Bobby Valentine’s quotes and actions have gotten more erratic by the day. If he isn’t complaining about Alfredo Aceves and the rest of his “weakest roster ever,” he’s making a bizarre in-game choice, like inserting pinch-hitters mid-at-bat.
That’s what he did in the seventh inning of a scoreless game today against the Blue Jays. Valentine opted to stick with a .071-hitting Jose Iglesias with a man on first and two outs in the top of the frame. However, after Pedro Ciriaco stole second base, Valentine had a change of heart, inserting Daniel Nava into the game with a 2-2 count on the hitter.
Nava, predictably, grounded out to end the frame, and the Red Sox went on to lose 5-0.
Now, the Red Sox were 66-80 anyway. They’re certainly at the point of the season at which they should be evaluating youngsters. No, that one at-bat isn’t going to tell us much more about Iglesias than we already know (he’s not ready to hit in the majors), but if you’re going to let him start it, then you sure as hell ought to let him finish it.
Instead, Valentine chose to embarrass his young shortstop nationally. Make no mistake: he knew when he made that move that the Boston media was going to take it and run with it. No, maybe it won’t make Sportscenter, but everyone in the baseball community was going to notice it. Blown out of proportion or not, the Red Sox manager made a statement that he has no faith at all in Iglesias’ ability to hit.
At this point, it’s really a sick joke that the Red Sox haven’t fired Valentine. Everyone assumes it’s coming as soon as the season ends anyway, so why keep up the charade?
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.