Sunday, April 13, 2008

Phillies Come Up Short Against Cubs

In their first game without Shane Victorino and (hopefully) their last game without Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies fell to the Chicago Cubs 6-5 in ten innings. With two outs and runners on first and second, So Taguchi grounded out to second base to end a wild game.

Playing without two of their regulars, it looked like the Phillies just might get away with a sweep of the Cubs. In the third inning, Victorino's absence was felt, as Derrek Lee hit double over now-center fielder Jayson Werth's head for two RBIs. That made it a 3-1 Cubs lead, despite the struggles of Chicago starter Jason Marquis. Marquis loaded the bases in each of the first two innings, but the Phillies only managed one run.

Werth hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to make it a 3-2 game and help fans forget the misplay on Lee's double. But in the top of the sixth Mark DeRosa would get the Cubs lead back to two runs with a home run of his own to left field, thanks to a little help from third base umpire Adrian Johnson. DeRosa's blast clearly went left of the foul pole, but it was ruled a home run even after protest from Pat Burrell and Charlie Manuel. Manuel was livid and must have said more to the umpire than "Yo, Adrian!" as he was subsequently ejected from the game. Bench coach Jimy Williams took over.

The Phillies seemed to take the ejection to heart, as they rallied in the bottom of the sixth. The much-maligned Eric Bruntlett ripped a solo shot for his third hit of the day, then three batters later, Werth tied the game with an RBI single to right field. In the next at-bat, Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly to score Geoff Jenkins and give the Phillies a 5-4 lead.

The score held until the top of the eighth, when Tom Gordon put two runners on with one out. J.C. Romero replaced Gordon and promptly gave up a check swing game-tying single to Geovany Soto. Romero retired the next two batters to end the threat.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella made an interesting move in the bottom of the eighth, bringing in closer Kerry Wood, despite the non-save situation. Wood held the Phillies scoreless in the eighth and the ninth, though not without difficulty. In the ninth, the Phillies had runners on first and second with one out. Wood struck out Bruntlett, then induced a Carlos Ruiz ground-out to Lee to keep the Cubs alive.

By the tenth inning, it seemed the Phillies' luck had run out. Rudy Seanez walked the first batter he faced, Ronny Cedeno, then walked Soto with one out. With the pitcher's spot due and no hitters left on the bench, Piniella turned to Carlos Zambrano to pinch hit. Zambrano hit a weak grounder to Bruntlett, who tossed the ball to Utley for the second out. Utley fired to first, going for the inning-ending double play, but the throw was off-line and Ryan Howard couldn't scoop it for the out. As a result, it sailed into foul ground, scoring Cedeno and giving the Cubs a 6-5 lead. Alfonso Soriano hit a fly ball for the third out, but the damage was done.

Bob Howry retired Jenkins and Werth in order in the bottom of the inning, putting Utley at the plate with two outs. Utley hit a long fly ball to deep right field, carried by the wind much of the way. Kosuke Fukudome attempted a leaping catch at the wall, but it bounced off the top and appeared to hit Fukudome in the head before landing on the warning track, allowing Utley to stroll into second with a double. Howard was predictably given a free pass, which arguably should have brought Burrell to the plate with the winning run on base. This being the Phillies, Taguchi stepped into the batter's box and grounded out to DeRosa, ending the game.

While it's never a good thing to lose at home in extra innings, the Phillies can put a positive spin on this game. Fill-ins Werth and Bruntlett performed admirably, hitting a combined 5-9 with 2 HRs, 3 runs scored, 3 RBIs, and 2 steals. While Bruntlett will return to his role as a bench player, Werth will see regular time as a starter now that Victorino is on the DL and today's game was an encouraging start.

The bullpen gets a mixed review. Chad Durbin pitched two scoreless innings and Brad Lidge shut out the Cubs in the ninth. Gordon, however, struggled with his command, giving up a walk and a hit to go with only one out. Romero was unable to get out of the jam, earning himself a blown save, though it was on a rather fluke-ish hit. Seanez had a poor outing, walking two batters, although he would've survived had Utley and Howard been able to complete the double play, or perhaps if Howard had at least blocked the ball and held Cedeno at third base.

Of course, it would have been a completely different ballgame if DeRosa had not been falsely awarded a home run, but there's nothing to be done about that except perhaps suggest that baseball implement instant replay for fair-foul home run debates. Something tells me Manuel wouldn't want such a change, he'd simply prefer better officiating.

The Phillies take on the Houston Astros next, starting Tuesday, and they should have their MVP shortstop back in the lineup, and not a moment too soon.

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