For much of Wednesday night’s tilt with the Rangers, the Phillies looked like they might be able to handle claiming victory in a low-scoring affair after taking the season opener in shootout fashion. Unfortunately, the patchwork mess that is the Philadelphia bullpen reared its ugly head and was unable to hold onto a one-run lead as Texas took the second leg of the team’s three game series, 3-2. The Phils were able to jump out to a 2-0 lead after a pair of RBI base hits by Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Starter A.J. Burnett would give up his lone run of the game in the bottom half of the 6th and was in line with a win in his first start as a Phillies. The bullpen, which has been an unsolvable issue for this team and an earmark of their recent decline, could not nail the game down for their starter. Following Monday’s 14-10 win in the opener, few were questioning the in-game decision-making of manager Ryne Sandberg. Unfortunately for Ryno, this loss will be the first of many that will test the fanbase’s patience with a manager still without a full season’s worth of games under his belt.
Even before the game, a couple of notable omissions and alterations regarding the lineup brought upon confusion. Cody Asche, fresh off a 3-4 performance in the opener, was given the night off and newcomer Jayson Nix (1-4, 2 K vs. TEX) would fill in at third. Chase Utley would take over as the team’s designated hitter as Domonic Brown was also held out of the batting order until pinch-hitting duties late in the contest. His replacement, John Mayberry Jr. turned in an 0-3 showing and a pair of strikeouts of his own. Sandberg will have to take inventory of what his bench and supplementary players can bring to the table, but one could argue for the value of developing some consistency early in the campaign.
Burnett was solid in his first start against a strong Rangers lineup. The right-hander rarely ran into trouble over the early portions of the contest, and was ultimately able to fight out of trouble enough in his last inning, with a little help from some strong defensive play. Burnett would post a 6.0 IP, 7 H, ER, 2 BB, 3 K final line and, as mentioned before, was in line for the victory.
The lone scoring inning for the Phillies would feature some run-manufacturing that this lineup will most likely have to depend on in lieu of the power display from Monday afternoon. Cesar Hernandez would lead off the frame with a double on a line drive to center. Ben Revere would move Hernandez over to third and beat out the sacrifice bunt to give the Phillies runners on the corners with no outs. Jimmy Rollins would drive in his 5th run of the season with grounder up the middle, bringing in Hernandez from third. The Phillies fell victim to their first replay challenge of the season, as Ben Revere was put out on the basepaths after video review, costing the Phillies another base runner. Ryan Howard would power an RBI double to the right field fence to give Philadelphia a 2-0 lead, before Carlos Ruiz grounded out to end the inning.
The Rangers would get one back in the bottom of the 6th after Mitch Moreland picked up Alex Rios, who led off the inning with a double, from second base. Burnett coaxed his way through the rest of the inning, helped in large part to a Marlon Byrd-manufactured double-play. The Rangers would tie it up in the 7th after Sandberg turned the game over to the bullpen. After giving up a Shin-Soo Choo single to lead off the inning, lefty Jake Diekman was able to get the next two batters out, though Choo advanced to 3rd. Instead of opting for a righty to face the dangerous Adrian Beltre, Sandberg stuck with Diekman and it cost him. Beltre roped a double down the right field line, easily scoring Choo from third base.
The Phillies lone legitimate chance to take the lead came in the top of the 8th inning. With runners on first and second with two men out, Texas reliever Neal Cotts struck Ryan Howard out swinging, stranding the potential winning run. The Rangers would cash in on their prime opportunity in game-winning fashion. Making his major league debut, lefty Mario Hollands would walk Choo and Prince Fielder, sandwiched in-between a Elvis Andrus sacrifice bunt. Beltre would win the game for the Rangers off righty B.J. Rosenberg, singling home Choo from 2nd and ending the Phillies bid for back-to-back wins to open the season.
Kyle Kendrick will take the mound for the rubber match against Texas, squaring off against Robbie Ross Jr., who has spent the last two seasons as a reliever. It will be interesting to see what Sandberg’s lineup card looks like, and how the bullpen is managed as the Phillies try to salvage the series win.