The Phils got off to a great start to the second half of their season yesterday at Shea. They lost 3-2 in eleven innings and the loss epitomized the Phils so far in 2004. They are now in a tie for first with the talent-poor Braves with the Marlins and Mets one game back.
The Phillies were held hitless until there were two outs in the fifth. After finally tying the game 2-2 and knocking out starter Steve Trachsel in the sixth, their bats fell asleep. Against four relievers over 5.1 innings the best they could muster was two hits, one walk and no runs.
But the coup de gras was the ending. Comparing the Phils in the ninth and the Mets in the eleventh speaks volumes about this race. After being held hitless since the sixth, the Phils were able to get a two-out rally going in the ninth. Mike Lieberthal hit a gapper for a double. Chase Utley, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, slapped a single to left, but Lieberthal had to hold at third since the ball got to left fielder Cliff Floyd. Jimmy Rollins followed with a weak comebacker to the mound that still required an acrobatic play by Braden Looper, the pitcher, to get Rollins.
And that was basically the Phils entire offense after the sixth inning. The had no hits in the two extra frames, even though Mike Piazza's error basically gave them seven tries to do so. The alos wasted Pat Burrell's leadoff walk in the eleventh.
Compare the Phils' ninth and eleventh with the Mets in the bottom of the eleventh. The Phils had just brought in horrendous Robert Hernandez, a man who should no longer grace a major league roster, and does so just because of the sheer fact that he was once a decent closer. He is now the poster child for why Larry Bowa should never again be allowed to direct a major league team on the field. Bowa consistently goes to Hernandez in key situations and he continually allows the key hit. The problem has been exacerbated by the starters inability to get out of the sixth inning, thereby creating more opportunities for Bowa to call on his favorit screw-up Roberto Horrendous.
Anyway, Hernandez, as is his wont, walked the leadoff hitter Piazza—ever notice how often a player makes a bad defensive play and then comes to bat the next half-inning? Wilson, pinch-ran for Piazza—how often do you see a catcher pinch-run?
After Hidalgo flied out and Floyd singled on the first pitch, Horrendous walked the bases full on five pitches to Shane "Boy, I look funny with a goatee" Spencer. Then Ty Wigginton hit the first offering right back to Horrendous. The ball was hit hard enough that even though Horrendous butchered the catch at first, he had time to still get a throw home. It's too bad it wasn't a good one. The Mets scored, winning the game.
The play was ruled a single somehow (how about an error and reaching on an attempted force?). At least it meant that Horrendous was tagged for the earned run, something he has ducked way too often this season even though his ERA stands at 5.03. Meanwhile, Jose Parra won his first game since 1996 when he was on the Twins.
The Phils play 19 of their first 24 games of the second half on the road, where they are 20-20. They are also 17-23 against the NL East and play 12 of those 24 against divisional opponents. Lastly, they play only teams competing for the postseason until August 9 when the welcome the Rockies to the new park. Their next non-playoff-contending opponent is Montreal whom they host on September 17-19.
My prediction is that the Phillies will be thoroughly ensconced in fourth by the time Marlins visit on July 21-22. Perhaps the brass will finally relief Larry Bowa of his duties and we will get to see if they can put it together for the last couple of months of the season under a new manager. One thing is for sure, they had better get a center fielder and at least one starting pitcher or there will be an open revolt in South Philly.