03/31/08 9:33 PM ET
Momentum vanishes in a Flash
Utley, Rollins go yard, but Gordon unable to protect tie
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
The slider darted more purposefully, the bender snapped bigger and the heater hummed faster in the bullpen, as the right-hander fired tosses to Carlos Ruiz. The decibel level, and his adrenaline, only increased as he readied for the real thing.
At 3:05 p.m. ET, it vanished.
"I don't know how it changed from going to the bullpen to the mound, but nothing was sharp other than my fastball," Myers said, after an 11-6 loss to Washington, spoiling a chilly Opening Day for 44,553 fans. "I didn't have a very good slider, and the curve was there 50 percent of the time. I was skating by the first four innings, with some mistakes that they hit hard right at guys."
That stopped in the fifth, beginning with a single by pitcher Matt Chico. A single to Cristian Guzman followed, and Myers hit Lastings Milledge. Four runs (three earned) later and Myers was stewing in the dugout.
Ryan Madson surrendered two runs on a homer by Milledge in the sixth. Tom Gordon turned the game unsightly by allowing five ninth-inning runs, magnified more considering that it came after the Phillies had tied the score at 6.
The performances in Game 1 of a long season spotlighted manager Charlie Manuel's long-stated concerns regarding his pitching staff.
"Today we had a bad day," Manuel said. "We've got to get better. Our pitchers have to get better, and I think they will."
This loss was more troubling, since the three shellacked pitchers weren't on Manuel's list of concerns and they led to a shaky defense of the NL East title.
Then, there was the shaky defense. Gold Glove shortstop Jimmy Rollins booted a routine inning-ending grounder in the fifth, leading to the fourth run of that frame. His offline relay throw in the ninth inning on a Nick Johnson double led to the go-ahead run scoring.
"It never got to my glove. It went palm to palm," Rollins said of his first miscue. "I don't know where it went after that. That's one [error] of maybe two."
His throw won't be recorded as an error, but he took responsibility.
"I held on a little too long," Rollins said. "I was trying to make sure I stayed down through it. Sometimes adrenaline kicks in -- you know you're going to make a right play, and you know you have him, but you hold on a little too long."
A few pitches later, Ruiz hit Johnson as he tried to pick him off third base. The throw bounced into left field and Johnson scored. It got worse from there, with the Nationals clobbering Gordon.
After struggling through a poor but healthy spring, the 40-year-old saw those hardships continue during Game 1. He cited fastball location as the cause.
"You definitely don't want to start the season off that way," Gordon said. "This is a great team that's going to score a lot of runs. I need to find location with my fastball, and keep them off balance with it."
Gordon and Myers hope to quickly correct their Opening Day flaws, but they understand that the Phillies are 0-1 because of them. The high-powered offense, led by Chase Utley and Rollins, plated six runs, and that has to be enough most nights.
In a world of overreaction, Monday's loss brought immediate comparisons to last season's 4-11 start, and the usual emphasis to not let history repeat. Myers, who pitched brilliantly in a loss on Opening Day 2007, won't have any of that.
"We're not going 4-11, I guarantee you that," Myers said. "If they do, then I guess I'm a liar."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.