Thursday, May 7, 2009

Phils give game away to Mets, waste Park's effort

The Phillies aren't accustomed to giving games away. In fact, they have the best fielding percentage as a team in Major League Baseball. But they gave one away last night in New York against the Mets. Johan Santana was un-hittable, but shockingly so was Chan Ho Park. The Phils ended up with more errors, in the 1-0 loss, than New York had hits.

Park was absolutely tremendous last night. He kept New York's hitters off balance all night, changed pitches and speeds well, and kept the ball out of the middle of the plate. A particularly intriguing moment evident of Park's stuff came with Jose Reyes at the plate. Park threw a cutter that started on the inside corner. As Reyes took a big swing, the ball sharply cut inside, and Reyes came no where near it. After the miss, Reyes stood there and then glared back at Park, and even one of the Phils' broadcasters noticed it and said something along the lines of, 'he looks back out at him like, where'd that come from?' He allowed just one hit over six innings, and it was a little cue shot off Daniel Murphy's bat that dropped into the left-center field gap.

Park got himself in trouble in the sixth, dropping the ball on a play at first after Ryan Howard's spectacular diving stop and perfect throw, allowing Reyes to reach first base. Reyes followed by stealing second and advancing to third on Carlos Ruiz's throwing error. After a walk, Park settled down to retire the National League's leading hitter, Carlos Beltran, to end the inning.

I do not agree with the way Charlie Manuel played the seventh inning, which ended up costing them the game. Raul Ibanez led off with a double, but Santana settled down and Ibanez was still standing at second with two outs and Park due up. Manuel brought Eric Bruntlett in to pinch hit, trying to take advantage of a runner in scoring position, realizing that Santana hasn't allowed many. Bruntlett went down with some feeble swings, and the starting pitcher who had allowed just one hit and had plenty of gas left in the tank was gone from the game. Bruntlett didn't have much of a shot in that situation against Santana. In New York, cold off the bench, against the best pitcher in the game who was throwing everything he had to get out of the jam. Send Park up there, hope that Santana walks him again, and hope that Park keeps putting goose eggs up on the scoreboard.

The next mistake was bringing Scott Eyre into a tie game late when Manuel had the entire bullpen as his disposer. Eyre walked the lead off hitter and nearly followed by walking David Wright, but Wright got himself out with a terrible 3-1 swing. The play that cost them the game and allowed Carlos Delgado to score all the way from first is a play Pedro Feliz won't try to make 99 times out of 100. He clearly had no shot at throwing Fernando Tatis out at first base, but the magnitude of the game and the stage in which he was playing it drove Feliz to want to end the inning with a spectacular play. Instead, he made a very uncharacteristic horrendous throwing error, and then for some reason, Jayson Werth hesitated to throw home before throwing a perfect strike to Chooch. Delgado is a dead duck is Werth throws the ball right away. I haven't seen the play enough times to determine if there was a reason for Werth's hesitation. One announcer mentioned that maybe someone was blocking his path to the plate, but I didn't see anyone.

This is not the type of game that the Phillies lose. They don't make errors and they don't typically lose late in ballgames. Hopefully the team chalks it up to exactly what it was, a blunder and a fluke. A similar play may occur again this season, but it will not happen in a situation like last night. You won't see the Phillies make another play like that late in a close ballgame that leads to the winning run scoring. It's not going to happen again. The team's defense is still tremendous, and they'll need to rebound immediately with Jamie Moyer on the hill tonight in New York. Feliz should get plenty of chances to redeem himself, as the Mets are sure to give him plenty of action tonight with Moyer pitching.

Park bounced back from a tough start against the Mets last weekend, now Moyer needs to follow suit. A win tonight gives the Phillies a split in New York and a 3-1 road-trip. That'd be tremendous.

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