Before Friday night’s game, Rob Thomson was his typical droll self.

While sitting in the dugout, before answering real questions, Thomson was giving writers a lesson in Canadian etymology. The story, as he puts it, is that the term “hoser,” a mildly derogatory term used more frequently north of the border that was popularized in the mid-80s comic flick Strange Brew, often used by Canadian teens to identify someone who is deemed a “loser,” was born from backyard hockey games in the winter.

Because you would need to water the skating surface – to have new ice form over the patches where the ice skates would cut grooves into the ice – the makeshift rinks would have to be flooded frequently. It was a job nobody really wanted, so, the agreement was, the losing team would have to wear their ignominies by also grabbing the garden hoses and flooding the rink.

Therefore, the winners would stand off to the side between games, and not only celebrate their victory, but also rag on their opponents, rubbing in that losing sucks just a bit more, calling them “hosers”.

A few hours later though, Thomson and his team were a bunch of hosers, and some, including the manager, were more deserving of the title than others.

The Phillies once again lost a close game, this time 3-2 to the Miami Marlins. And once again it was a loss in which there shoulda?coulda been a different outcome – the 17th out of 22 losses since the All-Star break where you could validly make that argument.

Many times, when breaking down such losses, there are specific players at whom to point fingers. And Friday was no different. Seranthony Dominguez, Matt Strahm, and Nick Castellanos would be on the “hosers” podium to get their gold, silver and bronze medals after this one.

But there likely needed to be a larger rostrum after this loss to include Thomson – because this was one of those few games where managerial decisions contributed to the L.

And while the decisions that were made were hardly Thomson’s alone, he has to be the one responsible for getting the crimps out of the hose before turning the water on so they can play Saturday.

That’s because starter Cristopher Sanchez cruised through five innings. He allowed just four hits, a walk, and didn’t yield a run. He had only thrown 82 pitches. The Phillies had a 2-0 lead.

And yet, when the sixth inning rolled around, Sanchez was out and Dominguez was coming in from the pen.

You have to know how the story went from there:

But before we breakdown this befuddling in-game decision we need to provide context. So, let’s rewind to just after Thomson’s har-de-har hoser story with the media, when he was asked a few specific questions that would foreshadow this decision.

First, he was asked about his objectives for the Marlins series:

“Win the series,” Thomson said. “That’s about it, but we have the doubleheader (with Atlanta) coming Monday, so that’s in the back of my mind, so we have to make sure we use our bullpen diligently so that we’re loaded for Monday and beyond.”

Then he was asked if he would consider pushing Sanchez a little longer than normal to save those bullpen bullets:

“Yeah,” he said. “It depends on how he’s pitching. We always have the ability to send people out and bring people in (to and from the minors) but we don’t want to do that or lean on that, so if he’s pitching well, we’ll stay with him.”

Got it.

Don’t want to tax the bullpen, and as long as Sanchez is pitching well, he’s not coming out early.

And yet…

It was Dominguez who came in and blew the lead in the span of four batters.

Afterwards, Thomson gave an equally confusing explanation as to why this happened:

“Four righties in a row. That’s Seranthony’s spot right there,” Thomson said. “I think if we would have added on there in the bottom of the fifth, we would have sent (Sanchez) back out.”

O.K. let’s try to understand this.

For as inconsistent as Dominguez has been this season, he has been pretty good against righties. Right-handed hitters are 20% worse against Dominguez than the average big-league pitcher. They are slashing .234/.336/.306 against him for a .642 OPS. Those numbers tell you that the hits he allows are weak contact hits – as the disparity between the batting average and the slugging percentage is low.

So, it makes sense that in such a spot in middle relief, when an opposing team has four right-handers scheduled to bat, that Dominguez would be a good option.

However, that’s assuming the starter has nothing left.

Asked afterwards if he still felt he could throw more, Sanchez was brief.

“A lot more,” he said.

Now, that may sound like he was griping, but he wasn’t. It was a follow up question to one about whether or not he was surprised that he wasn’t going back out to pitch the sixth inning, and in that answer he gave the right answer – that he’ll pitch whenever they tell him to pitch and he understands and respects the decisions when he is being pulled, etc.

But, it’s crucial to know whether the decision was being made because there wasn’t much left in the tank for Sanchez or not – and obviously, that’s not the case:

And it was odd for Thomson to say he would have put Sanchez back out there if they had added on to their two-run lead, but that he would rather Dominguez in a two-run game.

It kind of sounds like they don’t trust Sanchez there, and it’s uncertain as to why.

Let’s consider all of these things:

  • The four righties were 3-for-8 off Sanchez so far, although one of the hits was a Baltimore chop to third base off the front of the plate.
  • In a very limited sample size, batters are just 6-for-27 (.222) against Sanchez this season in the sixth inning or later.
  • In a slightly larger, but still small sample size, batters facing Sanchez for the third time in the same game are slashing .196/.241/.255 for a .496 OPS.
  • Since coming off of the injured list on July 26, Dominguez has just 10 strikeouts in 17 innings, a strikeout rate of 19.6%. His career strikeout rate is 38.8%.

Combine that with what Thomson said before the game and the decision to pull Sanchez is adding two and two and coming up with “huh?”

Of course, Thomson and his staff have to weigh the concerns. One is they don’t want to overexpose Sanchez, who is having a nice season, nor do they want to overwork him. He’s already thrown a career high in innings. And at the same time they want to be careful about bullpen usage.

Thomson admitted that’s a conundrum, but that he expects length out of Aaron Nola on Saturday and Ranger Suarez on Sunday, which would have them in a good spot come Monday’s doubleheader.

But again, why? Why pull Sanchez? It really doesn’t make sense that they don’t trust him to go one more inning against Jake Burger, Bryan De La Cruz, Yuli Gurriel and Garret Hampson, you know, Murderer’s Row.

Perplexing decision number two was leaving Dominguez in to face the pinch hitter Jesus Sanchez, who promptly hit the homer you saw above to tie the score.

Dominguez had faced the required three batters, and Strahm was warming in the ‘pen, and yet they decided to stick with Dominguez, who right now cannot be considered a strikeout pitcher, so you have to expect a ball to be put in play.

Here’s that data that is quite head-scratching:

  • Lefties vs. Dominguez this year – .327/.397/.527 and a .924 OPS
  • Jesus Sanchez vs. Righties this year – .276/.349/.504 and an .853 OPS
  • Lefties vs. Matt Strahm this year – .217/.244/337 and a .581 OPS
  • Jesus Sanchez vs. Lefties this year – .250/.290/.361 and a .651 OPS

“I was fine with that (matchup),” Thomson said. “We had Strahm up for (Jazz) Chisholm. Seranthony had gotten Sanchez out in the past and he has been throwing the ball well. He just left a slider over the middle of the plate and (Sanchez) jumped him.”

Prior to Friday, Sanchez was 0-for-3 against Dominguez. A lineout and a groundout in 2022 and a groundout earlier this season.

Call me crazy, but I’d prefer the stats with a little more of a sample bulleted above than three random outs in a span of two seasons, all of which were balls in play.

The third decision, while not perplexing, is one that probably needs to be reconsidered moving forward – and that’s going a second inning with Strahm.

Since the All-Star break, Strahm has had 13 appearances where the Phillies went to him for multiple innings of relief. In five of them, he did his job in the first inning, but then yielded runs later. In four of the five, he came into the game in a critical spot to get a big out, and then gave up the run after an up down. Let’s look at all five scenarios:

  • July 15 vs. San Diego – Strahm enters in the top of the seventh inning. There are two men on, two out, and the Phillies trail 3-2. Strahm gets a huge strikeout of Juan Soto. Kyle Schwarber hits a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh to tie the score. Strahm comes back out in the top of the eighth and gives up a solo homer to the first batter he sees – Manny Machado.
  • July 25 vs. Baltimore – Strahm is called on in the top of the sixth with one runner on base, two out, and the Phillies trailing 2-1. He gets a big strike out of Colton Cowser to end the inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Bryce Harper hits a solo homer to tie the score. Strahm gets through the seventh but comes out again for the top of the eighth and gives up a homer to the first batter of the inning – Ryan O’Hearn.
  • August 2 @ Miami – Strahm is called on at the start of an inning this time with the Phillies leading 5-2. He has a scoreless seventh inning, but comes back out for the eighth, gives up a leadoff single to Josh Bell and after recording one out, walks Avisail Garcia before he is removed. Both those runners come around to score.
  • August 28 vs. L.A. Angels – With the Phillies leading 5-3 and two outs in the sixth inning, Strahm is tasked with facing Shohei Ohtani. Strahm strikes him out. Strahm coms back out to start the seventh inning and promptly gives up a single to Brandon Drury, and after an out is recorded, back-to-back singles to Luis Rengifo and Mickey Moniak, yielding a run.
  • Friday vs. Miami – Strahm comes into a tie game with two out and a runner on base and stops the Marlins rally by striking out Jon Berti. He comes back out in the seventh and the first batter he sees, Jacob Stallings, does this:

See a pattern?

Yes, the Phillies argument would be that the other eight times he pitched multiple innings, he didn’t give up anything. And that’s fine. But there’s something to be said for understanding human emotion and how that trumps mathematical data sometimes.

Soto. Cowser. Ohtani. Berti. Each of those strike outs was a high adrenaline out where he comes in focused, out of the ‘pen and gets the job done. There’s a lot of emotion behind being able to do that – twice against two of the best players on the planet. One against arguably the best team in the American League, and one against a team playing for their lives in the wild card race.

That shows the value Strahm has. He doesn’t wilt in the big moment. In fact, he excels. He struck all four of them out. It’s really impressive.


Then the guy has to go sit on a bench for a half inning. He has to calm himself down because he knows he has to go back out there. And then when he does, that fired up intensity, while it still burns within, takes a minute to rage again and as a result you don’t perform as well the second time through.

It’s a sugar rush with him. Take advantage of it, but don’t let the crash happen.

Yes, Strahm has a job to do and needs to do it, but the Phillies have to see that maybe after he comes in and gets out of a big jam, that he’s not the kind of guy who can then be as reliable for more work in the same game after cooling down on the bench between innings.

You won’t see that on the analytic charts.

And that’s the thing – these decisions likely aren’t all Thomson. Caleb Cotham has to own a piece of it. The analytics folks have to own a piece of it. And maybe most importantly when it comes to Sanchez, the organizational philosophy has to own a piece of it – because it’s September now. These games matter. The Phillies aren’t going to blow their spot in the playoffs, but don’t give the Cubs too many opportunities or the wild card series will be at Wrigley and not the Bank.

Still, Thomson is the manager, so he has to have the spotlight shine on him the most and has to be the fall guy even if it’s not his specific decision.

Which is why he’s a hoser for a day, too.

Sitting Casty?

Castellanos is back in a funk. After a strong August, September has been rough. Not July rough, but rough enough. He’s chasing pitches again. He tends to chase when he’s behind in the count. So, what he does to counter that is to try and swing at first pitch strikes, so he doesn’t get behind. But, when he’s pressing, his timing gets off and he doesn’t make good contact.

In San Diego he tied a franchise record grounding into three double plays in the same game. He swung at the first pitch on all of them.

Then Friday, the Phillies left eight men on base. Castellanos left six of them. In three of his four at bats he swung at the first pitch. The most egregious was his fielder’s choice to end the seventh inning when he came up with the bases loaded and the pitcher who was brought into the game to face Harper, Andrew Nardi, had just walked him on four pitches.

You can’t swing first pitch in that spot. Especially when trailing.

Yet he did.

“He’s just jumping and he’s super aggressive,” Thomson said. “He just needs to stay back and see some pitches.”

When asked if there was any thought to moving him out of the cleanup spot Thomson refused to answer.

“Yeah, I won’t comment on that,” he said.

After the press conference, Thomson went into the clubhouse and had a brief conversation with Castellanos. Usually that’s to tell a player he’s not in the lineup the next day, but it could also be to tell him they are going to change up the batting order. We’ll see how that pans out.

Lefty Bat off the bench – Travis Sanheim?

That’s not a typo. No, I’m not confusing my two sports. But I am making a little bit of a joke.

That’s because five members of the Flyers were at the ballpark to take batting practice yesterday. Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim and new Flyers Sean Walker and Cal Petersen.

Sanheim was the most impressive. He actually hit two homers. One over the right field scoreboard and more impressively, one into the foliage in front of the batter’s eye in dead centerfield.

I asked Thomson what he thought of the guys.

“All I know is that there were three Canadians and two Americans and the Canadians were WAY better,” he said.