Chad Qualls says he's not injured, he's just bad

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I’m a big Adam Carolla fan and he often talks about how people who’re drunk or high inevitably claim to not be drunk or high when questioned about their bad behavior. His point is that they might as well admit to being under the influence of something, because otherwise that just means they have no excuse for acting like an idiot while totally sober.
I bring this up because after being stripped of closing duties Chad Qualls said yesterday that his massive struggles this season are not due to coming back from the ugly knee injury he suffered late last season or a new injury. So, like a drunk person insisting that their idiotic behavior came while completely sober, Qualls is saying his 8.46 ERA and .379 opponents’ batting average are simply the result of horrendous pitching.

I’ve never had to go through any kind of stint this long in my entire career. For the most part it’s been fairly easy for me to go out there and get the job done and all of a sudden I have to go over these hurdles. Sometimes the ball runs on me when I get the ball up in the zone, and that’s a reason a lot of guys are getting hits and getting the ball in the air. I just have to go back to getting my ground balls. It’s been a frustrating year. I know I’m better than this. It’ll turn up for me. I know it will. I’ve shown it in my past that I’m too good a pitcher for this to go on.

Taking a deeper look at some of his numbers, Qualls is indeed inducing about eight percent fewer ground balls than usual this season. His fastball velocity hasn’t declined from previous years, but he’s serving up line drives on a career-high 22.3 percent of his balls in play, which is a big part of the reason why his batting average on balls in play is an absolutely ridiculous .474. To put that in some context, his career mark is .305.
Those shockingly bad ball-in-play numbers aren’t even close to sustainable whether Qualls is healthy, injured, or has decided to pitch left-handed without anyone noticing. His season totals are going to be hideous, because you can’t wipe away giving up 26 runs in 22.1 innings, but assuming he’s truly not hurt Qualls is probably a lot closer to giving the Diamondbacks some non-disastrous innings as a middle reliever or setup man than most people think.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.