Brewers have what Phillies need

Posted: April 11, 2014

THERE WAS A considerable amount of uncertainty in the press box about the appropriate terminology to describe the gesture that Ryan Braun made after he had popped the meat thermometer on the Phillies for a second straight game.

To one scribe, it looked like a conductor directing an orchestra.

To another, it looked like a rapper bouncing with his audience.

One's perspective may depend in part upon one's age. Whatever the case, the message was clear. So was the implication. The National League isn't going to like Braun when he is angry.

It's the second week of April, which means we are still in the thick of the tail-sniffing stage of the major league season. Last night's 9-4 loss to the Brewers did not offer much to suggest that the Phillies are anything different than what we had seen in their previous seven games. They made two costly errors, the last of them a matadorian whiff at a Logan Schafer chopper in the eighth inning, the ball finding some daylight between Ryan Howard's glove and the first-base line as the Brewers took a 5-4 lead that later became 7-4 on the triple that Braun smoked off Antonio Bastardo. A bullpen that entered the night having allowed 11 runs in 19 2/3 innings ended up allowing five more in four innings. Two of those runs were charged to Justin De Fratus, who was making only his second appearance of the season.

But we covered a lot of this ground Tuesday night. Shaky defense, shaky bullpen, not enough offense to compensate, etc. So let's make our focus a little more macro, and talk a little more about Braun, and the Brewers, and the fact that, in the first two games of this series, Milwaukee has simply looked like a vastly superior baseball team. Again, it's early. We're still kicking tires. But nobody would blame you if you added the Brewers to the list of teams that could stand in the way of the Phillies and a postseason berth. Heck, nobody would blame you if you were consumed by jealousy as you watched the way they played over the past couple of nights.

One memorable sequence: second inning, two out, Phillies leading, 3-2. Carlos Gomez hooks a slider into leftfield, rounds first at full speed and stretches a single into a double. Jean Segura takes a strike, then drops a changeup into centerfield. Just like that, the Brewers pluck a run from nowhere.

Power, speed, youth, righthanded bats, and a guy named Ryan Braun. That can take you a long way in the National League, particularly if Matt Garza stays healthy and Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta pitch up to their ceilings. Also, write down the name Tyler Thornburg. He pitched two hitless innings in relief of Garza last night, striking out two while flashing filthy stuff.

Of all the weapons the Brewers utilized, Thornburg might be the kind the Phillies need most right now: a righty reliever capable of efficiently mowing through a high-leverage inning or two in the middle of the game. Brad Lincoln and Justin De Fratus both have allowed deficits to explode over the past couple of nights.

"[B.J.] Rosenberg looked good last night in two innings; his velocity was up," Sandberg said. "De Fratus was a late-inning righthanded guy tonight in a situation. Those are our guys right now."

Jeff Manship pitched a scoreless inning, but Sandberg is going to need more than that. He also is going to need more defense than he has received thus far: the Phillies have already allowed 10 unearned runs, with three more coming yesterday.

Two games into their home schedule, the Phillies have a way to go to win the battle of hearts and minds. From the errors to the inability to tack on runs after a three-run first inning to Antonio Bastardo walking the go-ahead run after getting ahead of Mark Reynolds 0-2, there has been a lot of bad baseball on display at Citizens Bank Park over the last 48 hours.

"We have to tighten it up," Sandberg said.

There really isn't much more to say.

On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy


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