The Phillies bullpen once against cost the Phillies a win, thanks to an eighth implosion from Antonio Bastardo on Sunday afternoon that allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to take the first game of the day-night double header.
It's been a running theme on this blog throughout the season, but the Phillies bullpen has, without question, been their Achilles heel this season. And with the exception of two or three arms, it's a problem that seems to rear its hideous head no matter who gets the ball in the late innings.
And in my opinion, this particular meltdown could have been avoided.
With the Phillies leading, 1-0, heading into the top of the eighth, Charlie Manuel had few options, thanks to needing to use the 'pen for six innings on Saturday, after starter Kyle Kendrick only made it through four. And with a night-game looming, he had to be very careful with how he used what remaining bullets he had.
Given that, he could have stayed with starter Cole Hamels, who threw 111 pitches through seven shutout innings, where he walked three and allowed three hits. In this day and age of babying pitchers, maybe it's too much to ask a starter to throw that many, but with a one run lead to protect, Hamels may have been the best bet.
He also could have went with some combination of Jake Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg (who was called up for the double header) or Michael Schwimer, where he could have used righty-righty and lefty-lefty matchups to get through the Rays' lineup. It's probably not the preferred way to go in a one run game, but it was a choice.
Instead, Manuel decided on using Antonio Bastardo in his usual role as setup man. Ordinarily, it's the right move, given that he's been very good this year (2.66 ERA and 12.9 K/9 before Sunday's game), and that he is no stranger to being a setup man. However, considering that he threw 29 pitches the day before in 1.1 innings of work, where he allowed one run on four hits, it is certainly worth debating whether or not he could work a second day in a row, given the circumstances.
The result? Not so good. Bastardo walked two of the first three batters he faced, before giving up a go-ahead three run homer to Carlos Pena, which would prove to be enough offense to give the Rays the victory.
Is it a case of Sunday afternoon quarterbacking, where hindsight is 20/20? Perhaps. I boldly tweeted that Hamels should return for the eighth before he was removed from the game, because he is a better option on 111 pitches than anyone else in the 'pen, but I'm only writing this because Bastardo blew it.
Regardless, the bullpen once again failed to protect a late lead, and the Phillies suffered for it. And unlike on Saturday, there were no late inning heroics, and the Phillies once again find themselves at the bottom of the division.