Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Myers' Bid for History Slain in Pitchers' Duel

It was no secret coming into tonight's game that a pitchers' duel was a definite possibility. The two teams had already chosen their weapons. The Reds were sending young phenom Edinson Volquez to the mound, who in his first full year of Major League pitching has accrued a 1.32 ERA in twelve starts. Pitching for the Phillies would be the erratic and temperamental Brett Myers, who, when he is on, has a tendency to become miraculously unhittable. In his last start he looked like he was starting to come back on. Both pitchers were masterful, but in the end it was Cincinnati who scored a couple of late-inning runs to edge a 2-0 victory.

From the start, neither offense seemed to be able to make much of a dent against either Volquez or Myers, who both combined speed and movement with rare ability all night. The Phillies managed a few baserunners, with Ryan Howard and Geoff Jenkins acquiring promising singles, and Chris Coste reaching base twice, on a hit-by-pitch, then an error. However, Volquez, managed to keep his opponents closely enough at bay that none of the baserunners were ever allowed to come home.

However, as the game unfolded a certain amount of tension beyond that normally created by a 0-0 tie began to make itself felt. It slowly became impossible to ignore that Brett Myers, though he had surrendered a few walks, had not yet allowed the Reds a single hit. Each out he recorded began to get applause, and each hitless half-inning a loud ovation. Even as his pitches sometimes acquired too much, movement, such as in his somewhat wild-looking fifth inning during which two Reds walked, he consistently managed to keep the ball away from solid conact with Cincinnati bats.

However, it was not to be Myers' day to join the exclusive list of no-hitter pitchers. In the seventh inning Joey Votto managed a double off of him. That scored Brandon Phillips from first base, which he had reached on a walk. It would be the the only hit he would allow.

In fact, Charlie Manuel showed his continued confidence in Myers by allowing him to bat second in the home half of the seventh inning, despite needing runs when down by one late in the game. This move now looks questionable, as Myers would only pitch another third of an inning before being replaced by J. C. Romero -- but not before pitching to Ken Griffey Jr, the veteran star who, sitting on 599 home runs, once again sat out of the lineup but contributed a late-innings pinch-hit appearance. For a few picthes the drama of the situation increased once again, but Myers dealt Griffey a walk; he then did the same for Jerry Hairston, prompting his removal from the game.

The Phillies threatened once again in the eighth as Bill Bray came into the game to relieve Volquez, with Chase Utley. In another trademark move, Charlie Manuel removed Pat Burrell (who had drawn one of his supernaturally-frequent walks) from the game for pinch runner So Taguchi. In a game where the tying run was ahead of Burrell, some would argue that it would be more important to keep his bat in the lineup.

In any case, the Phillies failed to capitalize, and their fate was sealed when Votto drove Phillips in for the Reds' second run in the top of the ninth, and the Phillies had to face the rarely-fallible closer Francisco Cordero in the bottom of the inning.

Tonight's game saw Brett Myers' team lose what was probably among the best-pitched games of his career, but it was one of those rare games that even as it disappoints people as Phillies fans, will still be admired by them as baseball fans. Rarely does the phrase "pitcher's duel" much much more than "neither offense was especially impressive" these days, but in this case two stupendous pitcher performances really did happen to appear in the same unremittingly dramatic game. Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, they got the short end of the stick in the 2-0 loss.

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