Are the Phillies choking, or are they just gettin’ beat?

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“I feel like we didn’t really lose. We just ran out of innings.”

Joe Blanton, always looking on the bright side of life.

That came from Jeff Passan’s postgame article over at Yahoo!  More interesting than Blanton’s take was Passan’s. After calling the use of Oswalt in relief desperate — and I kinda agree — he says this:

And that’s what the Phillies, an on-paper juggernaut, have turned into: a group clawing for any sign of life against a Giants team that against great odds is making Philadelphia look not just mortal but frightened . . . The Phillies look beat up and beat down. The Giants sterilized their bluster, thieved their momentum, made mortal the pitching deities who were supposed to slay them. After four games, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and now Oswalt all have losses. H20 looks more like H2No.

Yowza.

I’ll go with Jeff on the tone here — there is definitely a sense that the big Russian has been cut and doesn’t quite know what to do — but I think the take on the pitching is a bit off.  I don’t view Oswalt’s volunteering to pitch yesterday and subsequent failure to be his problem nearly as much as it was Charlie Manuel’s. If I were a manager I’d want any of my pitchers to want to go out in any game. It’d be up to me to tell them no, and Manuel didn’t do that.

More broadly speaking, the big three haven’t really failed here. Halladay didn’t have his best game in Game 1, but he pitched well enough. He made a couple of key mistakes and his offense didn’t help him out facing a pitcher just about as good as he is. Oswalt certainly did his job in Game 2. A team with Philly’s offensive tools shouldn’t be resigned to defeat simply because Cole Hamels gives up three runs. Matt Cain just whupped them.

I think Charlie’s moves were regrettable in Game 4, but ultimately, I view this as less as the Phillies choking or being frightened or running out of innings or however else it’s being described than them simply gettin’ beat. I’m not alone in this, by the way:

“They’re beating us.  It’s plain and simple. They are beating us right now.”

That’s Shane Victorino, saying pretty much all that needs to be said.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.