No, Vlad Guerrero would not have helped last night

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Earlier today I observed that the decision to sit Vlad Guerrero and play Nelson Cruz in right field was a good one by Ron Washington, because Cruz got to a couple of balls in the outfield in the early innings that Vlad never would have reached.  One of them came on a ball towards the gap with a runner on base that almost certainly would have scored a run. Another fly out likely would have dropped for extra bases and could have led to a second run. While those plays ended up not mattering a ton given the final score, they seemed pretty big at the time.

Yet Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News thinks that sitting Vlad was a mistake, because it left a hole in the lineup:

Without Guerrero, the Rangers went back to what they were in 2009, a donut of a team. They had a great big hole in the middle. It ended up resulting in nearly a dozen donuts on the scoreboard in a 9-0 loss in Game 2. Sure, no balls bounced around in the outfield and no errors were made, but the Rangers offense offered up only the sound of silence . . . For all the fury in Josh Hamilton’s bat and all the thunder and lightning supplied by Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler in the bottom half of the order, the lineup works because Guerrero gives it real girth.

“Girth?”  That’s a new one to me. But whatever, it’s a pretty empty sentiment here, because Guerrero’s “girth” hasn’t helped the Rangers all that much lately.

Yes, he has driven in some runs this postseason — 6 in 12 games — but he has not been a force or anything. He’s 13 for 49 in with three doubles.  He hit .278/.322/.426 with only seven homers in the second half of the regular season.  If you extrapolated that performance over a whole year you’d have yourself one substandard DH. To the extent he’s provided any girth, it was provided between April and early July. Not much since.

Grant is a really good writer and blogger, but in this case I think he’s doing what I’ve been doing a lot of for the past couple of years: remembering the Vlad Guerrero who used to be rather than the Vlad Guerrero who currently plays baseball for the Texas Rangers.  That latter fellow is someone whose bat in no way makes up for his glove and who shouldn’t get a sniff of the outfield for the rest of the series.

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.