It didn't take long for someone to make a ridiculous pitch-count move in the baseball season. Derek Lowe wasn't just retiring the Phillies last night, he was owning them. Cruising along with a two-hit shutout, he needed just six pitches in the seventh inning and eight in the eighth. Pitch count: a very manageable 97, especially for Lowe, who had barely broken a sweat. As if to say, "Wait a minute -- let's make this game interesting," manager Bobby Cox brought in his closer, lefty Mike Gonzalez, in the ninth inning, and the Phillies immediately came to life. They couldn't believe their good fortune. Give Gonzalez credit for striking out Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with two runners on after the Phils had cut the lead to 4-1, but for heaven's sake, Bobby, are you kidding? Put down the calculator and watch the game
Lots of brain food here &133;
One, I suspect that Cox might have let Lowe try to finish the game in May but managers almost never let their starters throw more than 100 pitches in early April. [Are you sure about that? -- ed. No. But I doubt if anyone will check.] I wonder how many pitches Lowe threw in his last spring-training start, or the one before that. Not 100, I'll bet. Plus, writers love to focus on how many pitches a guy threw, but that's not the relevant number; the relevant number is how many pitches he would have thrown, if he'd stayed in the game. And that number would almost certainly have topped 100, and well over 100 to complete the game.
Two, I'm not sure if the problem is that Cox summoned his closer from the bullpen, or that his closer is southpaw Mike Gonzalez. Watching him pitch Sunday night, I didn't get the impression that he had anything at all against right-handed batters. But you know, facts are pesky critters. Looking up Gonzalez's career splits, one finds that he's been almost exactly as brilliant against righties as lefties. Even last year, the worst season of his career, Gonzalez was fantastic against the righties; his 4.28 ERA was almost completely due to his struggles -- four homers in 27 at-bats -- against the left-handed batters. So if he's healthy, I wouldn't be worried about him. Against the lefties or the righties.
And three, the Phillies' lineup might look a little better if all those lefty hitters -- Chase Utley followed by Howard and Ibanez -- weren't lined up together. This was much commented about when Ibanez was signed, but is there any good reason for not tossing a right-handed batter in there somewhere?