Monday, May 19, 2008

Phils Can't Swat Nats, Lose Third Straight

Even with all their bats back in the lineup, the Phillies could not figure out Tim Redding. Redding pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings and the Washington bullpen finished the job, as the Phillies were shut out 4-0.

It's not like they didn't have chances. In the top of the first, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley hit back-to-back singles with one out. But neither Ryan Howard nor Pat Burrell could reach base and the opportunity was wasted. In the bottom of the inning, the Nationals took a 1-0 lead, off a sacrifice fly from Dmitri Young, and never relinquished it, as Redding stymied the Phillies.

The top of the third was like deja vu, as Jimmy Rollins got out, Victorino and Utley singled, but once again Howard and Burrell failed to produce. The Nats responded by tacking on two more runs in the bottom of the inning, off a perfectly-placed bases loaded double by Lastings Milledge.

The second and fourth innings were also eerily similar for the Phillies as in each inning Geoff Jenkins doubled and the next three batters were retired. However, once the Phillies bucked the trends with a 1-2-3 top of the fifth inning, they stopped threatening. They would put two runners on in the seventh, chasing Redding in the process, but Saul Rivera entered and neutralized the threat. The Phillies went down in order in the eighth and ninth as the Washington bullpen did not allow a single baserunner.

Brett Myers recorded his fifth loss of the season, though he did not pitch a bad game. He allowed three runs in six innings, which was easily his best outing since May 3 against San Francisco, when he gave up two runs in seven innings. Myers certainly could have been better against a Nationals team not known for its offense, but it's hard to pin the loss on him when he gave the Phillies a quality start.

Rather it was the offense that failed to produce. Though it wasn't a total lack of hitting as much as untimely outs that sunk the squad tonight. Victorino and Utley gave Howard and Burrell two chances to drive them in, but both sluggers went hitless on the day. Jenkins gave the bottom of the order two opportunities to drive him in from second base, but they were not up to the task.

Even more frustrating is the fact that the Phillies had a number of hard-hit balls that were caught. Burrell hit a sharp ground-out to third in the first inning that would have scored a run had it gotten through, Feliz hit a hard ground-out to third in the second, Howard hit a fly ball to the warning track in the third, etc. The Nationals deserve credit for their fielding (Ryan Zimmerman in particular), but there was also an element of luck involved and tonight it did not go the Phillies' way.

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