Monday, August 11, 2003

Another wasted opportunity

So let's see what was wasted...

  • The Marlins had lost earlier in the day, giving the Phillies a chance to reclaim the Wild Card lead.

  • Giants' starter Jason Schmidt was scratched from the start due to soreness. In his place was a rookie with 1 1/3 innings pitched in the majors.

  • The Phillies were riding the high of a good-size comeback the day before -- a comeback sparked by the player many consider the key to the stretch drive (and the latest Phillie to go blonde because, hey, they obviously hit better), Pat Burrell.

  • The Phillies had Brett Myers and his six-game win streak on the mound.

  • So, of course, it all blew up in their faces.

    A five-run third inning led the Giants to a 5-2 victory, and a 2-1 series victory over the suddenly struggling Phillies. Myers, who had not lost since June 11, struggled with his pitches:

    "I usually try to go out there with the fastball and get quick outs, but today it didn't work," Myers said. "They were all over the fastball today. I didn't get ahead of a lot of guys, and they seemed to know when the fastball was coming."

    Myers's control was alright (only three walks on the day, two of those intentional passes to Barry Bonds), but he just couldn't seem to get his pitches working. Jose Cruz, Jr. led off the third with a single, and was followed by a single by J.T. Snow. Marquis Grissom doubled in Cruz, and Bonds was given a free pass. With the bases loaded, Edgardo Alfonzo singled to bring in Snow. Grissom scored on a wild pitch to Neifi Perez, who walked on five pitches, reloading the bases. Myers finally got Pedro Feliz to strike out, but Yorvit Torreabla singled home two more runs.

    At that point, I had seen enough. Myers didn't have it, and unlike Saturday, the offense could not muster anything against the unknown rookie. On Saturday, the Phillies fought back from 4-0 and 5-1 deficits, but the 5-0 deficit seemed to be a little too much. The Phillies hit well off of rookie Kevin Correia, tagging him for seven hits in six innings; the problem is that they could not do anything with those hits. The Phillies left 10 men on base, including four in scoring position. They were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position on the day.

    After struggling against Correia, the Phillies could do no better against the bullpen trio of Matt Herges, Joe Nathan, and Tim Worrell. The Phillies managed four hits off the trio in three innings, but could do nothing until Tyler Houston's RBI single in the ninth. Too little, too late.

    So the Phillies finish the six-game Western swing at 2-4 and limp back home. The Phillies struggle this week opened the door wide for their Wild Card competitors: the Marlins picked up two games and have pulled into a tie for the Wild Card lead, and obviously for second in the NL East. The Diamondback also picked up a couple and sit two games back. St. Louis -- who comes to Philly for three next weekend -- are three back, with the Dodgers and Cubs beating each other up so that they both line up at 3 1/2 back. Still not dead are the .500-playing Expos and Rockies, at 5 1/2 back.

    The Phillies need to desperately rediscover their offense tomorrow night, when the Brewers come to town for three games. Milwaukee is 46-71, one game better than the Padres. I'd say this is an easy sweep, but you saw what happened last week with the Padres. The hard truth, however, is that the Phillies need a sweep over the Brewers to reclaim some stability in the playoff race. While the Phillies will be hosting the Brewers and Cardinals this week, the Fish will be home for LA and San Diego. My hope is that Florida and LA beat each other up a little bit. Arizona travels to Cincinnati and Atlanta, making it a tough weekend for them. The Cards get three in Pittsburgh before traveling cross-state, while the Dodgers play Florida before tangling with the Cubs again. The Phillies need to take advantage of three with the Brewers, and then make a statement against the Cards.

    Need may be a strong word, but at this time of the year, the Phillies cannot keep missing these opportunities.