When the end of the streak came it wasn’t particularly surprising; after all, nine games in a row ain’t too shabby. Nor was it especially surprising how one-sided the loss was. They were due for a stinker. But it didn’t have to be this ugly.
The Phils shot themselves in the collective foot last night. Cory Lidle had nothing on the ball or his throws and Ryan Howard committed two errors, the first one a fatal miscue that opened the flood gates in the opening frame as the Mets scored two runs en route to a 13 – 4 rout.
It’s time for Charlie Manuel to take Howard aside and have a talk with him about something other than hitting. The kid is a good fielder, but he clearly loses his concentration far too often. Last night, he allowed an admittedly wicked shot by Carlos Beltran to go right through his legs and from that point on the Mets were off and running. Later, he threw away a ball that led to more scoring by the Mets. For the season Howard has six errors. In the seventh inning he hit his ninth homer of the year, a solo shot off Tom Glavine, but for the evening Howard’s balance sheet was definitely in the red.
Apart from the atrocious fielding, the loss highlighted the ongoing concern about starting pitching. Lidle appeared to be throwing batting practice out there as line drive after line drive flew in every direction. Need I remind you for the umpteenth time this is the profile of a career .500 pitcher? Good starts followed by bad starts.
Aaron Fultz relieved Lidle in the third inning and did his best, well, Cory Lidle imitation as the Mets pounded him for seven hits and four earned runs in three innings. Geoff Geary relieved Fultz and pitched three innings of one-hit ball. Julio Santana pitched the ninth inning in what was probably his audition for this Friday’s roster move when Cole Hamels is officially added to the 25-man count and gave up two hits and run. Let’s just say he didn’t help his own cause.
The loss also underscored just how potent this Mets lineup is. They can run, hit, field and pitch better than anyone else in the division if not the league. They have balance, power and speed throughout the lineup. Adding insult to injury, Glavine also got into the offensive act, raising his batting average to .500 for the season including a double to deep left centerfield that drove in two runs.
The best thing the Phils can do now is forget this one and remember the nine preceding games. But that isn’t going to be so easy with the starting pitching so unsettled and the fielding so erratic and undependable.
Against this backdrop Cole Hamels makes his major league debut on Friday in Cincinnati. I cannot recall as much excitement over a promotion in the 28 years I have lived in Philadelphia. If this kid can pitch in the big leagues the Phils will have plugged their biggest hole.
It remains amazing the Phils have stuck this close with the starting pitching they have had to date.
One person who might benefit from Hamels’ arrival is Gavin Floyd. I thought Floyd's last outing provided grounds to be more optimistic about him. The presence of Hamels should take a lot of pressure off of Floyd, who will no longer be the young kid on the block on whom all hope is pinned. Hamels seems built to better shoulder those expectations, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hamels has thrown about 300 pitches at AAA and already there is a tendency to see him as some sort of savior. Let’s just hope he doesn’t see it that way.