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Cardinals 5, Phillies 4: Growing pains can be a good thing

Jeanmar Gomez blew his first save of the season as the Phillies let one slip away in a goofy game in St. Louis

You know how you can tell the Phillies are playing baseball you actually care about? When they let a win turn into a loss and it enrages you for any number of reasons. Wednesday night served up a few curveballs at the Phillies, and I’m not referring to pitches from St. Louis Cardinals pitchers. The Phillies lost out on two instant replays in one inning and were on the wrong end of a bizarre sequence in the ninth inning that involved Cardinals third-base coach getting caught in the middle of a rundown at third base en route to a walk-off win for the Cardinals. Clearly, goofy things happen when the Phillies go to St. Louis. This was just the latest.

Adam Morgan was given a 4-0 lead to work with, thanks in large part to a three-run blast from Ryan Howard (his second home run in two nights), but he was unable to shake off a lengthy instant replay that ultimately led to a rally for the Cardinals. Morgan was charged for three runs before getting pulled without recording an out in the fifth inning. The Phillies did get out of the inning with a one-run lead, which held over to the ninth inning. Colton Murray came up big to bail the Phillies out in the fifth and Elvis Araujo and Andrew Bailey did their job to get the game to the eighth with the one-run lead. Hector Neris benefitted from some terrific defensive efforts from Freddy Galvis and Tyler Goedell, which led to Jeanmar Gomez to come in for a save opportunity. It, uh… well, it did not go very well.

But seriously, how does this happen?

This brings me to another rant I have had for a long time. What is the point of having lines painted on the field if coaches are not going to be prevented from leaving them during a play? The Phillies got the out on the runner, but the confusion allowed a runner to advance to third base. That run at third turned out to be the game-winner, although it may have scored on Matt Holliday‘s two-out single anyway.

Gomez has emerged as a quality closer for the Phillies and the pressure was once again on Wednesday night. This was one he would like to forget, but he should not. Gomez managed to get two outs but allowed three hits and walked two batters in allowing both the game-tying and game-winning runs to score. Closers are going to blow games during a season. They are not all going to be Brad Lidge in 2008 or Mariano Rivera. Gomez has been steady in the closer’s role, but it is important for him to take a lump like he received Wednesday night and come back from it with the same level of confidence that picked up his first nine saves of the year. This is a learning experience for him. How he handles it now and the next time he is called on to come out and seal the deal will be vital to his development. Will he come out thinking about letting a win slip away, or does he come back on a mission to make sure that doesn’t happen again. If he has a closer’s mentality, he will be ready to prove Wednesday night was a minor setback at best.

These are the kinds of lessons the Phillies need to learn if they are to build a winning team for the long haul. Maybe Gomez will eventually be replaced when the time comes to nail down an automatic closer to help the team take the next step as a contender. Or maybe Gomez grows from this sort of experience and becomes that closer the Phillies need. This is the kind of stuff that makes this particular Phillies team so interesting. They are winning games more frequently than many expected they would, which can be good for the clubhouse and the nucleus of a team that will be used moving forward.

Gomez wasn’t his best Wednesday. That’s fine. It was one blown save. He gets a pass, so long as it does become routine.

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