The Phillies lost 12 games that they led going into the eighth inning in 2012, which had they won even two-thirds of those would have been good enough to make the playoffs. So Ruben Amaro Jr. signed free agent Mike Adams, setup man extraordinaire, and checked one problem off of his list.
Adams just picked up his fourth loss of the season though, most among Phillies relievers. On top of battling injuries for the past month, he’s been far from automatic since coming over from Texas, and it’s only gotten worse. The 34-year-old righthander was charged with runs in six of his last eight appearances, growing his earned run average to 4.22 in the process.
Neither Adams nor the Phils’ bullpen as a whole are entirely to blame for Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Twins. Cole Hamels lasted just six innings, and while he wasn’t ineffective in the seven-hit-two-run effort, we’ve come to expect he go deeper than that. Of course, the larger issue yet again was the ongoing lack of support at the plate.
Still, no sooner did the Fightins knot the score in the top of the eighth inning was Adams with the assistance of Antonio Bastardo able to give the lead right back in the bottom half. This and sights like it – inability to hold tight leads or even keep games close – have remained all-too-familiar problems in 2013.
With an ERA of 4.48, Philadelphia’s bullpen ranks 28th out of 30 Major League teams in 2013, which believe it or not is worse than it was one year ago when they finished 21st with a downright pleasant-by-comparison 3.94. Only the Mets and Astros have leakier pens, a pair of clubs whose combined records equate to a .360 winning percentage.
Yes, that the bullpen has not been very good probably goes without saying. It’s been bad for so long, this hardly comes as some kind of revelation.
What makes this so upsetting is the bullpen was supposed to be improved.
Obviously Adams, thought to be a major fix heading into the season, has been a letdown. He’s not been completely healthy, so maybe he gets something of a pass. Regardless, the lack of stability at the back end changed the outlook dramatically. If Adams isn’t the guy to get the Phillies to Jonathan Papelbon, they’re essentially in the exact same boat as last year.
It’s not like anybody else is stepping up. Bastardo has been better, but still inconsistent. Phillippe Aumont was sent back to Triple A to work on his command. Justin De Fratus has allowed runs to score – inherited or otherwise – in four of his last nine outings. Jeremy Horst plain isn’t hacking it. And the jury is still out on Michael Stutes, but he hasn't exactly looked dominant.
Only Papelbon has consistently gotten the job done, and he pitches almost exclusively in the ninth inning. Pap's 11 saves in 11 opportunities this season are merely good for ninth in the National League.
Part of the problem is usage, and that falls squarely on Charlie Manuel. Manuel has misread situations on a number of occasions this season already, which again isn’t exactly a new trait for the Phils' skipper. Even last night's move for Bastardo, while it got the lefty-on-lefty matchup Charlie apparently wanted for Justin Morneau, came right after Adams had just recorded back-to-back outs and seemed to be getting settling in. Wasn't that exactly the type of situation Adams was brought here for?
Plus Manuel might as well have been waving a white flag any time Chad Durbin (released) or Raul Valdes (demoted) entered a game, all 26 appearances between the two of them.
It’s also true Charlie doesn’t exactly have a lot to work with here. If Adams isn’t able to get the Phillies three outs, and none of the young arms are capable of getting it done on a consistent basis either, where does the club go from here?
Tumbling further out of the playoff race I suppose.