July 24 2006

The Phillies are playing without a net these days, but they could have used one last night.  Surprisingly they needed one despite playing against an Atlanta team that was without their two best hitters, in a game where Brett Myers pitched great and the Phillies banged out 11 hits. 

If you're looking for a bright spot, they don't have far to fall.

After the team has been put together, the lineup written out, the starting pitcher determined and the game starts it's pretty hard for a manager to make a decision that costs a team the game.  After that the manager usually makes decisions that tip the odds in or against their team's favor by tiny percentages.  Anything Charlie does in a game is a tiny decision compared to say, letting Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd combine to make 26 starts.  Charlie Manuel stuck with his starting pitcher an inning too long last night.  It was a bad decision.  It didn't cost the Phillies the game, but just moments after it was made the game was lost without being over.  Bringing Myers back for one more inning could have been overcome -- he could have thrown a 1-2-3 ninth.  Or Gordon could have kept the Braves off the board after Myers left and the Phillies could have tied or gone ahead in the bottom of the inning.  None of those things happened.

The Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves last night.  The 5-1 loss drops them to 44-51 on the year and they join the Marlins at 13 1/2 games behind the Mets and a full game behind the Braves.  Eight teams are ahead of them in the Wild Card hunt and they trail the Reds by six full games.  There are three teams in the National League with a record that's worse than the Phillies (Nats, Cubs and Pirates).

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and was excellent.  He went eight innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out seven.  He pitched far better than his line.

Through the first three innings Myers had allowed just one hit while striking out six.  He went into the top of the fourth with a 1-0 lead and gave up a leadoff home run to Edgar Renteria before getting the next three to end the inning. 

With the score still tied at 1-1 in the top of the fifth, Myers gave up a leadoff double to LaRoche but got out of the inning.  Thorman followed and failed to move him to third with a strikeout, and Langerhans flied to left before the pitcher Ramirez grounded out to end the inning. 

Myers got 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh.  He got another 1-2-3 inning in the eighth after running a full count on leadoff man Scott Thorman.

And then he returned for the ninth.  He entered in a tie game, having thrown 95 pitches.  The pen was rested, having thrown one inning in the last three days.  Myers had thrown a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth, but hadn't looked real impressive doing it.

Marcus Giles led off with a walk, the only walk Myers allowed on the day.  Edgar Renteria tried to bunt, but after he fouled his second attempt off he swung away and doubled to left, scoring Giles from first to put the Braves up 2-1.  Tom Gordon entered the game and got Betemit to fly out for the first out of the inning.  He then intentionally walked Brian McCann to set up the three-run homer from Francouer.  It was 5-1 Braves and Gordon got the next two to end the frame.

The Phillies lineup against lefty Horacio Ramirez went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Lieberthal.  Nothing new here except it's not clear to me what the new pattern is for which catcher is starting when.  Lieberthal caught this game but I suspect the reason why had more to do with Myers on the mound than with the lefty on the hill for the Braves.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the first before getting their only run of the game in the bottom of the second.  Three of the first four Phillies singled in the bottom of the second, loading the bases with one out for Lieberthal.  Lieberthal hit a soft ground ball to short, Renteria got him at first for the out but Burrell came in to score and put the Phillies up 1-0.  Myers followed, grounding out with runners on second and third to end the inning.

In the game the Phillies managed just one run on 11 hits and the score stayed tied at 1-1 until the ninth.  They had just one walk and one extra-base hit, a double by Utley.  Utley's double came with one out in the third and the Phillies failed to score when Abreu struck out behind him and Burrell grounded out to end the inning.

Ryan Howard led off the fourth with a single, but Rowand followed him by grounding into a double-play.  Bell singled with the bases empty but Lieberthal lined out to Thorman in left to end the inning.

Rollins hit a one-out single in the fifth but was stranded at second on an Utley ground out to third and an Abreu strikeout.

In the sixth they had a single and a walk, putting runners on first and second with one out and the super-hot David Bell at the plate.  Bell scorched a ground ball to third, but Betemit made a nice play to start an inning-ending double-play.

Then there was the seventh. Still in a 1-1 game, Mike Lieberthal led off with a single.  Brett Myers hit for himself, took a ball and bunted one foul, then, in what he would later say was a missed sign, swung away into a double-play.  Rollins followed with a single, but it was two outs and a runner on first rather than one out and the Phillies up by a run.  Utley grounded out to end the inning.

Lefty Macay McBride started the eighth for the Braves.  Abreu led off with a hit to right-center, but was out trying for second with the score still tied at 1-1.  The ball beat Abreu by a lot, it was a great throw from Francoeur, but replays showed Abreu might have gotten his hand in.  Alas, not to be.  Burrell was next and he struck out against the lefty, and Howard followed that with another strikeout to end the inning.  It was the second straight inning where an aggressive play didn't work out for the Phils -- whether it was a missed sign or not I don't mind either Myers swinging away or Abreu going for two.  Didn't work out, however.

The Phillies went down 5-1 in the top of the ninth and went 1-2-3 against new Brave Bob Wickman in the bottom of the inning.

Rollins was 2-for-4.  Utley 1-for-4 with a strikeout. 

Abreu was 1-for-4 and struck out twice.  His slugging percentage continues to tail off, he's at just .350 for July and .448, worst of his career in any season with 200 at-bats, for the year.

Burrell was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.  The Phils needed him against the lefty.  He's 1-for-his-last-13 with a single and five strikeouts.

Howard was 3-for-4 with three singles and a strikeout. 

Rowand 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.  He's 1-for-his-last-17.

If you've been wondering what David Bell has been doing for the last year and a half apparently the answer is learning how to dink the ball into right field as part of his mad plan to rule the galaxy.  He had two more hits last night, going 2-for-4.   He did hit into one of three Phillies double-plays, but he really scorched the ball at Betemit in that at-bat.  He's up to 286/353/405 on the year and crazy hot of late, 16-for-his-last-29 (.552).  He's mixed in more than the occasional non-dink as well, slugging .619 in 63 July at-bats.

Lieberthal was 1-for-3 with an RBI. 

The Phillies can still take the series with a win in the final game.  Cole Hamels faces Tim Hudson.  

Randy Wolf will return to the team to make a start in one of the two games in Sunday's (July 30) double-header with the Fish.

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