Sunday, August 10, 2008

Utley Homers Late to Clinch Series

Chase Utley was given a chance to break the game open in the fifth inning. He came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, with the Phillies ahead of the Pirates 2-1. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was over. Utley grounded the first pitch to short for what became a 6-4-3 double play. The play summed up the Phillies offense of late.

When Utley came to bat in the seventh, in what had become a tie game, he delivered the big hit the Phillies needed. Utley launched a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall, putting the Phillies on top 5-3 and helping to secure a much-needed series win.

Jamie Moyer produced yet another quality start, but that wasn't what he'll be remembered for in this game. In the bottom of the third inning, Moyer stepped into the batter's box for what should have been a routine play. Carlos Ruiz was on first base and Moyer, predictably, intended to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

Moyer did his part, but Pirates pitcher Jason Davis neglected his, making an errant throw to first. Moyer rounded first and headed for second, but an unexpected obstacle stood in his way. That obstacle's name was Randy Marsh, the first base umpire, who was as surprised by Davis' throw as anyone, and Moyer bowled him over before advancing to second base.

That was already more running than usual for the 45 year-old Moyer, but he wasn't done yet. Jason Michaels picked up the ball and fired to second, but his throw was also off the mark. That allowed Ruiz to score and Moyer to take third, where he could finally rest. Well...not for too long. Two pitches later, Jimmy Rollins hit a fly ball to center and Moyer tagged up and scored, giving the Phillies the lead and allowing Moyer to get a much-needed breather.

The 2-1 score held until the sixth inning, when Michaels redeemed himself by hitting a two-out, two-run double to left that put the Pirates in front by a run. After a walk to Brandon Moss, Moyer struck out Doug Mientkiewicz for his final out of the day. He had given the Phillies a quality start, with six innings and three earned runs, not to mention his baserunning antics, but he stood to get saddled with the loss.

Clay Condrey came in to pitch for him in the seventh and put two on with two outs. With the Pirates threatening to add to their lead and a left-handed pinch hitter coming up, Charlie Manuel turned to newly-acquired Scott Eyre. Eyre delivered in his Phillies debut, getting Andy LaRoche to pop out.

The Phillies offense, perhaps inspired by the performance of their newest teammate, responded in the bottom of the seventh. Ruiz doubled to start the inning and Greg Dobbs, in his familiar pinch hitting role, came through once more, hitting an RBI double down the left field line to tie the game. Dobbs would then advance to third on a wild pitch to Rollins, but neither Rollins nor Shane Victorino could drive him in. That brought up Utley, who had failed to deliver in the clutch earlier. However, he redeemed himself in this at-bat, with a two-run homer that put the Phillies ahead for good.

The game's outcome was still very much in question, however, as the Phillies were shorthanded in the bullpen. Both Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin were unavailable. But the Phillies were able to make do, nonetheless. J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson each pitched a perfect inning and Madson's ninth inning earned him his first save of the year.

The Phillies won by the final score of 6-3 and now head to Los Angeles for a four-game series against the Dodgers, who have lost four of their last six, despite the trade for Manny Ramirez. That's not to say Manny has struggled, as he has hit over .450 since his trade from Boston, but the offense has still been inconsistent and the Dodgers sit one game under .500 (though only 1 1/2 games back in the NL West). It's certainly a winnable series, but playing on the road is never easy.

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