And That Happened: NLCS

Phillies 8, Dodgers 6: We’ve taken your National League division champions and secretly replaced them with the Red Sox and Yankees! Let’s see if anyone notices! Four hours+. Lots of homers. Not my kind of game, but I suppose the Phillies will take it. I had thought that Kershaw would be sharp and Hamels not so much, but I was only half right. Both starters struggled, with such struggles aided by what looked to my untrained eye as a really poor effort by home plate umpire Randy Marsh. Kershaw later said that he “failed to make adjustments” throughout the night. It wasn’t the lack of adjustments to Phillies hitters that seemed to be the problem, though. It was the adjustments he tried to make to Marsh not giving him anything low in the strike zone. He turned to overthrowing and seemed to get frustrated. More experienced pitchers would have probably stayed with their game and kept trying to drop that backdoor pitch down low until Marsh finally started calling it. If he did call it: great. If not? Well, at least you’re not getting shelled for five runs and throwing three wild pitches.

But ultimately this game didn’t turn on the umps. It did turn on the strike zone, though. As in George Sherill’s inability to find it against Howard and Werth. The fastball he subsequently threw to Ibanez was a get-me-over pitch, right? I mean, otherwise, a lefty doesn’t connect against him like that, true?

In light of last night, Game 2 brings a great chance to make Torre look like the goat of the NLCS. The youngin’ in which he placed his trust for Game 1 got beat up. If the lighting-in-a-bottle veteran for Game 2 reverts to Padillistic form, the story of the offday will be how L.A. managed to all but lose the NLCS without Randy Wolf, Kuroda or Billinglsey even throwing a pitch yet, seeing as though they were the dudes who staked them to a big lead back in the spring. I’m not saying it’s a fair storyline — I liked the Kershaw call — but it’ll be out there.

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  1. DaninPhilly said...

    Facinating as I read these writeups.  I detect a consistent tone that the Dodgers lost it, not that the Phillies won it.  Case in point:
    “The fastball he subsequently threw to Ibanez was a get-me-over pitch, right? I mean, otherwise, a lefty doesn’t connect against him like that, true?”
    Is it possible that Ibanez just smoked it after the patient Phillies pitchers drew walks, and that maybe they just won the game?  Isn’t that storyline just as compelling?

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Dan, the only problem with that is that for Ibanez to have smoked a great pitch, you have to assume that in between the ball four to Weth and the home run pitch to Ibanez (which were back to back), that Sherill somehow got it together.  Because he looked terrible pitching to both Howard and Werth.

    That said, just because someone says that X looked bad, doesn’t mean that Y wasn’t good (and to be fair, Ibanez does really well against lefties).  Ibanez did exactly what he needed to do with the pitch.  His own quote was that he was just trying to make level contact, and bam, it went out.

    That’s a smart approach.  But the fact that a level contact swing sent a fastball from one of the games better relief pitchers at the very least suggests that that pitcher didn’t have his mojo fully working.

  3. Megary said...

    According to MLB’s pitch tracker, the “get-me-over” fastball was actually a 74mph slider.  The slight hitch in Ibanez’s swing would seem to confirm that.

    And please explain what, in professional baseball terms, a “get me over” fastball actually is?  Sounds like a pitch in a bad location to me.  I understand when a pitcher falls behind in the count that a strike is required, but major league pitchers should be able to avoid the middle of the plate.

  4. George said...

    Megary- Sherrill had just thrown about ten straight balls to Howard and Werth.  There’s no way that Ibanez doesn’t know he’s wild.  so he should be taking until he gets a strike.  The pitcher knows this, so he’ll throw a pitch down the middle to get ahead in the count.

  5. Drew said...

    Yeah, it sure looked like a hung slider to me, not a fastball.  Glad to see Megary found confirming evidence.

    And yes, it’s safe to say Sherrill didn’t exactly have his game.

    What you have to say for the Phils is that they did a hell of a job to put up 8 runs for a team that didn’t seem to have a huge offensive night.  They completely capitalized on two pitchers who fell apart, and put up some big numbers in a short period of time.  On the other side of the ball, the Dodgers seemed like they were having a giant night offensively, and yet only put up 6 runs (a good total, but not good enough).  Funny game, baseball.

  6. Megary said...

    Unless a pitcher is hitting, there should never come a time when a pitcher just lays one in there assuming the hitter is taking a strike.  Especially to a guy with power.  And I highly doubt that was Sherill’s intention…to throw a “get me over” pitch. Martin appeared to want the ball a little lower and a little farther outside.  Instead, Sherill only missed the absolute dead center of the plate by a fraction.

    He finally through a strike and it was a bad one.

  7. Grant said...

    Orioles fans got fairly used to seeing that version of Sherrill, actually. He’d struggle to get it over, and sometimes he’d wriggle out, and sometimes he’d give up devastating doubles and homers. He was obviously better with the Dodgers, but I think perhaps you’re going to get that against some of the better lineups, and the Phillies have a pretty damn nasty lineup.

  8. Daniel said...

    I don’t know Grant, they put up a graphic last night that said Sherrill had only given up one HR the last 2 seasons (that might have been one HR to left-handed batters, but I’m not sure).  Sherrill’s been pretty darn good, and he’s been death on lefties.  He blew it big time last night with that hanger to Ibanez who did what good hitters are supposed to do with slop like that.

    That being said, Marsh was awful.  I didn’t get a chance to see the fifth, but I did see Kershaw’s walk to Howard in the 4th.  Kershaw made an absolute gem of a pitch on 2-2.  It was a sharp slider that broke over the outside corner right at the knees.  Marsh and Howard both looked at it.  I had to leave at that point, but I remember thinking that if Kershaw wasn’t going to get that pitch, he was in for trouble.

  9. Dan Whitney said...

    In regards to Padilla in game two, Torre has a tendency to go with the hot hand over the more talented players, and Billingsley has been slow to return to form of late. Of course Randy Wolf would be a better option than Padilla, but the only thing I can think of is that Padilla is much better-suited to pitch in Dodger Stadium than in Citizens Bank. Can you imagine if he goes to that bandbox and gets hammered? He at least has a chance in LA.

  10. Megary said...

    Dan, do you (or does anyone) have Park Factors for CBP over the last few years to confirm it is actually a “bandbox” (a term generally synonymous with Coors)?

  11. DaninPhilly said...

    Here’s a site on ESPN with Park Factors

    For 2009, as for the past 2 years, CIT has been more or less neutral, with more doubles and fewer triples each year, and a few more HRs.

    Compare to Dodger Stadium, which suppresses HRs, triples and walks to make it an extreme pitchers park.

    Someday, people will realize that CIT is not a hitters park, it simply isn’t a pitcher’s park.

  12. Daniel said...

    Reputations are hard to shake, and CBP got a well-deserved rep for being a band box when its park factor for HR’s was 1.4(!!!!) in 2007.  It’s still played as being favorable for hitting HR’s the last two years, although nowhere close to that extreme.  What changed between 2007 and 2008?  I think I remember something about possibly moving fences back.  Did that happen?  Or was 2007 just an outlier?

  13. Drew said...

    Funniest part of the game for me was while Broxton was pitching. He tossed a fastball away which was close and it was called a ball. He was upset about it and the announcer said something to the effect of Randy Marsh had called a consistent zone all night and that while it was tight, he had been very fair. Next pitch was as close to identical as I had ever seen. The little circle on the PitchTrax thing completely covered the previous pitch. Strike one. I couldn’t help but laugh.

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