The afternoon started out sunny, with the Phillies receiving their National League Championship rings before the game against the Nationals. While it was a tad anticlimactic when compared to last year’s World Series ring unveiling, it was still a nice celebration of a very good 2009 season. The ring is made of 14 carat white gold with rubies and diamonds, showing the NL trophy on one side and 2008, 2009 pennant flags on the other side. A baseball diamond on front has the Phillies script logo across it. Charlie Manuel’s ring is seen here to the right.
Today’s game was started by JA Happ who still seems to be struggling with his pitch location, although he only allowed 1 unearned run over 5 1/3 innings. But his pitch count was mounting as he had issues throwing strikes and fell behind a lot of batters. He should be going deeper into games; expect this to improve over his next few starts. In all, he got the job done by keeping runs off the board.
The Nationals pitching staff kept the red hot Phillies offense at bay for most of the game.
They did manage to score 3 runs in the 6th inning thanks to a Juan Castro 2-out, 2-run single. Castro had 3 hits on the day and is doing an admirable job filling in for the injured Jimmy Rollins. Greg Dobbs drew a bases loaded walk later that same inning. And earlier, Chase Utley hit a solo home run in the first inning; it was his 3rd homer in 2 games.
So with a decent 4-1 lead going into the 7th inning, the Phillies would have to rely on the bullpen. This was their first real test of the year with a small lead and sadly, they failed. Antonio Bastardo gave up 1 run in the 7th, but the real damage came in the 8th with Danys Baez on the mound.
Baez gave up a solo homer to Adam Dunn on one pitch to start the inning, which was not a good omen. He got one out, but then walked a batter and allowed a 2-run homer from pinch hitter Ryan Zimmerman. Those 3 runs put the Phils in a 4-5 hole. Ryan Madson tried to hold the Nats to just the one run lead in the 9th, but he too faltered, giving up 2 more runs.
Shane Victorino led off the bottom of the 9th with a solo homer, giving the Phils hope. Placido Polanco then got his 2nd hit of the game to give them a base runner. But Chase Utley struck out and then Ryan Howard flied out. Jayson Werth was their last chance and he flew out to center, sending the crowd home very unhappy with a 5-7 loss.
All of the recent wins and big numbers being put up by this Phillies offense have spoiled us a bit so this loss is tough to swallow. I am feeling a bit annoyed about it, frankly; this is the second time the Phillies have lost a game to the Nationals that they should have won. And this is also very bad news for the bullpen; if they cannot hold a lead against the lowly Nats, how will they perform against a real team? Ugh.
But tomorrow is a new day… (she said with a tinge of sarcasm ;o)… and Roy Halladay will make his Philly debut against the Florida Marlins. Game time is 7:05pm.
Castro photo by Jenn