and most of all Raul Valdes have channeled their inner Chad Qualls, allowing 20 baserunners in seven innings this season.
Sure, Horst and Valdes had success last season, but it was after the pressure of contending had faded. And those two had that success with fastballs that rarely topped the high-80s. When a reliever doesn’t throw hard or have at least one nasty secondary pitch, he needs pinpoint command or luck with his balls in play. Horst and Valdes had both in 2012. Just 21.4 percent of balls put into play against Valdes last season fell for hits, despite his career average to that point of over 31 percent.
The Phils’ bullpen is improved with Mike Adams, but he can only be properly utilized when they have a lead. These other guys need to step up, and soon, or else they may not last long in this 'pen.
Friday’s home opener was the perfect example of why “stuff” is so important out of the bullpen. While Horst, Valdes and Durbin were busy allowing 13 baserunners and eight runs before recording 10 outs, the Kansas City bullpen -- filled with young flamethrowers -- retired 12 of the 13 batters it faced.
For the Royals, it was J.C. Gutierrez and Tim Collins doing most of the work. Gutierrez has a high-90s fastball and Collins sits in the mid-90s with one of the top five curveballs in all of baseball. Seriously … look at this curveball.
It’s not hard to understand why one bullpen is among the game’s best and the other is struggling mightily.
Hopefully, John Lannan gives the beleaguered middle relief crew some rest by throwing at least six innings in his Phillies debut.
Like Kyle Kendrick yesterday and Cole Hamels tomorrow, Lannan hasn’t faced practically any of these Royals. The only K.C. player with a track record against the lefty Lannan is Jeff Francoeur, who is 13 for 25 (.520) with four doubles, a homer and (gasp) two walks.
Going for Kansas City is last year’s revelation, Luis Mendoza. The 29-year-old righty finished 2012 strong for the Royals, recording a 3.22 ERA in September. On the year, Mendoza was 8-10 with a 4.23 ERA.
Mendoza is a three-pitch pitcher -- he has a sinker that ranges from 91-94 and a curveball and change in the low-80s. He threw the fastball a tick more than two-thirds of the time last season, with curves 23 percent of the time and changeups the remaining 10 percent. The curve is his go-to pitch when he needs a swing-and-miss.
Ben Revere is the only active Phillie with more than three at-bats against Mendoza. He’s 4 for 13 with a triple and a walk.
Speaking of Revere …
He hasn’t done much offensively through four games. He has three singles and a walk, two steals, has scored just two runs and, surprisingly, has struck out three times, all against right-handed pitchers. Revere didn’t strike out for the third time last season until Game 11.
It’s a shame, because Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are really producing in the two spots after him. They’re 13 for 33 (.394) with six extra-base hits already.
It’s the nickname of Billy Butler, Kansas City’s DH and best hitter who did not start Friday. Butler will likely be back in the lineup tonight against the lefty, with first baseman Eric Hosmer sitting after a great day at the plate.