Paul Hagen: Don't judge the Phillies by one putrid game

Posted: August 11, 2010

MAYBE YOU'VE SEEN those video recaps that boil nine innings down to the bare essentials, eliminating everything but the pitches that result in something happening. They don't do much for the real fan, who appreciates the nuances and the chess moves that make baseball endlessly intriguing. On the plus side, the action moves right along. You could watch a whole series on your lunch break and still have time left for a piece of carrot cake.

Some games don't need even that much detail to get a sense of what transpired, of course. For example, there was an even more efficient way to summarize the happenings down at One Citizens Bank Way last night.

Start with Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus on first after a leadoff single in the fourth. Cut to pitcher Vicente Padilla bunting, the ball being fielded by Kyle Kendrick, Kendrick throwing a strike to second for the force play . . . and the ball going into centerfield as shortstop Jimmy Rollins fell down after arriving at the bag. Cut to Kendrick trudging off the mound two batters later after a brief and ineffective outing in which he ended up allowing six runs, five of them earned, and 11 baserunners in 3 1/3 innings. Cut to another sellout crowd booing in disgust.

Fifteen seconds, tops, and there you have everything you need to know about last night's 15-9 pratfall against the Dodgers.

Now, that quickie version lacks context. Then again, so did the booing. Yes it was a stinker, but, goodness gracious, it happens. And this is, after all, a team that had won 14 of its previous 17 despite being without Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino for much of that time.

So as ugly as it was - and it was really, really ugly - even the best teams will mix in a clunker every now and then.

The real trick is not to let one bad defeat mushroom into something that becomes significant. Baseball is a game of streaks and slumps. That's especially important as the days and the schedule shorten.

And that's where Roy Oswalt comes in. He'll make his first home start tonight since being acquired from the Houston Astros 2 days before the trading deadline. That alone should be enough to add some pizzazz to the proceedings. It will be his first start for his new team following a loss. And he's also looking for his first Phillies win.

Contending teams generally have a stopper in their rotation, a pitcher who is good enough that his team feels pretty doggone good about its chances every time his name is on the lineup card.

The Phillies have three: Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels. That ain't bad. And they will probably need each and every one of them, because some treacherous curves lie ahead on the road to a possible fourth straight playoff appearance.

Two more against the Dodgers. Then a weekend in New York against a Mets team that has shut them out four times already this season. Then back home to play the Giants, the team the Phillies are chasing in the wild-card race. Then, after hosting the Nationals and Astros, it's off to California to face the first-place Padres and a rematch at Dodger Stadium.

In that time, the NL East-leading Braves play only seven out of 22 games against teams above .500.

There's also the reality that, after exceeding expectations for the last 3 weeks or so, they must be especially vigilant to make sure the cyclical nature of the game doesn't come back and bite them. And the fact that the relievers combined last night to give up nine runs doesn't do much to allay fears that the bullpen could end up being an issue for the rest of the season.

So while it would be silly to suggest that all hope is lost unless Oswalt emphatically ends the losing at one, situations such as this are one of the reasons general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. jumped through so many hoops to get him here. Especially since Dodgers manager Joe Torre is sending Clayton Kershaw to the mound tomorrow night. He'll face Joe Blanton.

Sorry, but look elsewhere for details of Domonic Brown's first major league home run and two homers by Ross Gload. They had little to do with the outcome.

"That's a game you kind of throw out the window," manager Charlie Manuel said. "What happens is they add on and we come back and score runs and it makes it look like you're close to beating them and you've got a chance. We got so far behind it was pretty hard to catch up. I'm not saying we couldn't, but things have to really go good for you and you have to hold them."

In the director's cut, we'll add one more scene that illustrates how poorly the Phillies played. Cut to Dodgers reliever George Sherrill at the plate in the ninth. Presumably, he was told not to even think about swinging since it was his first major league plate appearance. And J.C. Romero walked him.

One piece of carrot cake, please. *

Send e-mail to hagenp@phillynews.com.

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