With veteran Jon Lieber on the mound yesterday, the Phillies lost for the first time since, well, Jon Lieber last pitched. That earlier game saw the portly Lieber (don’t you just love those classic baseball tags?) get torched for 13 hits and 9 earned runs in 4.2 innings of work of the cruelest kind. Yesterday, Lieber threw well to home plate but let the side down with his errant throw to first base, a fatal play that opened the gates for the Mets’ 3 run rally in the 6th inning that eventually provided the winning margin in the 4-3 loss.
In the same inning Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins failed to get their act together on a pop fly by David Wright that dropped between them and Endy Chavez, (Endy Chavez for pete’s sake!) doubled in the tying and go-ahead runs. As a Phillie, Chavez was the sorriest excuse for major league batter I’d ever seen, pitchers included. With the Mets he is a world-beater, among the league leaders in outfield assists and driving in 27 runs, all as a part-time player. Still, the misplay on Wright’s "hit" was the killer. Todd Zolecki wrote Burrell took a step back before coming in for the ball. Rollins, for his part, broke in the right direction from the moment the ball left Wright’s bat. After the game, Burrell made the expected statements without ever taking full responsibility for a play that was clearly his to make:
"That ball has to be caught. You can point your finger at a lot of things that happened in the game, but that ball has to be caught right here."
"There's no excuse. With Wright, I'm playing deep. We pinch him a little bit. The ball went up and I didn't get a good break on it. I kind of got in no-man's land there where I thought I wasn't going to be able to make the play."
This was the first sloppy loss by the Phils in a week and spoiled an otherwise redeeming effort by Lieber and a three-run first inning homer by Ryan Howard off of lefty Tom Glavine. Howard leads the league in home runs with 38, is among the leader in rbi’s with 99, and, oh yeah, is inching toward a .300 batting average. Let the record also show he stroked that homer off a lefty, his ninth of the year against southpaws, and capped his afternoon with a single off of another lefty, Billy Wagner. Chase Utley also singled off of Wagner in the ninth, but Wright, who is fast assuming Mike Piazza’s role as chief Phillies nemesis on the Mets, snared a hard hit ball by Mike Lieberthal to end the game, the second time Wright has victimized Lieby in a crucial situation.
Today’s game should separate the men from the boys. Can the new-look Phils put this tough loss behind them and regain their winning ways?
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Chase Utley’s consecutive game hitting streak has ended and I haven’t anything to add to all the praise he has deservedly received regarding his marvelous skills and emphasis on team rather than individual accomplishments. But I do want to note that Mets’ fans were the only ones to boo him throughout the streak, most of which was accomplished on the road. Every time Chase came up in what turned out to be the final game of the streak, the so-called knowledgeable fans in Shea Stadium greeted him with a chorus of boos. What a classy bunch.