As leaders out of whack
September 27 2006
have kind of gone to pot since the Phillies took over the role of leaders of
the NL Wild Card pack. After charging to a half-game lead in the race the
Phillies have suddenly dropped back-to-back one-run games. The timing of it
all may prove to be a coincidence -- you're not gonna win 'em all, but the
inability to slam the door when things were looking so good probably isn't
going to inspire much in the way of sonnet-writing. The Phillies seemed alive and well during the game last night,
but when it was over they sure were a downtrodden-looking lot. There's no
time for downtrodden. Or lamenting a foul ball from the second inning. The
Phillies need to pick themselves up and get going again, they've
come too far not to. But they shouldn't dawdle.
I've seen enough from the Phillies this year to feel like they're about to get it going again. Someone's going to pick them up tonight, maybe more than one guy. Maybe everyone. The Dodgers aren't likely to go 5-0 in their last five, and that's good news, cause if they do the Phils are done.
The Phillies lost to the Washington Nationals last night, falling 4-3 to drop to 82-75 on the year. The Padres and the Dodgers both won, meaning that San Diego maintains its two game lead in the NL West and the Dodgers go a full game up on the Phillies in the Wild Card standings. All three teams have five games to play.
Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, both doubles. He struck out five.
Bernie Castro and
Felipe Lopez both singled in the bottom of the first, putting runners on
first and third with one out and the Phillies up 2-0. Alfonso Soriano flew
out to right for the first out of the inning, and with Ryan Zimmerman at the
plate Lopez stole second. Zimmerman grounded to short for the second out of
the inning, but Castro scored from third on the play to cut the Phillies
lead to 2-1. Jose Vidro grounded to second to end the inning.
Myers set the Nats down 1-2-3 in the second.
Castro walked with one out in the third and Lopez bunted him to second. It brought Soriano up and he walked, putting runners on first and second with two down. Zimmerman followed with a double over the head of Burrell in left, which scored two runs and put the Nats up 3-2. Vidro flew to left to end the frame.
Myers didn't allow a base runner in the fourth, striking out the side.
In the fifth, he got the first two before Lopez doubled to left. Myers got Soriano to ground to short to end the inning.
Zimmerman led off the sixth with a single but was erased when Vidro bounced into a double-play. Schneider popped to short for the third out with the Phils still down 3-2.
Nook Logan singled to start the seventh and quickly stole second. Ryan Church bunted him to third. With the infield in, Fick hit a ground ball to second. Utley held Logan at third and got Fick at first for the second out. Castro grounded to second to end the inning.
Geary started the eighth and struck out Lopez and Soriano to start the inning. Zimmerman followed with a single and pinch-hitter Geore Lombard walked. Hard to believe though it may be, Geary stayed on to pitch to the lefty Schneider. Schneider dribbled a ball to Utley at second. Chase tried to bare hand it and get Schneider at first, but missed the ball completely. It trickled behind him and Zimmerman scored to put the Nats up 4-2. Geary struck out Logan to end the inning.
The Phillies lineup against righty Ramon Ortiz went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Conine (6) Burrell (7) Lieberthal (8) Nunez. Conine starts in right instead of Dellucci. Lieberthal gets the start behind the plate for the second straight day.
Rollins flew out to start the first, but Victorino and Utley both singled, putting runners on first and second for Howard. Howard singled to center, scoring Utley from second and sending Victorino to second with the Phils up 1-0. Conine was next and he singled, scoring Utley to make the score 2-0. Burrell struck out and Lieberthal flew to center to end the inning.
In the second, Nunez and Myers went down start the inning, but Rollins and Victorino both singled. Utley crushed a ball down the first base line, out but foul by inches, if at all, before he popped to third to end the inning. Many insist Utley's shot should have been a home run. I'm pretty sure they aren't going to change the call.
Conine and Burrell both singled with one out in the third, putting runners on first and third for Lieberthal. Lieberthal struck out and Nunez lined to center to end the inning.
The Phils went 1-2-3 in the fourth.
Utley singled to lead off the fifth and Howard followed with another single, sending him to third. Again the Phillies couldn't bring the runners around. Conine lined softly to third. Burrell struck out. Lieberthal flew out to right.
The Phils went 1-2-3 in the sixth. Victorino was hit by a pitch to lead off the seventh. Utley popped out to first for the first out and Howard followed with a strikeout. On the strikeout, Victorino stole second and went to third on Scheider's throwing error. With two outs and Victorino on third, Conine grounded out to short to end the inning.
Burrell popped to second to start the eighth inning. Randall Simon pinch-hit for Lieberthal and lined a single into left. Michael Bourn pinch-ran for Simon and Manuel called on Dellucci to hit for Nunez. Dellucci struck out for the second out. Coste was ahead in the count 2-0 when Bourn tried to steal second. He would have been safe easily but slid through the bag and was tagged out. That's really awful, not just because it ends the inning but because it meant that Coste and not Rollins would lead off the ninth and the Phillies were further away from the guys like Utley and Howard who can really hurt you. It was a terrible end the to the inning, but I thought Manuel did a nice job of using his bench in the eighth to try to get a run. There was nobody to pinch-hit for coming up in the ninth.
Chris Coste led off the ninth inning with a double to left. Another tremendous at-bat for Coste, who battled back after getting behind 0-2. Rollins followed with a fly out to shallow left. Victorino struck out for the second out of the inning. Utley followed with a single into left that scored Coste and cut the Nationals lead to 4-3, which brought up Howard as the winning run. Howard flew out to left to end the game.
Rollins was 1-for-5.
Victorino was 2-for-4 with a strikeout. He's on-basing .319 this month after on-basing .391 in August. He's banged up but he was tailing off even before the September 9 collision with Olivo. He has three extra-base hits in his last 129 at-bats.
Utley was 3-for-5 with a foul ball. 311/388/612 in 103 September at-bats. His error in the bottom of the eighth proved to be critical. In Monday's game the Phillies lost with the help of more tough breaks in the field. A Burrell throw in the seventh hit the runner and got away from Lieberthal, allowing Chris Burke to advance to third and score what would be the winning run on a ball hit by Mike Lamb in between first and second.
Howard was 2-for-5 with an RBI. He has hit in 10-of-his-last-11.
Conine was 2-for-4 with an RBI. He's at 321/374/452 in 84 at-bats with the Phillies.
Burrell was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and left four men on base. There's a whole lot of reasons not to pull the plug on Burrell's season right now. Go through the stats sometime and look and see how many players currently in the National League have hit more homers in fewer at-bats this season. Or who has more RBI in fewer at-bats. Here's a hint, if it were like 14 guys I probably wouldn't have brought it up. As of today, it's close in a couple of places, like Griffey in home runs and Garciaparra in RBI, but the answer is still nobody. The RBI hitting ridiculously out of the six hole is impressive. The Phillies aren't going to make their team better by not playing their good players. If anything they should move Burrell up in the order. How many at-bats has Burrell lost to defensive replacements and starts by Conine in left? 50? 100? I don't know. Whatever it is he lost those at-bats may be the difference between him being at 30 home runs and 100 RBI right now, and a guy that on-bases .370 while putting up those kinds of numbers helps you in the long run, no matter how bad he looks in some at-bats.
Speaking of looking bad in some at-bats, Lieberthal was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and left six men on base. In the last two games, Lieberthal and Burrell have combined to leave 17 men on base (Burrell 7, Lieberthal 10).
Nunez was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He's 2-for-his-last-15.
Cole Hamels faces Pedro Astacio tonight.