The Phillies’ Bullpen Is Still Terrible

The Phillies’ Bullpen Is Still Terrible

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.

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Best of MLB: White Sox beat Red sox, spoil David Price's uneven season debut

Best of MLB: White Sox beat Red sox, spoil David Price's uneven season debut

CHICAGO -- Red Sox lefty David Price had an uneven season debut while Melky Cabrera homered and drove in four runs, helping the Chicago White Sox rally past Boston 5-4 on Monday.

Price, who missed the first part of the year with a left elbow strain, threw 88 pitches in five innings. The former AL Cy Young Award winner gave up two hits, including Cabrera's three-run homer, walked two and hit two batters. He also struck out four.

Price was in line for the win before Kevan Smith hit an RBI double off Matt Barnes (3-2) in the seventh, tying it at 4. Cabrera had an RBI single with two outs.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia injured his wrist in the first inning and exited in the second. He was hurt trying to beat out a hit when first baseman Jose Abreu slid into the bag and Pedroia fell over him.

Juan Minaya (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning and David Robertson closed for his eighth save in nine chances (see full recap).

Astros use 11-run eighth inning to cruise past Twins, 16-8
MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Beltran homered and singled during an 11-run burst in the eighth inning against Minnesota's beleaguered bullpen, and the Houston Astros overwhelmed the Twins 16-8 Monday in a matchup of AL division leaders.

The Astros combined eight hits, two walks, a hitter batter and a balk in the eighth to rally from an 8-2 deficit. The Twins tried three pitchers in the inning, a day after they used eight relievers in a 15-inning loss to Tampa Bay.

Beltran finished with four hits and Carlos Correa had three, including a home run. Alex Bregman also homered for Houston, which had a season-high 18 hits, 13 of them in the last two innings.

Jordan Jankowski (1-0) got his first major league win with 2 1/3 innings in relief of starter Brad Peacock. He allowed four earned runs and gave up home runs to Miguel Sano and Robbie Grossman but he benefitted from the Houston hit parade.

Craig Breslow (1-1) took the loss (see full recap).

Blue Jays pound Reds, 17-2
TORONTO -- Troy Tulowitzki hit his fourth career grand slam, Marcus Stroman won his fifth straight decision to help the Toronto Blue Jays rout the Cincinnati Reds 17-2 on Monday night.

Justin Smoak hit a three-run homer and Russell Martin added a two-run shot for the Blue Jays, who have 43 home runs in May.

Smoak had four RBIs while Martin went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a walk. Toronto's 23 hits were a season-best. The Blue Jays had a franchise-high 25 hits against Texas on Aug. 9, 1999.

Ezequiel Carrera went 4-for-4 with a walk and Devon Travis had four hits, extending his hitting streak to 13, as the Blue Jays won for the sixth time in seven games.

Adam Duvall hit a solo home run for Cincinnati, his third homer in two games and fifth in the past five.