Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies had another win slip out of their grasp. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The win seemed more given away than earned by the Braves, following a nightmare bottom of the 9th inning that led to a walk off win for Atlanta. In just the top of the 9th, Bryce Harper had hit a frozen rope into the right field bleachers that put the Phillies up 5-4 with only 3 outs to get in the game. That was quickly neutralized, though, by what happened in the next frame. It was not Corey Knebel, who was signed this offseason to be the consistent closer for the Phillies in 2022. It was not Jose Alvarado, or Seranthony Dominguez, or even Jeurys Familia, all men who are/have been capable of the closer roll to some minor extent in the past. No, Joe Girardi elected instead to go with Nick Nelson, a 26 year old in only his 3rd MLB season that has never recorded a Major League save and has not pitched in the 9th inning of a game in 2 years. Truthfully, it wasn’t a save situation for Nelson because he had already pitched the 8th inning in which the Phillies were losing, but at face value the choice to leave Nelson in that type of a spot makes ZERO sense.
Well, zero sense unless there were reasons why a bunch of other good relievers in the Phillies bullpen were unavailable in that game. Thankfully, we had a wonderful postgame Joe Girardi presser to watch that would have all the answers we were looking for, right? Well, thanks to our friends over at NBC Sports Philadelphia, we were able to listen to Joe Girardi give us some mind numbing reasons behind his decision to go with Nelson in the 9th. When asked why closer Corey Knebel was not available to come in to pitch the final frame, Girardi responded:
“He wasn’t (available), Corey (Knebel) was not available. (Jeurys) Familia was not available. (Jose) Alvarado was available but they had a string of right-handed hitters coming up and Nellie had just thrown the ball extremely well (in the eighth).”
He also mentioned that Seranthony Dominguez was not available, after pitching Saturday and Sunday against the Dodgers. There are so many issues with Girardi’s statement that I don’t really know where to start, so we’ll just go in the order each pitcher was mentioned. First of all, Corey Knebel was not available in his usual closer role because Girardi chose to use him in a 7-4 game against the Braves on Monday, in a non-save situation, in which Knebel threw 9 pitches. It is unbelievable that in this type of situation in a divisional game that Girardi would not change his stance on Knebel’s availability, but it is even worse to think that the decision was made because Knebel was used unnecessarily in the previous game. That is pure bullpen mismanagement. Jeurys Familia is not my favorite option by any means for the Phillies, but the right hander has 125 career saves. He is WAY more used to that spot than Nick Nelson. Jose Alvarado can be a nightmare sometimes, but screw the lefty-righty matchup. Jose Alvarado has 20 career saves, making him more experienced than Nelson as well, not to mention he pumps 100 regularly and is trusted in other high leverage spots. It is an absolutely nonsensical use of the bullpen, and it points to the main issue with this baseball team.
Joe Girardi needs to go. His time here in Philadelphia is played out. This team has missed the playoffs for 10 straight agonizing years, and if losing games like this continues, it will be 11 come October. This team is talented enough, the money has been spent, and it’s too early to make major trades with most teams still in some kind of contention, but something has to be done. I’m tired of watching this manager actively make decisions that hurt the Phillies’ chances of winning. I don’t know the right answer for replacement, and I don’t care. I just want to see someone at the helm who can help this team win instead of preventing them from doing it.