Well, as improbable as it was, this game did not turn out exactly like Carson Cistulli drew it up. Roy Oswalt did not strike out fifteen batters and hold the Reds scoreless, and Scott Rolen did not hit a home run off of Jose Contreras. And instead of two homers, Chase Utley hit no homers.
The funny thing? The Phillies still won and Bronson Arroyo actually pitched as decently as was predicted. What if Sports had Arroyo going seven innings with a strikeout, a walk and three runs allowed on five hits, and he actually allowed two (unearned) runs in five and a third innings with two strikeouts, three walks and four hits allowed. I mean, that’s not bad for literally trying to predict the future down to the hit batsman. Despite the awesome leg kick, and kicking tunes, Arroyo’s stuff was not of the shut-down variety (two swinging strikes all game). He gamed through it, gritting and grission-ing his team to a lead.
Arroyo may not have been as good as the typical game story may suggest, but the task at hand is to think about this from the Phillies’ angle. And really, was Oswalt’s night deserving of so much better? I mean, yes he had better ‘stuff’ and more swinging strikes (nine of them!) and was right around the zone all night (only one walk, and no pitches that were a foot-plus out of the zone like Arroyo had), but he also grooved a few many straight down Broadway. Those home runs to Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce happened, we can’t xFIP them away despite Oswalt having a decent groundball-to-flyball ratio (6-to-7).
Though Jimmy Rollins was oh-for-the-series, and ‘failed’ once again in a key position (one down, tying runs on base in the 7th inning, the third-highest leverage index moment of the game), his soft flyball to Jay Bruce (a +18.9 Right Fielder this year according to UZR) was muffed about a billion times, and suddenly Rollins looks like a hero to Oswalt’s zero. Seriously, Bruce missed a play he should have had 95+ times out of a 100 (or, rather, 256 in 259 times), then screwed up the throw, the relay was punted, and Rollins stands on second with the crowd roaring. Rollins gets a .352 WPA for the play, Oswalt a -.152 for his five innings, three run effort. Sometimes WPA doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Reds, the better fielding team going in, fell apart and made a division-series-record four errors in a game they should or could have won. Or: The Phillies put the ball in play against a Reds’ staff that only struck out four in nine innings – putting pressure on the defense, which lead to five unearned runs and a win. Two ways to tell the story once again, but as happy as the Phils may be, they have to know that a good amount of luck helped them along their way on Friday night.
In another universe, in another iteration of this game, Oswalt pitched a second-straight no-hitter and the Phillies beat up on Arroyo. Same result, I guess. Phillies up 2-0 and a step away from the NLCS.