In a surprising turn of events, manager Rob Thomson’s bullpen decisions in Game 4 of the NLCS between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks have come back to haunt him. Both Orion Kerkering and Craig Kimbrel had disastrous performances in the late innings, resulting in a 6-5 loss for the Phillies and a tied series heading into Game 5. This outcome could potentially impact Game 5, where Zack Wheeler is set to pitch.
BULLPEN MELTDOWN: Bullpen blows it, D’backs rally to beat Phillies 6-5 in NLCS Game 4
Interestingly, Thomson had other options at his disposal before resorting to Kerkering and Kimbrel. Both Taijuan Walker, the team’s top pitcher this season, and Michael Lorenzen, who has thrown a no-hitter, could have been brought in as relief pitchers after Cristopher Sanchez was removed in the third inning. By utilizing either one of them, the Phillies could have potentially avoided the meltdown and maintained their 5-2 lead heading into the seventh inning.
If Walker or Lorenzen had been chosen, Thomson could have relied on more trusted relievers like Jeff Hoffman, Seranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto, and Jose Alvarado in the later innings. However, Thomson opted for the bullpen instead, leading to the disastrous outcome.
Taijuan Walker is making $72 million. Why can’t he get into a game?
One may wonder why Thomson didn’t utilize Walker, who was signed for a hefty four-year, $72 million contract precisely for situations like this − to provide stability and eat innings. Even if Thomson was hesitant to bring Walker in with an out and a runner on third base in the third inning, he could have used Hoffman to finish the inning before bringing in Walker for the fourth.
On the other hand, Lorenzen has extensive experience as a reliever and has been used in that role frequently in September. Despite these options, Thomson chose not to turn to either Walker or Lorenzen.
Thomson later explained in a press conference, “Well, both those guys are the length guys really. That’s how I see it. And Taijuan is really ready for extra innings if we need it, or early in the game if we get down or we have a big lead. And kind of the same thing with Lorenzen.”
Unfortunately, with the bullpen struggling and the starters not utilized, the consequences were significant. Several relievers, including Kimbrel, Kerkering, and Hoffman, might not be available for Game 5 due to their excessive pitch counts in the previous games. Even Alvarado, the top reliever, might not be fully ready after pitching in consecutive games. This leaves Thomson with limited options, possibly relying on Dominguez, Soto, and potentially Suarez, who pitched in Game 3.
Thomson said, “We’ll check in with them tomorrow and see how many guys we’ve got available. We’re certainly not going to put people in jeopardy, but this is a tough group, and they want to play.”
In addition to the bullpen concerns, the Phillies heavily rely on Wheeler to pitch deep into Game 5, as he has done throughout the postseason. Wheeler’s performance will be crucial as he takes on the responsibility of being the team’s ace.
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected]. Follow on X @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Phillies vs Diamondbacks: Live analysis, updates in NLCS Game 5
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