A lot of things are going to have to go wrong a lot of days in a row to keep the Phillies out of the playoffs. That probably won’t happen, but Phillies fans would sure feel a lot better if a lot of things hadn’t gone wrong last night. With a loss to the Braves and wins by the Mets and Brewers, the Phils hold on a playoff spot is suddenly a little less secure than it was a day ago.
But much in the same way that the Phillies haven’t won anything yet, they certainly haven’t lost anything yet either. They have four games to play and lead their division by a game and a half. Despite a tough game and some mistakes last night, they’re playing fantastic baseball. They’ve won ten of their last 12.
Last night they made two big mistakes and didn’t hit well enough to overcome them. Both of the mistakes came at third base. In the third inning, Kelly Johnson left too early trying to steal third. Hamels would have had him easily, but threw the ball away and Johnson came in to score on the error. Burrell made a big base-running mistake in the sixth that probably cost the Phils a run. With the Phils down 3-2 and Burrell on second, Victorino hit a ground ball to short. Burrell took off for third with the ball in front of him and was tagged out after a short rundown.
Not to be lost in last night’s frustrations is that the Phillies pitched very well. Hamels was good and the bullpen was fantastic. The 24-year-old Hamels has now thrown 227 1/3 innings on the season and the one thing I can assure you of is that the Phillies are going to pay that bill sooner or later. Not last night, though. He was good, just like he’s been just about all of the second half. Chad Durbin, who is also critical to the Phils, also got four outs without allowing a base-runner.
The Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves last night, losing 3-2 to drop to 89-69 on the season. They are in first place in the NL East and lead the Mets by 1 1/2 games. The Mets lead the Brewers by one game for the Wild Card. The Phillies have four games left to play, the Mets and Brewers each have five.
Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk. Only two of the runs were earned. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and a home run. He struck out seven.
Opponents are now hitting .274 against him in September, which is somewhat alarming in the context of his numbers over his career (it’s higher, you see). Hamels has thrown to a 2.84 ERA in his five starts this month.
Martin Prado doubled with one out in the first. Kelly Johnson was next and blooped a 2-2 pitch into center for a single. Prado scored without a throw to put the Braves up 1-0. Johnson stole second before Hamels walked Brian McCann to put men on first and second. Omar Infante popped to first for the second out. Hamels struck out Jeff Francoeur to end the frame.
Casey Kotchman started the second with a single with the game tied at 1-1. Brent Lillibridge struck out for the first out before the pitcher Mike Hampton bunted Kotchman to second. Josh Anderson was next and dribbled a ball out in front of the plate for an infield single that sent Kotchman to third, but Hamels got Prado to fly to right for the third out.
Johnson started the third with an infield single that took a bad hop on Howard. McCann flew to center for the first out before Infante singled to center, moving Johnson to second. Kotchman was next and Hamels had Johnson when Johnson took off for third too early, but threw the ball away. Johnson scored to make it 2-1 and Infante went to third. Hamels struck out Kotchman to leave Infante stranded.
Hamels threw a 1-2-3 fourth and a 1-2-3 fifth.
With two outs in the sixth, Kotchman pounded the first pitch of his at-bat out to right to put the Braves up 3-1. Lillibridge popped to second for the third out.
Ruben Gotay hit for Hampton to start the seventh and singled, but Hamels got the next three in order to leave him stranded. Rollins made a nice play for the first out of the inning — Anderson broke his bat and blooped a ball behind the mound, but Rollins made a nice play to get him at first and changed the inning.
Eyre started the eighth with the Phils down 3-2 and got McCann to ground to second for the first out. Durbin came in to pitch to the righty Infante and got him on a ground ball to third. Francoeur popped to short for the third out.
Durbin returned for the ninth and got the first two before switch-hitter Greg Norton hit for the pitcher Jeff Bennett. Romero came in to pitch to Norton and struck him out swinging to end the frame.
Two perfect innings for the pen. It was especially nice to see Durbin pitch well. He dropped his ERA for the month to 7.94 with a scoreless 1 1/3 innings. Durbin threw 12 pitches in the game, Eyre and Romero were both under five. The pen needed just 20 pitches to throw two perfect innings.
With the day off tomorrow, Manuel may have everyone in his pen available for tonight’s game.
The Phillies lineup against lefty Mike Hampton went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Werth (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Feliz at third against the lefty. Ruiz catches.
Utley singled with one out in the first and the Phils down 1-0. Werth hit into a double-play behind him.
Howard started the second with a single and Burrell walked behind him. Victorino was next and he hit into a double-play with Howard moving to third with two down. Feliz was next and lined a 1-0 pitch into right to score Howard and tie the game at 1-1. Ruiz grounded to second for the third out.
Utley doubled with two outs in the third. Werth was next and hit a ball to second that Johnson didn’t handle for an error that moved Utley to third. Howard walked to load the bases, but Burrell popped to third to leave the bases loaded.
Ruiz walked with two outs in the fourth. Hamels struck out to end the inning.
1-2-3 in the fifth.
Down 3-1 in the sixth, Howard led off and tripled into the right field corner. Burrell was next and blasted a double off the wall in center. Howard scored and it was 3-2. Victorino was next and hit a ground ball to short. Miserable base-running by Burrell got him caught as he took off for third and tagged out for the second out. Victorino was caught stealing for the second out before Feliz grounded to third to end the inning.
Yuck. The Phils gave away two outs on the bases in the inning.
The Phils went 1-2-3 in the seventh. Coste hit for Hamels and flew to right for the second out.
Howard walked with two outs in the eighth. Burrell grounded to third to end the inning.
Feliz walked with one out in the ninth. Golson ran for him at first. With the lefty Mike Gonzalez on the mound, Ruiz hit for himself and hit into a double-play to end the game.
It’s tough to watch Ruiz hit in that situation. Righties on the bench for the Phils were Bruntlett, Cevernak, Iguchi, Taguchi and Marson. My initial reaction was that the Phils should have hit Iguchi and let Marson catch the tenth if it happened. I would have done it, just because I think Iguchi is a good hitter and Ruiz is a bad hitter, but the numbers don’t really support that. Iguchi is hitting a miserable 169/256/221 against lefties this season. Ruiz 215/354/338.
It does illustrate a flaw in the Phillies roster — they need to have a better right-handed hitter available to them late in the game. Especially in games when Coste starts behind the plate.
Rollins was 0-for-4.
Utley 2-for-4 with a double. He’s 4-for-his-last-10 with two doubles and a homer.
Werth 0-for-4 with a strikeout. 2-for-his-last-22 with two singles. The Phillies are going to have to do something about Werth, but probably not tonight with a lefty on the mound.
Howard was 2-for-2 with a triple and two walks.
Burrell 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and four men left on base. Big mistake on the bases.
Victorino 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a caught stealing.
Feliz 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Big two-out hit in the second.
Ruiz 0-for-3 with a walk.
Brett Myers (10-12, 4.46) faces lefty Jo-Jo Reyes (3-11, 5.74) tonight. Over his last two starts, Reyes has gone 5 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs on 12 hits (including four homers) and two walks. He has a 9.00 ERA since the All-Star break. Righties are hitting .315 against him for the season. Myers got bombed on Friday against the Marlins, allowing ten run in four innings in just about his only bad start in an otherwise excellent second half of the season. He has a 2.77 ERA with a 1.09 ratio in 13 starts at home this season. In his 16 starts away from Citizens Bank Park he’s thrown to a 6.21 ERA with a 1.61 ratio.
Big game tonight for the Phils. A loss would make things interesting in a way you’re not really looking for.