Sunday, July 6, 2008

'Pen is Not Mightier than the Mets

First off, self-congratulations to the People's Phillies Blog on our one-hundredth post.

Secondly, we should take a look at at last night's baseball game. It was a tense game that turned into a very strategically-maneuvered contest in the mid innings, but which ultimately was allowed to get away by a Phillies bullpen whose off day led to Philadelphia's 9-4 loss.

Jamie Moyer began the game unsteadily for the Phillies, allowing Jose Reyes and Ryan Chucrh to lead the game off with consecutive singles, squeaking out of the situation with only one run against him due to the good fortune of David Wright's hitting into a double play.

John Maine looked good when he game to the mound, retiring the side quickly, and when Moyer came back his pinpoint control seemed to have come back as well. Through the first three innings there were no more baserunners, and a Phillies fan could not escape the feeling that the Philadelphia starter had arrived at the pitchers' duel just slightly too early.

In the fourth the Mets broke the impasse by David Wright doubled and Carlos Beltran walked after Wright stole third base. Beltran should have been out easily when he attempted to steal second, but after Moyer's pickoff throw went to Ryan Howard at first, Howard's throw to second went off line and sailed past a nonplussed Jimmy Rollins. Wright scored easily, and a Damion Easly single in the extended inning gave the Mets their third run of the game.

In the bottom of the inning John Maine's perfect game came to an end, when one of his pitches hit Shane Victorino on the arm. After he capitalized on his famous speed to steal second base Chase Utley walked, and then Ryan Howard came to the plate. Howard made up for his earlier error and simultaneously tied the game in a single swing of his bat, hitting another of his characteristic towering home runs to the stands in left. The Phillies now had three runs on one hit.

The tie held in the middle innings, with both Moyer and Maine walking a hitter or two but each keeping his opposition from getting ahead. Maine, however, had to stop in the middle of his thus-far fairly impressive performance. In the middle of Ryan Howard's at-bat, Maine began to grip his left forearm and cringe in pain. Teammates gathered incredulously around him from the field and the bench. Nobody could seem to believe that he was stopping the game because of pain in the arm he didn't pitch with. Nonetheless, even after throwing a few tosses to test how he felt, Maine seemed unable to continue and left due to what would later be described as an inexplicable shot of pain through the arm. Aaron Heilman had all the time he needed to come in and retire Ryan Howard.

In the seventh, when Moyer allowed Chris Aguila to single and committed a hit batsman against Ryan Church, Charlie Manuel pulled him in favor of Ryan Madson completing the inning. Pat Burrell singled to lead off the Phillie seventh, and, certain that his bat could not be useful late ion a tied game, pinch ran for him with Eric Bruntlett. Bruntlett reached second when Pedro Feliz sacrifice bunted, then the Mets took the odd decision of intentionally walking Geoff Jenkins to get to Chris Coste, who was batting over .300. Coste flied out and Greg Dobbs was announced as the pinch hitter to fill the pitcher's spot in the order, but when Jerry Manuel opted to replace Joe Smith with Pedro Feliciano from the bullpen, Charlie Manuel played lefty/righty and broughtin Jayson Werth to hit instead. Werth put the Phillies ahead when he singled, but ended the inning when he tried to stretch it to a double.

The usually-reliable J. C. Romero was chosen to pitch the eighth, but after he retired Carlos Beltran, Damion Easley and Carlos Delgado hit back-to-back singles. This was sufficient for Charlie Manuel to want to remove him, and Tom Gordon came out of the bullpen in his stead. The first thing he did was to throw a wild pitch the just got past Coste's glove and tying the game. For his next trick he walked Marlon Anderson. Brian Schneider doubled to drive in two more runs before Gordon could escape the inning.

In the Phillie half of the eighth Philadelphia threatened to cut down the Met 6-4 lead when Shane Victorino singled and then reached second on an Utley groundout. However, with Burrell out of the game the Mets felt no compunction in intentionally walking Ryan Howard. Since Greg Dobbs too was unavailable because of the lefty/righty switch, Howard's "protection" ended up being weak-hitting catcher Carlos Ruiz, played since an injury to Coste was unlikely in the coming inning. He grounded out.

Rudy Seanez came into pitch in the ninth. He pitched poorly and the Mets scored three more runs before Clay Condrey finally arrived to end the inning.

The usually reliable Phillies bullpen was bound to fall apart once in a while, and this was the night that it cost them the game. As long as it doesn't happen regularly, it shouldn't cost them too many more contests than this 9-4 loss.

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