video thumbnail

PHI@PIT: Phillies fall on walk-off hit in the 10th

PITTSBURGH - It's just two games ...

It's just two games ...

It's just two games ...

The Phillies repeated those words following Saturday's 2-1 loss in 10 innings to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

"We're going to do better," Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence said. "We're going to score more than one run a game, more than two runs every 19 innings. I can almost guarantee that."

The Phillies have scored just two runs in 19 innings this season, and just three runs in their last 36 innings, dating to the second inning in Game 4 of the 2011 National League Division Series. They have hit just .176 (22-for-125) with four extra-base hits, six walks and 24 strikeouts in that span.

The Phillies entered the offseason with concerns about the offense, and the first two games of the 2012 season have done nothing to ease those worries.

"I'm always concerned about our hitting," Charlie Manuel said afterward in his office. "If we hit .300 as a team, I'd want to hit .330 or .340. We've played two games. We haven't done too much offensively. We've got some work to do."

The Phillies lost the game in the 10th inning, when Pirates catcher Rod Barajas, who is hitting .333 (21-for-63) with five doubles, eight home runs and 19 RBIs in 20 games against the Phillies since he played for them in 2007, ripped a leadoff double off the top of the center-field wall. Clint Barmes' sacrifice bunt advance pinch-runner Michael McKenry to third. Three batters later, Alex Presley hit a ground ball in between Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins.

Rollins fielded the ball and fired a throw to first. It arrived just a second late, and McKenry scored the game-winner.

The Phillies could have won if they had just scratched across a second run somewhere in those first nine innings. They took a 1-0 lead in the first. Shane Victorino and Polanco hit back-to-back singles to get things going. Rollins dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt between the third-base line and pitcher's mound to put runners on second and third with one out.

It was Rollins' first sacrifice bunt since Aug. 14, 2009. It was the second time he bunted in two games. (He bunted for a hit in the first inning Thursday on Opening Day.)

Pence's infield single allowed Victorino to score to hand the Phillies the early lead.

But the first-inning run was not a sign of things to come. The Phillies' offense slid back into hibernation as soon as Victorino crossed home plate, picking up only two hits and one walk over the next seven innings.

Fortunately, Philadelphia can pitch.

Cliff Lee, who allowed two hits and one run in six innings, retired 11 consecutive batters at one point until he walked pinch-hitter Yamaico Navarro with one out in the sixth inning. Jose Tabata followed with a single to put runners on first and second. A fielder's choice put runners at the corners with two outs, when Lee uncorked a curveball into the dirt for a wild pitch.

Carlos Ruiz recovered the ball fairly quickly and seemed to make a good throw back to the plate, but Lee couldn't come up with the ball as Navarro scored the tying run.

"It happened pretty fast," Lee said of the play at the plate. "I felt like we got a perfect bounce there off the backstop. We had time to get a play on him. It was just a tough throw. It was hard to see. Going through it live, I felt like I didn't really see it well, but when I watched the replay, it looked like I saw it, the way I went after the ball. I didn't see it well. I know that."

The Phillies had a chance to score in the ninth, when Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan walked Pence to start the inning. It looked like Manuel wanted Jim Thome to pinch-hit for Laynce Nix, but Nix popped back out of the dugout to hit for himself.

Nix told Manuel he could bunt Pence over to second and Manuel let him try.

He popped up to Barajas for the first out instead.

"Bunting is something I haven't done a whole lot of, but I'm confident in doing it," said Nix, who had attempted just two sacrifice bunts since 2004.

Manuel could have had Thome hit for Nix, but he said he wanted to try to advance Pence and preferred to have Thome rather than John Mayberry Jr. face Hanrahan. Of course, pinch-hitting for Mayberry also meant Manuel had to sacrifice some defense in left field in a tie game.

"I had to use [Thome] somewhere," Manuel said. "He's supposed to hit in that game."

Thome struck out looking, Ruiz walked on four pitches and Freddy Galvis struck out to end the inning.

Asked if this is the most challenged he has felt as a manager, Manuel said, "Not at all. I think I was the most challenged when Cleveland broke up the team [in 2002]."

Does this remind him of that at all?

"We didn't have that kind of pitching or the defense," he said. "As a matter of fact, we didn't have too much of anything."

The Phillies haven't had much of an offense this weekend. They are hoping Sunday is different. They can almost guarantee it will be.

MLB.com Comments