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September 19 2006

You couldn't ask for a much better setup for the Phillies last night.  A genuine playoff race.  Thousands of screaming fans twirling their towels.  They were facing 24-year-old Sean Marshall, who took the hill for the worst team in the league.  And it all went very bad very quickly.  Jon Lieber had a horrendous start and the Phillies found themselves in an 8-0 hole that all the Jose Hernandez grand slams they could muster couldn't dig them out of.

The Phillies lost to the Cubs last night, falling 11-6 to drop to 77-73 on the year.  With a dramatic win the Dodgers are again the leaders in the NL West, with the Padres dropping into second place and the Wild Card lead.  San Diego is 1 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies.  The Mets have clinched the NL East.   

Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies and was wretched.  He went 2 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits.  Three of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and two home runs.

In the first, Cubs leadoff man Juan Pierre reached when Lieber couldn't handle a ball hit back to him.  Pierre promptly stole second.  Ryan Theriot hit a ball out in front of the plate that Coste couldn't handle.  Theriot was safe at first with a single while Pierre went to third.  Ramirez hit a three-run homer, putting the Cubs up 3-0.  Lieber got the next three to end the inning.

Things seemed better in the second as Lieber set the Cubs down 1-2-3.  Less so in the third.  Pierre led off with a home run.  4-0.  Theriot doubled and scored on a single by Ramirez, making the score 5-0 as Ramirez went to third on a throwing error by Nunez.  Lieber got the lefty Jones to pop to short for the first out and the Phillies went to lefty Brito, who set down Angel Pagan and Scott Moore to end the inning.

Brito returned for the fourth.  Ronny Cedeno led off with a single, but the pitcher Marshall was next and he bunted with the Phillies getting Cedeno at second.  Pierre flew out to right for the second out of the inning.  Brito walked Theriot, setting up another three-run homer for Aramis Ramirez, which made the score 8-0.  Jacque Jones singled before Brito got Pagan to pop to second to end the inning.

The Phillies scored six in the bottom of the fourth to get back in the game at 8-6.  Brian Sanches came in to pitch the top of the fifth.  After getting the leadoff man, Scott Moore homered to put the Cubs up 9-6.  Sanches gave up a two-out double to pinch-hitter Buck Coats, but got Pierre to end the inning.

Rick White pitched the sixth.  He gave up a one-out single to Ramirez before walking Jones to put runners on first and second with one out.  White got Pagan and Henry Blanco to end the inning.

Aaron Fultz pitched the seventh and gave up a two-out single to pinch-hitter Geovany Soto.  Pierre grounded to third to end the inning.

Clay Condrey started the eighth for the Phillies, appearing in his first game with the team since June 28.  Theriot led off with a single and stole second.  Ramirez was next and grounded to second, sending Theriot to third.  Matt Smith came in for the Phils with the lefty Jacque Jones at the plate and again did a tremendous job, getting out of a runner on third with one down situation.  He struck out Jones for the second out and got Pagan to ground to short to end the inning.

Ryan Madson pitched the ninth.  He gave up a one-out single to Moore and Ronny Cedeno followed with a triple that scored Moore and made the score 10-6 Cubs.  Pinch-hitter Matt Murton followed with a single that scored Cedeno and made it 11-6 with one out and Cedeno on first.  Madson stayed in and got Pierre and Theriot to end the inning.  Over his last ten games Madson has now allowed ten runs on 17 hits in 9 1/3 innings.  That's a lot of hits.  On the year, righties are hitting .343 against him.

The Phillies lineup against lefty Sean Marshall went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Conine (6) Burrell (7) Coste (8) Nunez.  Conine hits fifth instead of Burrell against the lefty.  I expect that by the end of the year Howard's numbers hitting in front of Conine are going to be significantly worse than his numbers while hitting in front of Burrell.  Nunez plays third instead of Hernandez against the lefty.  Both awful on the part of Manuel.  More awful, but perhaps not as much Manuel's fault:  Coste catches Lieber, who prefers to throw to anyone but Lieberthal, despite Lieberthal's three extra-base hits on Sunday. 

In the first, the Phillies got a one-out walk from Victorino, but Utley struck out and Howard grounded out to end the inning.

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the second.  Nunez led off the third with a single, but Brito, Rollins and Victorino went down in order.

Utley flew out to right to start the fourth inning with the Phillies down 8-0.  Howard was hit by a pitch.  Conine and Burrell both singled to load the bases, and with Coste at the plate a passed ball advanced the runners and put the Phils on the board at 8-1.  Coste singled, scoring another, to make it 8-2 with runners on first and third with one down.  Nunez walked to load the bases, and Jose Hernandez hit a grand slam to make it 8-6 Cubs.  Rollins followed with a walk, but Victorino flew out to left before Utley walked, putting runners on first and second with two down for Howard.  Howard struck out to end the inning.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the fifth and again in the sixth.  In the seventh, Utley singled with one out but Howard and Conine both struck out to end the inning.

Nunez doubled with two-outs in the eighth and the Phillies down 9-6, but the pinch-hitter Dellucci struck out to end the inning.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the ninth.

Rollins 0-for-4 with a walk.

Victorino 0-for-4 with a walk and looked to be having a problem with his left wrist or forearm.

Utley 1-for-4 with a walk.

Howard 0-for-3, struck out twice and left a team-high four men on base.

Conine was 1-for-4.  Burrell was 1-for-4. 

Coste was 1-for-4 with an RBI.  The Cubs stole three bases against him without being caught.  Coste has thrown out 6-of-27 (22.2%) attempted base-stealers this year. 

Nunez was 2-for-3 with a walk and a double, which was the only extra-base hit for the Phillies other than the Hernandez grand slam.  He shouldn't have been in the game.

If ever a team needed a savvy veteran to calm things down, it's now.  Jamie Moyer faces Wade Miller tonight.  The bullpens are hurting after last night's starters combined to go 5 2/3 innings, which may give an advantage to the Phillies with Miller making just his third start of the year.

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