NLDS Coverage: Phillies in the Driver’s Seat

I think it’s safe to say that the Game 3 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) between Philadelphia and Colorado was not a pretty one… and it was a little painful to watch for those of us who hate the cold. Neither starter – Jason Hammel for Colorado and J.A. Happ for Philly – made it into the fifth inning. The Rockies pitchers appeared to have problems with the cold and issued eight walks in the game. Philly starters gave up four free passes, including two in one inning of work by Brad Lidge. He shut the door in the ninth inning, but Lidge kept fans – on both sides – on the edge of their seats through the entire ordeal.

With a WPA of .430, young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez attempted to win the game all by his lonesome. He has looked extremely impressive in this series, finally living up to the lofty reputation as a top prospect. On Philly’s side, second baseman Chase Utley had a solid game with a WPA of .274. He had three hits, including a solo homer. Utley also scored two runs. Although he had just one hit in four at-bats, first baseman Ryan Howard posted a WPA of .208 and drove in two runs. The bullpen took a potential hit when left-handed reliever Scott Eyre had to leave the game with a twisted ankle.

Game 4

It’s going to be another cold night on Monday evening as the Rockies host Game 4 of the NLDS. It will be a good pitching matchup with Ubaldo Jimenez going for the home side, and Cliff Lee taking the ball for Philly. Lee dominated Colorado in the first game of the series and pitched a complete game. That, of course, was in a more favorable pitching environment and with the home-field advantage.

The bullpens were used pretty heavily by both clubs last night: Colorado used six relievers, Philadelphia used five relievers. Eyre is likely unavailable for Philly. The Phillies still have Pedro Martinez in the ‘pen, who has yet to throw a pitch in the series.

* * *

A couple quick observations from the other series this past week:
1. I have never seen a veteran closer look as nervous facing a lineup as Joe Nathan appeared on Friday. Horrible results followed his arrival on the mound. I couldn’t believe it when manager Ron Gardenhire brought Nathan out again on Sunday after watching him in the previous matchup. I knew the series was over when Nathan walked in.

2. Watching Scott Kazmir in the third inning of the Angels-Red Sox game on Sunday was an eye opener. I can see why he’s struggled at times this year. With runners on second base – first Jacoby Ellsbury and then Dustin Pedroia – Kazmir’s grips on the ball were clearly visible in his glove; I was able to call every pitch without having to try and decipher the catcher’s signal. Not surprisingly, both Pedroia and Victor Martinez swung like they knew exactly what type of pitch was coming.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

13 Responses to “NLDS Coverage: Phillies in the Driver’s Seat”

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  1. Rob in CT says:

    You were surprised that Gardenhire brought in one of the top 3-5 closers in the sport? I was surprised too, only for me it was the fact that he didn’t start the 9th with Nathan.

    Interesting about Kazmir. I hope they don’t correct that before facing my Yankees.

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    • Bill says:

      Yeah, this. Nathan is Mr. Twitchy — he ALWAYS looks nervous when he’s on the mound. He didn’t look any more nervous to me on Friday or Sunday than he always has before. Sometimes you face great hitters and bad things happen.

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      • lookatthosetwins says:

        You read my mind. Obviously Marc hasn’t seen Nathan pitched before. Either way, a writer for a statistically minded website should know better than to make a ridiculous hyperbolic statement like “I knew the series was over when Nathan walked in.”

        Nathan through a few bad pitches and fell behind one of the best hitters of all time, an ended up giving up a home run. You can’t believe Nathan came out again sunday? Jason Kubel struck out 4 times the day before. Should they have benched him?

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      • lookatthosetwins says:

        “the day before” should be “the game before”, but, you know what I meant.

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  2. neuter_your_dogma says:

    “Kazmir’s grips on the ball were clearly visible in his glove.” Were they clearly visible to the the batters (or someone working with the Angels who could have had the information transmitted to the batter who would have to receive and process the information before the pitch arrived)? If not, then eh.

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  3. Marc Hulet says:

    The pitches were clearly visible to the runners on second, who can easily relay the pitch type through hand or body movement…. and in a do-or-die situation, I would be shocked if a team – any team – did not take advantage of that opportunity to gain an edge.

    I’ve seen Nathan pitch quite a few times before but – along with the usual twitches he exhibits – his body language and his eyes both screamed “I don’t want to face these guys…” It’s not previous struggles that would keep me from going back to him… It’s the lack of confidence I had in him based on what he exhibited on the mound.

    As for the “I knew it was over” statement, have you never watched a game where you could just “feel” the moment shift?

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    • big baby says:

      i know clutch doesn’t exist for sabermetrics, but watch nathan/hoffman/wagner in a play-off game, look at their body language, and then watch them groove pitches.

      nathan’s body language went beyond “twitchy.” it looked more like he was having a heart attack on the mound. i can’t imagine every save situation he’s taking 3 deep breaths, doing the thbhtthththtthth sound with his mouth like a horse, and looking like he just blew an 8 ball.

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      • Doctor_teh says:

        Big Baby, as a Twins fan I can say for certain that he does in deep take multiple deep breaths, blow his lips and stare intently every pitch, every save opportunity. It is how he rolls, and according to an interview with him I heard, he doesn’t even realize he does it, which is interesting.

        Just wanted to get that in there.

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    • Richie Abernathy says:

      “I knew the series was over when Nathan walked in.”

      …with the team down two games to none in a five game series and losing 2-1 in the 9th inning of game three. Going out on a limb there, aren’t you?

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      • Dan says:

        yeah 2 out ninth inning comebacks are rare in the playoffs this year…

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      • Richie Abernathy says:

        Dan, you can be my bookie then. You take the team down two games to none and also losing in the 9th inning and I’ll take the other team.

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  4. Dan says:

    ok i’ll set a spread

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  5. TexasRanger says:

    Gonzalez finally living up to his reputation as a top prospect? The guy with a 2.3 WAR in only 89 games? I think we all could tell that he was living up to the pedigree

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