Rob Thomson has been a Godsend for the 2022 Phillies. The team was dead in the water under Joe Girardi, and made an unbelievable turnaround after Thomson took the reins. Under the Canadian’s leadership, the team has gone 51-32, and is firmly entrenched in the third and final wildcard spot. The team’s remarkable turnaround under Thomson has him in line for a good amount of Manager of the Year votes, and justifiably so. However, there’s no getting around the fact that he cost the Phillies a game on Sunday.
The Phillies have had a brutal week, no doubt about it. They’ve lost six of their last seven, and aside from an 18-2 drubbing of the Diamondbacks, they’ve looked absolutely putrid. The offense has sputtered, the rotation has gotten shelled, and the bullpen has been shaky to say the least. The first seven innings of Sunday’s series finale in San Francisco was more of the same, as they were held scoreless by Carlos Rodón.
Then, the Phillies heroics were back. This team has made a habit of pulling something out of their hat, and that’s just what J.T. Realmuto did. The Phillies catcher launched a 2-0 slider from John Brebbia into the left field seats to score Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm, knotting things up at three apiece. After all the lifelessness of this week, it looked like the cardiac kids were back.
David Robertson was able to work out of trouble in the bottom of the eighth, holding the Giants scoreless after allowing runners to reach first and third. After the Phillies failed to score in their half of the ninth, Roberson trotted back to the mound for the bottom of the ninth. This is where things start to look bad for Thomson, as the 37-year-old Roberson had already tossed over 25 pitches in the previous frame. With Seranthony Domínguez on the shelf, Thomson chose to ride his best reliever, and it almost worked out. After rookie Bryce Johnson walked to begin the frame, Robertson punched out both Luis González and Mike Yastrzemski. Things were good when Wilmer Flores stepped to the plate with two outs.
Now, Thomson’s thought process is understandable. He had his best bullpen arm in the game, and he had just struck out two hitters swinging. Flores hits lefties better than righties, so despite José Alvarado being ready to go, Thomson decided to stick with Robertson. And it all came crashing down. Flores hit an absolute missile down the left field line that cleared the wall and not only gave the Giants a 5-3 victory, but completed the series sweep.
It’s easy to second guess in hindsight. Clearly, Robertson was gassed, having thrown 41 pitches in the game. However, he had looked good in that very same inning, and he had the matchup advantage. It’s a tricky situation. There was a real chance that Thomson’s decision would work, and the game would go to extra innings. But, it was still a puzzling move to some. Both Tom McCarthy and Ruben Amaro Jr. expressed surprise at Robertson’s return to the mound, as did many Phillies fans. Alvarado has been nails ever since his return from Triple-A Lehigh Valley earlier this year, and would’ve faced a switch-hitter and two lefties had he started the inning. Most people probably would’ve felt more comfortable with Alvarado starting a clean inning with good matchups, as opposed to Robertson who had already expended over 20 bullets.
There’s no way of knowing how things would’ve turned out if Rob Thomson had made a different decision. The Phillies very well still could have lost. However, when puzzling moves don’t pan out, they deserve to be second guessed. Rob Thomson has been a true hero for the Phillies this season, and he deserves a real shot at a full time managerial role next season. But, just like his woefully inept predecessor, he shouldn’t be immune to criticism when it is warranted.