Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 Topps #361 Chase Utley

Pirates 11, Phillies 7
Game 77 - Wednesday Night, June 27th in Philadelphia
Record - 36-41, Tied for 4th Place, 9 games behind the Nationals

Vacation Catch-Up - Part 6 of 9

One Sentence Summary:  The bullpen, led by Joe Savery and Chad Qualls, failed to subdue the Pirates, ruining Chase Utley's much anticipated 2012 debut.

What It Means:  For some reason, this loss seemed particularly deflating, more so than other recent Phillies losses.

What Went Wrong:  Charlie Manuel chose to use the bullpen in this game (Raul Valdes started) rather than call up a starting pitcher from Lehigh Valley.  He chose poorly.  Despite three hits from Utley, including a first inning home run in his first at-bat of the season, and a scraping a clawing offense, the bullpen couldn't hold things together.

Savery (2 2/3 innings, 5 runs) and Qualls (1 inning, 3 hits and a walk, and a cuss-inducing two-run home run to Andrew McCutchen) found themselves off the roster following this game.  Savery was optioned back to Triple-A and Qualls was unceremoniously designated for assignment.

Featured Card:  When I think back through the first half of this miserable season, three memorable games come to mind:

1.  Cliff Lee's amazing 10-inning shutout performance against the Giants on April 18th.  The Phillies lost in the 11th, 1-0.
2.  Jim Thome's walk-off home run from last Saturday, giving the Phillies a dramatic 7-6 win over the Rays.
3.  And this game.  Utley hit a perfectly scripted home run in the first inning only to have Qualls and the rest of the bullpen completely negate the good vibes.

The fact that the Phillies were 1-2 in these games in a perfect microcosm of the season.  The two losses listed should have been wins if not for a shaky bullpen and/or an AWOL offense.  Utley's return provided so much needed electricity at the ballpark and among Phillies fans everywhere.  They should have won this game.  They could have won this game.  But they didn't.

Blog bylaws be damned.  Here's Utley's fantastic card from this year's Topps set.

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