Saturday, May 31, 2008

Phillies Schooled by Fish

Perhaps the Phillies' bats were simply spent after bringing them to victory in so many consecutive high-scoring games, but for one reason or another they remained relatively quiet in Saturday's 7-3 loss against the Marlins. This combined with a mid-game collapse on the part of starter Cole Hamels that yielded a number of opposition long-balls gave Phillies fans a frustrating loss to sit through, after gorging themselves on the wallopings their team had regularly been delivering for the past week or so.

Cole Hamels looked reasonably on form, and the game began propitiously enough, proving itself one of the few in recent days in which Philadelphia has not been saddled with a three-run defecit in the first inning. Maybe they needed the challenge. They took advantage of the opportunity to score in the bottom of the inning. Shane Victorino, whose bat has been very productive lately and who proved to be the only Phillie who would really impress offensively today, hit a convincing single to right. A stroke of luck moved him to third when Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco was caught in a balk (which batter Chase Utley could be seen gamely drawing to the umpire's attention), and the Marlins made the strategic mistake of walking Ryan Howard intentionally to get to Pat Burrell. Burrell made them feel it by singling and driving Victorino home.

In the third the Phillies produced another run in an similar fashion -- spurred on by inertia after a well-struck double off the bat of Shane Victorino. This time Utley advanced him on a fly-out and Ryan Howard scored him on a ground-out. The two-run lead was tenuous, though, and in the next half-inning the Marlin's wasted no time in dissolving it. After Hanley Remirez and Jeremy Hermida both hit, the spectators at Citizen's Bank Park got to see Wes Helms demonstrate -- a little too late for thier liking -- that he knew how to hit, by doubling them both in. The deal was sealed when he in turn was scored on a Luis Gonzalez home run.

Hamels showed signs of settling down after this, delivering a 1-2-3 inning, and Charlie Manuel decided to bet on that lasting and bat him in the bottom of the fifth. Charlie's habit gambling on allowing pitchers who are performing shakily to stay in the game through potentially important at-bats sometimes pays off and sometimes does not. In this game it did not, and Hamels allowed the Marlins to score three runs on two homers in the top of the sixth.

That was enough. The score was now 7-2, and the only further resistance the Phillies offered was a Chase Utley solo home run in the eighth. Even a club's ace will get hit hard some nights, and a club's bats can't stay absurdly hot forever. Losses like Saturday's of 7-3 will happen, but the Phillies need to put it behind them on Sunday and take the series.

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