With the Phillies and Brewers basically locked in for their playoff spots -- Baseball Prospectus has them at 100 percent and 99.8 percent likelihood, respectively -- Friday night's showdown featuring former teammates Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum possibly presaged a postseason pairing.
For all of Halladay's dominance of batters this season -- he leads the majors with a 2.12 FIP -- he has been troubled by the Brewers' two main wallbangers: Ryan Braun had a .625 OBP/1.000 SLG mark in eight head-to-head appearances, and Prince Fielder .600/1.100 in 10. For his part in small-sample-size terror, Marcum has had his hands full with the bulk of the Phillies’ lineup: Ryan Howard (.571/1.500, seven PAs), Placido Polanco (.556/.667, nine PAs), Chase Utley (.429/.857, seven PAs) and Hunter Pence (.500/1.000, six PAs). With little room to hide (Utley didn't start), what would Marcum do?
True to form, Pence (along with Shane Victorino) singles. He'll score, as Marcum digs himself a big hole by throwing all fastballs to Howard, who jumps on a belt-high pitch on the inner half of the plate for a three-run blast. Even though it's Miller Park, that might just be enough for Halladay tonight. Indeed, Braun continues to knock Halladay, but Fielder fails to deliver like his counterpart, so the frame ends with the Phils already up 3-0.
Marcum isn't going to let Howard beat him again, and walks him after getting ahead 1-2 by pitching him exclusively low and away. He wasn't about to miss middle-in again, as he had on Howard's home run. He apparently doesn't want Chooch Ruiz to get a hit again, either, and loses him on a full count.
The Brewers still can't convert on Braun's latest hit, as Halladay dances around two knocks and a walk by enticing Yuniesky Betancourt, who doesn't hit many line drives, to ground into a twin killing. Not only does Halladay have tremendous overall command, walking only 1.15 per nine innings, he gets more than 50 percent of his balls in play on the ground. And they usually happen to be the kind that his infielders can get to.
The odds are finally catching up with Marcum, as he yields a double to Polanco. That probably should be shower time, but Ron Roenicke must like to gamble. The starter gets by Pence, but without a LOOGY to use in the game, he's compelled to intentionally walk Howard, then loses a disadvantaged matchup against the lefty Raul Ibanez. Do the Brewers not have any left-handed relievers? They apparently haven't used one since July 10. Can that be right?
The once-dominant Takashi Saito proves too hittable and lets in two of Marcum's charges. With apologies to Ben Kenobi, he's not the reliever the Brewers are looking for. Phils go up 5-0.
Thus empowered, Halladay hits the mound and starts pumping in strikes. Bold prediction: He's not going to walk another guy this game. Hey, when the Brewers reach safely on less than a third of the balls they hit into play (.294 BABIP), the odds are with him. Let them hit the ball. Even when Betancourt drives in Casey McGehee with a sac fly, the Brewers' win expectancy falls (from 5.2 percent to 4.5 percent), because an out is an out. The Brewers are on the board, although even that's debatable, as Angel Hernandez forgets to call McGehee out after McGehee forgets to touch home plate after Carlos Ruiz forgets to tag him.
Fielder makes a fine stop of Victorino's grounder.
Well, there goes my prediction: Halladay walks Corey Hart. I shouldn't be so quick to make fun of Roenicke as a betting man, but it’s no matter, as the mercurial Morgan grounds out. Halladay got her to pull an outside pitch. That's just a joke, Brewers fans. (I got your back, Albert!)
After striking out Braun, Halladay is at 120 pitches. Is it worth letting him complete the game? All risk, little reward for Charlie Manuel.
Enter a man who seems to spell neither of his names correctly, as Kameron Loe is the Brewers' third right-handed reliever to replace their right-handed starter. He promptly mows down Howard, begging the question of where he was in the seventh.
Lefty Antonio Bastardo gives the Phils ace the rest of the night off, but he can't get the job done. Or maybe he just has a deal with Ryan Madson, who replaces him, to get him more save opportunities. The Brewers start threatening, and another out-for-run trade brings them within two runs. Roenicke has to pinch hit for Loe; he might have used Rickie Weeks, who came off the DL on Friday and has had some success against Madson (a couple of hits in six PAs). Instead, he picks the Greek God of Swinging at First Pitches, George Kottaras, who promptly ends the game.
It wasn't the pitchers' duel it could have been, but that wasn't through any fault of Halladay. The good news for the Brewers is that they should have another chance at this come October.
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