Going into the 9th inning last night against the Nationals down 2-8, it looked like a sure loss for the Phillies. Joe Blanton had his worst game of the year, giving up all 8 of those runs in only 4 2/3 innings. But with one out in the 9th, Jayson Werth hit a slow grounder and drew a Nationals error to land him safely on 1st base. After that, the Phillies loaded the bases for Matt Stairs.
Stairs had not had a hit in what seems like ages (30 at-bats) but finally came up big with a Grand Slam to put the team within 2 runs. Shane Victorino knocked in another run a few batters later to bring the score to 7-8. Then, with runners on 1st and 3rd and still only 1 out, Ryan Howard came up to the plate. Who better to hit a sac fly to tie the game, right? Wrong. Two things happened here: Chase Utley fell asleep on 1st and did not advance to 2nd on a wild pitch when the Nationals were only concerned with Victorino on third. Utley would have made it without challenge. Then, Howard hits a slow grounder which turns into a double play to end the game! Had Utley advanced, the game would have been tied.
So what was going to be a blow-out loss for the Phillies turns into a heartbreaker at the last minute. Add to that both the Marlins and Braves won last night and now the Phillies are only 5 games ahead in the division. A few weeks ago, they had an 8 ½ game lead which they are now letting slip away.
After the game, Charlie Manuel said his team is “playing down” to the competition. The Phillies are getting beat by mediocre (Astros) and very, very bad teams (Nationals – worst team in baseball). If they do not hit their stride in the Mets series this weekend, it is going to be a very uncomfortable run at the post-season.
Cole Hamels pitches tonight at 7:05pm. Cross your fingers folks!
Photos by Jenn