Joe Girardi’s Questionable Decision, Bullpen Implosion Help Giants Clinch Series Win

PHOTO CREDIT: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

I like Joe Girardi. Everybody likes Joe Girardi. I also happen to be of the opinion that he’s a fine manager, but I have no idea what he was doing on Tuesday night.

Protecting a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning, Phillies reliever Connor Brogdon had his first stumble of the young season when he surrendered a crushing three-run homer to San Francisco’s Alex Dickerson, one that proved to be the eventual game-winner.

Not good, but what are you going to do, right? Brogdon has been awesome. He wasn’t tonight. That’s baseball.

But Girardi’s decision to leave Brogdon in the game after Buster Posey sparked another threat with a one-out single was questionable. And, as it turns out, his subsequent decision to leave Brogdon in the game after Brandon Crawford followed with yet another hit, well, that one was fatal.

A batter later, Brogdon’s 30th pitch of the inning, which came long after he failed to protect the two-run lead, proved to be a dagger as Wilmer Flores (seriously?) launched it over the left field fence to give the Giants a four-run lead.

To recap, it took just five hits and a walk across the eight batters Brogdon faced to finally draw Girardi from the dugout.

That this sequence played out in front of Gabe Kapler of all people, who sat in the opposing dugout and looked on as his team clinched a series win wasn’t exactly an awesome look for Girardi, either.

Granted, the Phillies’ bullpen entered the game shorthanded following five innings of relief on Monday night and without Jose Alvarado, but at some point, it becomes obvious that a guy doesn’t have it and the manager has to come get the baseball.

In this case, the “it” was Brogdon’s best pitch, his changeup, which was simply not there on Tuesday night. Its absence left him to attack Giants hitters with primarily his fastball.

Girardi’s failure to go get Brogdon despite an obvious lack of feel for his best weapon helped bury whatever fleeting chance the Phillies had of mounting their own late-inning comeback.

To be fair, this one doesn’t fall squarely on Girardi’s shoulders. There were a few culprits in the 10-7 loss, one that dropped the Phillies below the .500 mark for the first time this season.

Zack Wheeler didn’t pitch well enough to protect a four-run lead that should have been plenty big enough. Brogdon certainly wasn’t sharp. The Phillies didn’t score after the fifth inning until there were two outs in the ninth.

There’s lots of blame to go around, so let’s run through the good and bad — mostly bad — of a frustrating night in South Philly.

A Wasted Offensive Effort

For the Phillies’ struggling offense, Tuesday night’s first inning looked a lot like many of Monday night’s nine innings.

It went a little something like this:

  1. Runner reaches base
  2. Runner reaches scoring position
  3. Runner remains in scoring position

The Phillies wasted little time in loading the bases with one out against Giants starter Logan Webb.

With a chance to do immediate damage, Brad Miller instead rolled over a 2-0 changeup into an inning-ending double play that brought the Phillies to 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and a total of 13 runners left on base for the series.

Two innings later with the Phillies leading 1-0, Miller would have an opportunity to redeem himself.

Following a pair of singles from Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto to begin the inning, Miller came to the plate. There would be no runners left stranded this time:

His homer helped build the Phillies what seemed like a commanding four-run cushion, but both his shot and Alec Bohm’s two-run bomb in the fifth would be wasted by a pitching staff that surprisingly couldn’t hold up against a San Francisco offense that began the night as the league’s worst in run production.

Wheeler’s Unusual Outing

For four innings, Wheeler looked like the pitcher the team has seen in most of his 15 starts over the last two seasons, but things quickly unraveled on him in the fifth.

Buster Posey got the Giants on the board with a solo shot.

Later in the inning, Wheeler failed to put away former Phillies legend Darin Ruf, who would draw a key two-out walk that kept the inning alive. The walk, which came after Wheeler jumped ahead 1-2 in the count, led to a two-run shot off the bat of Tommy La Stella on an 0-2 fastball that brought the Giants within a run:

Wheeler entered the night having allowed just one homer to 75 hitters faced this season, but in the fifth inning, he allowed two bombs in a span of just five hitters.

An inning later, it would become three homers allowed in a span of 10 hitters when Posey again went deep, leading me to find this crazy stat:

Despite Wheeler’s uncharacteristic troubles with the long ball, the Phillies still took a 6-4 lead into the eighth inning thanks to a scoreless 1 1/3 innings from reliever Sam Coonrod against his former team.

Obviously, the lead would not last.

They Did Something, Finally

Have a night, Mickey Moniak!

He got things started in the first with a sensational diving catch in the left-center field gap to rob extra bases from La Stella.

Moniak had a slightly delayed read on the ball, but he made an excellent recovery to take away an early San Francisco scoring opportunity. The play also flipped around what could have been a high-stress first for Wheeler into a nine-pitch scoreless breeze.

I don’t want to over-exaggerate the importance of a first inning play — one classified as an “unlikely” catch by MLB analytics service Inside Edge — but given the way runs have been at such a premium for the Phillies’ offense this season, the effort was important at the time.

Speaking of runs, Moniak became the Phillies’ first center fielder to record a hit in 14 games with his second-inning single to left. One pitch later, he would score on Nick Maton’s first career extra-base hit. His double was a big boost for a lineup that entered the night drawing a .217 OPS from the No. 8 spot in the order.

As it turns out, getting some form of production from the bottom of an order helps it generate runs. Who knew?

Harper Stays Hot

After reaching base safely in four of his five trips to plate on Tuesday night, Harper is 9-for-13 with four walks in four games played during the Phillies’ current homestand. Dating back to Sunday, he has reached base in 11 of his last 13 plate appearances, going a ridiculous 8-for-10 in that stretch. Unsurprisingly, his torrid run has sparked an astounding spike in his numbers.

Following last Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Mets, Harper was hitting just .231 with a .798 OPS. Four games later, he’s now hitting .346 with a 1.062 OPS.

Segura Injury a Potential Big Blow

Jean Segura left the game after injuring his right quad while running through the first base bag on a second-inning groundout.

He will have an MRI on Wednesday.

If he misses a prolonged period of time, it would be a big blow to what is an already thin roster dealing with COVID-19 protocol issues and Didi Gregorius’ sore elbow.

Should Segura be out awhile, expect to see lots of Nick Maton and Brad Miller out there in his place.

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