After beating the Rangers in an opening-day score-fest Monday, the Phillies were locked in a low-scoring, bullpen battle with Texas on Tuesday.
A.J. Burnett handed the youngsters in relief a 2-1 lead after the sixth inning, but that advantage would not hold. Jake Diekman gave up the game-tying run with two outs in the seventh before Mario Hollands, making his big-league debut, struggled to throw strikes in the ninth and took the loss when B.J. Rosenberg allowed the game-winning run on an RBI single to Adrian Beltre.
Ben Revere made what turned out to be a costly gaffe on the bases (read more about that below), while the Phils’ bullpen took its first hit of the season.
What we liked
• Burnett looked very strong. His breaking pitches had bite and he mixed his off-speed and fastball well in taming a deep and dangerous Texas lineup that exposed Cliff Lee the day before. Burnett threw six innings of one-run ball in 97 pitches. We all know how important the righty is, and Tuesday was a nice start to 2014.
• Marlon Byrd’s diving catch and subsequent double play in the sixth inning crushed a Rangers rally and epitomized why his addition was a plus this offseason. If Donnie Murphy’s blooper drops for a single, Texas, trailing 2-1 at the time, has two men aboard with no outs and the top of its order right around the corner. Defense — even just one play — can win a game (see story).
• Ryan Howard wanted plenty of reps in spring training versus left-handed pitching. He got 22 at-bats and hit .318. On Tuesday night, he delivered a two-out RBI double off left-handed starter Martin Perez, who was awfully tough against the Phillies.
What we disliked
• Revere was picked off at second base in the sixth inning after originally being called safe before ruled out following replay review by the umpires. The next pitch, Byrd singled up the middle, which would have scored Revere. The Phils then plated another run that same inning. No team is perfect, but limiting mistakes obviously go a long way in winning games. In this case, it could have been the difference.
• Ryne Sandberg has been creative and experimental thus far, which is good. But rolling with Hollands in the ninth inning of a tie game against Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder is asking a lot of a 25-year-old making his first-ever major-league appearance. Baptism by fire? That was it.
• On the other hand, Howard twice struck out against lefties by flailing at off-speed pitches well out of the strike zone. The Big Piece is continually working on his discipline and could be all that more dangerous if he improves it.
In the series rubber match Wednesday night, Kyle Kendrick goes for the Phillies (1-1) and opposes Rangers (1-1) lefty Robbie Ross.