When it comes to bullpen use in Philly, the tail wags the dog

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Twice this past week we’ve watched the Phillies lose in walkoff fashion while their best relief pitcher, Jonathan Papelbon, sat on the bench.  It’s maddening, really, but that’s what has passed for conventional bullpen usage in this day and age: you do not use your closer in a tie game on the road.

Why?  Nothing to be saved! And the closer is there to save games! Never mind that by, you know, not allowing game-ending hits, a game is likewise saved. There’s no statistic called a “save” for that situation, you see, so it doesn’t count.

That’s not an exaggeration. Charlie Manuel, asked about that policy, put it in pretty stark terms last night:

“I’m not supposed to use him … I don’t get a chance to use him. We’re not supposed to use him. We’re not going to burn him out early in the season when we can’t get to him … We never do that.  It’s just not the way it is. Papelbon is in the ninth inning for a save. When we ever have a lead, when we start the ninth inning, he’s gonna save.”

“Can’t get to him?”  “We’re not supposed to use him?”  I’ve never seen such a clear instance of the tail wagging the dog.  It’s your team, Cholly!  You can do anything you want!

I don’t mean to pick on Manuel here, because just about every manager does this.  As Matt Gelb notes in his story from last night, it has become almost unheard of for managers to deploy their closer in anything other than save situations. The teams who get great bullpen work overall get it because they have some awesome relief pitcher who, by accident of seniority and contract, is not officially the team’s closer. Ryan Madson in Philly last year. David Robertson in New York pre-Mariano injury. Jonny Venters in Atlanta.

But Philly doesn’t have that. Not anymore.  They have the most highly paid reliever in baseball history sitting on his keister while people like David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo, Brian Sanches and Michael Schwimer blow games.

Oh, wait. Those games weren’t blown. Because they weren’t lost in save situations. How silly of me.

Nationals, Astros lineups for World Series Game 2

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The Nationals, believed by oddsmakers to be big underdogs in the World Series against the Astros, won arguably their toughest matchup last night by plating five runs against Gerrit Cole in a 5-4 win in Houston. They’ll take a 1-0 series lead into Wednesday night’s action featuring a duel between Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander. Here are the lineups for the two sides.

Nationals

SS Trea Turner
RF Adam Eaton
3B Anthony Rendon
LF Juan Soto
DH Howie Kendrick
2B Asdrúbal Cabrera
1B Ryan Zimmerman
C Kurt Suzuki
CF Victor Robles

SP Stephen Strasburg

No changes here. Manager Dave Martinez is rolling out the same exact lineup as he had in Game 1.

Astros

CF George Springer
2B José Altuve
LF Michael Brantley
3B Alex Bregman
1B Yuli Gurriel
DH Yordan Álvarez
SS Carlos Correa
C Robinson Chirinos
RF Josh Reddick

SP Justin Verlander

Likewise, Astros skipper A.J. Hinch has hardly changed his lineup. The only difference is Chirinos is doing the catching tonight as opposed to Martín Maldonado.

Springer notably did not give maximum effort on an RBI double he hit off of the wall in right-center field, thinking it was a home run. He could’ve had a triple. Springer and Hinch discussed it over the phone late last night, Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller reports. Hinch didn’t seem too concerned about it.