Sunday, July 13, 2008

Burrell Charms Snakes' Bullpen

After seven innings, the Phillies big bats (Utley, Howard, and Burrell) were all hitless, having been shutdown by Arizona ace Brandon Webb. Whether they discussed this in the dugout, or it was a simple coincidence, they changed that in the bottom of the eighth. They each recorded consecutive hits, capped off by a Burrell three-run homer that proved the difference in the Phillies' 6-3 win over the Diamondbacks.

On paper, this looked to be a pitcher's duel, and, on paper, it delivered. Brandon Webb did his part, allowing two runs on seven hits and no walks in seven innings. Cole Hamels only allowed two runs himself, but he was not nearly as dominant. He allowed baserunners in all but the first inning, surrendering eleven hits in all, but managed to keep it a close game.

Arizona struck first, as Chad Tracy homered to right in the second inning. Then in the fourth, they extended their lead to 2-0 on a two-out single from Robby Hammock that scored Chris Young. Meanwhile, the Phillies' offense lay stagnant, bested by the former Cy Young Award winner.

Hamels may not have a Cy Young Award, but he aided his case for a Silver Slugger in the fifth, as he delivered a double to right center that scored Pedro Feliz. That was all the Phillies could muster that inning.

A few innings later, Arizona almost made Hamels' RBI irrelevant. Webb got a hit of his own and Stephen Drew had an infield single. Conor Jackson attempted to sacrifice the runners over, but his bunt was a little long and it rolled right to Feliz for a force out at third. Orlando Hudson followed with a deep fly ball to right field. Geoff Jenkins tracked it and appeared to catch it, but lost it at the wall. Because of the near-catch, the runners held up and when the ball returned to the infield, Hudson got caught between first and second with nowhere to go. Despite an attempt at misdirection in which Hudson pointed toward Webb at third to distract the Phillies infield, Howard applied the tag for the second out. Hamels then struck out Mark Reynolds, ending the threat.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Phillies offense rewarded Hamels for his efforts...sort of. With pinch runner Carlos Ruiz on second base, Jimmy Rollins lined a double to right field, tying the game 2-2. In the process, Greg Dobbs pinch hit for Hamels, ending his outing. Hamels was no longer at risk for a loss, but wasn't getting a win either.

For the eighth inning, both teams turned to their bullpens. The Phillies brought in Ryan Madson, who pitched a scoreless inning. The Diamondbacks went with Chad Qualls -- a decision they would soon regret. Qualls allowed singles to Utley and Howard, bringing up Burrell with the winning run in scoring position. But one run wasn't enough for Burrell. Instead he opted for three, as he reached for a low-and-away pitch and sent it over the left field wall. Two batters later, Feliz followed with a solo shot to make it a 6-2 game. That would be all for Qualls, who had a disastrous outing, allowing four earned runs and retiring just one batter. (Perhaps the Mets should trade for him. Let's just change his name to Chad Quallez. How could Omar Minaya resist?) Brad Lidge pitched the ninth, despite the non-save situation, and allowed a run (albeit a fluke-ish one) before shutting the door.

Today's win was a crucial one. It clinched the Arizona series and guaranteed that the Mets have to spend at least a few more days staring up at the Phillies in the standings. New York overtaking Philly on the last day of the first half would have been symbolic of a role reversal (even with a whole second half to go) and this win should keep the Phillies' confidence high, regardless of what the Mets do tonight.

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