Griffin: Baker strategy sabotaged by Reds defence in Game 2
The reality of the moment heading into Game 3 for Reds' manager Dusty Baker was that he needed only a split in the first two games in Philadelphia to give himself a real shot at winning the NLDS. As such, his purposeful strategy was to hold back starter Bronson Arroyo, his top winner and the only man in his rotation with significant post-season experience, keeping him away from the aura of Roy Halladay, instead throwing Edinson Volquez into Doc's waiting room to nowhere. It almost worked save for the Reds' unexpectedly shoddy defence. Now playing twice at home, they are pretty much toast.
When you look closely at Scott Rolen when he is not in the spotlight, either hitting or making a play, he looks like he's very hurt. He has always had lower back issues and he is doing a lot more grimacing than his normal intensity produces. Then add to that his horrible 0-for-7 at the plate in two games and his iffy glove work and it makes sense. Following the off-day workout between Games 1-2 Rolen did not make an appearance at his locker for the first hour after the workout ended. He was getting treatment.
But Rolen in Game 2 was a significant part of the huge snowball of defensive gaffes that sabotaged Baker's strategy. It's not just the runs that score, it's the extra pitches that are made and turning the batting order over so that the best hitters get more at-bats.
The debacle started maybe just coincidentally after Orlando Cabrera hurt his oblique turning a double play to end the Phillies' fourth. In the fifth, Brandon Phillips raced to his left and made an awkward slide on a groundball by Domonic Brown for an error putting runners at first and second. Then Rolen squared up defensively on a high hopper by Placido Polanco that caught him in the midsection for a second Reds' error. loading the bases. Chase Utley singled home two runs to make it a 4-2 game. The comeback was on.
In the sixth, the pitchers had no one to blame but themselves, with two walks and two hit batters producing a third run -- but those particular Phillies guys would not have been up if not for the errors back in the fifth. Finally, in the seventh came the well-documented meltdown of leather that has virtually knocked the Reds out of these playoffs.
First Rolen makes a poor decision on a fielder's choice with Utley safe at second. Then comes the Stevie Wonder moment in right field for Jay Bruce, blinded by the light, flailing at ghosts and on the same play, after the ball was quickly recovered, having Phillips bobble the relay with a clear shot at Jayson Werth coming around third. Go-ahead run.
"It is a tough spot, but it's not impossible," Baker said at the off-day workout. "All things are possible through faith and perseverance. I've been in this situation, down 2-1, down three (runs) with three (innings) to go. Arroyo was in Boston when they were down 3-0 in a best-of-seven and they came back and won four. The hardest thing is to win one. And you win one, and you got yourself some action. And we've got our backs up against the wall, but this club performs well with our backs up against the wall. That's the kind of club we have. I wish we didn't always have our backs against the wall, but, you know, we've been there before, not necessarily in elimination, but we're just trying to get one (win)."
A thread that runs throughout pro sports, especially in the playoffs, is that if you give a game away that you should haver won, it is very difficult to overcome, especially against a superior opponent. The Phillies are the superior opponent, but it doesn't necessarily mean they were going to win the series, especially a best-of-five. Now the Reds have to win three in a row against Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. It's not going to happen. We'll give the profound country philosopher Manuel the final word.
"Sometimes when you play and when you look and say, 'There is no way that can happen,' the more I think about it and the longer I've been in the game and how we talk about the day-to-day thing and how we're going to play on that day, it can happen," Manuel reasoned, then added: "It ain't goin' to happen, but it can happen."
The Reds have a backs-to-the-wall chance to stretch this series to four games with Johnny Cueto facing Cole Hamels on Sunday, but to win the series? No! They lost that chance in the blinding lights of Citizens Bank Park on Friday.