Worley settles in after rough start as Phillies again rout Mets

John Mayberry Jr. (right) is greeted by teammates Placido Polanco and Ben Francisco after his three-run home run in the third inning.
John Mayberry Jr. (right) is greeted by teammates Placido Polanco and Ben Francisco after his three-run home run in the third inning. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 24, 2011

When Vance Worley woke up Tuesday at 1:51 p.m. in his South Jersey hotel room that doubles as home during this baseball season, he put his feet on the floor. Almost instantaneously, the room began shaking.

There must be some fun stuff going on next door, Worley thought at first. But then the room swayed and the 23-year-old from Sacramento, Calif., knew what was happening - barring some crazy hallucination from sleeping in so late.

"That's different," the Phillies righthander said.

Worley doesn't believe much in superstitions, but the way a 9-4 Phillies demolition of the New York Mets began, he had to at least wonder. Yet, earthquakes aside, this day played out as expected at Citizens Bank Park - and that's a commentary on not only the ineptitude of the Mets but Worley's ascension.

New York stranded five runners in the first two innings. The Mets didn't have another runner until the seventh inning. By then, the game was long decided.

The Phillies are a season-high 39 games over .500. They can field a lineup without Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, and Raul Ibanez, yet still score at a blistering rate.

Worley struck out a career-high nine batters, and the Mets scored once against him in seven innings. That's remarkable considering he needed 47 pitches to survive the first two innings. And the last time before Tuesday that he had pitched into the fifth inning of a game was Aug. 5, exactly 18 days earlier.

"After that, I wasn't expecting to go more than four or five," Worley said.

It was remarkable that he held the Mets scoreless in the beginning and even made it through seven innings. He escaped runners on the corners with none out in the first with a timely ground ball and two strikeouts. The second was no easier. Josh Thole singled and Justin Turner doubled. Then Worley struck out the side, all looking.

His success raises the question: How can Worley help the team in the postseason? The Phillies have four established starters ahead of him. They also have an emerging seventh-inning issue.

Mike Stutes was battered again, this time for three runs in two mop-up innings. Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo are rocks at the back of the bullpen. But beyond that, with the news of Jose Contreras' season-ending surgery, what if the Phillies require a crucial out in the sixth or seventh come October?

"We've pitched him there before, and he did a very good job," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We know he can."

Worley could be that added weapon in the bullpen. He pitched in relief twice in May, but that hampered his starting routine.

"Down toward the end of the season," Manuel said, "that doesn't mean we can't put him back in the 'pen if that's what we choose to do."

The secret of the six looking strikeouts Tuesday lies in Worley's sinker, a pitch he said he hardly threw in the minors. For some reason, hitters have yet to track the movement of the pitch.

"In the minor leagues, I couldn't get a guy to strike out looking," Worley said. "Up here, it seems like it's the only way I can get a guy to strike out."

Worley's ERA is 2.65. And while advanced metrics that attempt to categorize a pitcher's performance independent of his fielders rate Worley's actual ERA a run higher, he has demonstrated he can sustain success in the majors.

Of course, he has yet to crack 100 innings this season, and even one season's worth of data is hardly an applicable sample size. (See Happ, J.A.) But as the season deepens, the easier it is to see Worley has the tools to succeed at this level.

Now the Phillies must decide how he best helps them come October.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.


 

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