07/07/09 11:46 PM ET
Missed chances cost Phillies in defeat
Howard, Werth homer, but Phils unable to deliver big hit
By David Gurian-Peck / MLB.com
Maybe it was a hangover effect after a 21-run victory. Maybe the Phillies' arms were tired from pounding out four homers and another 17 hits Monday.
But after Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth hit back-to-back homers in the second inning, and the top of Philadelphia's order strung together three straight hits and a walk to start the third, the Phillies could not push across another run on Tuesday.
The Phils stranded those three runners and nine more as they lost to the Reds, 4-3, at Citizens Bank Park to snap a four-game home winning streak. At the season's midpoint, Philadelphia is 43-38, the same record as a year ago.
"The fact that we scored 22 runs the night before, that's great -- but it doesn't mean diddly tonight," left fielder Greg Dobbs said. "That's baseball. Just because you got 21 hits and 22 runs one night, doesn't mean you're going to do it the next night. There are no guarantees."
That was quite evident Tuesday, when the Phillies were good at getting runners to third base and equally adept at leaving them there. One by one, each missed chance set the stage for a Reds comeback.
Brandon Phillips made that ominous possibility a reality, homering twice and laying down a key sacrifice off Phils closer Brad Lidge in the ninth.
The bunt advanced Joey Votto, who had doubled on a full-count slider, to third base. He would score the go-ahead on Ramon Hernandez's single to shallow center field.
Lidge complimented Votto for a tough at-bat, but offered a mea culpa for the 86-mph slider he threw Hernandez.
"It was pretty simple, really," Lidge said. "I made a bad pitch and he got a hit on it."
It was the kind of moment that eluded the Phillies from the third inning on.
With the bases loaded then, Werth struck out, Dobbs popped to second and third baseman Pedro Feliz hit a weak comebacker, quelling what had the markings of another blowout.
Instead, Phillips got to J.A. Happ for an opposite-field two-run homer, and all of a sudden, Philadelphia was only ahead by one, 3-2.
"I felt like the game kind of shifted when we didn't score in the third inning," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We could've busted the game open with a hit."
They had plenty of other opportunities, too. Carlos Ruiz began the fourth with his first triple since Aug. 30, 2007, a line drive off the bullpen door in right-center field. After motoring to third, though, Ruiz got a long breather; a strikeout and two groundouts ensured that he advanced no further.
With runners on the corners and two outs in the seventh, Manuel called on right-handed-hitting Eric Bruntlett to pinch-hit for Dobbs against veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes. If Reds manager Dusty Baker had countered with a righty, Manuel likely would have deployed Matt Stairs. But Baker stayed put, leaving the game in the hands of Bruntlett, who was hitting .145, and he struck out.
Then in a pivotal moment in the eighth, pinch-runner John Mayberry Jr. was gunned down at the plate on Jimmy Rollins' one-out hard grounder to first.
"We kind of let the game slip away from us," Manuel said.
His squad also spoiled a good outing from Happ, who struck out a career-high seven and walked none over seven innings. Phillips did the only damage, but his two blasts were enough to saddle Happ with a no-decision.
For the Phillies, though, their rotation seems to be settling into place. Once with the worst ERA in baseball, their starters have tossed six straight quality starts.
They will need that to continue as they enter the season's second half. Philadelphia leads the National League East by 1 1/2 games, but is also on pace for only 86 wins.
"Ninety wins is usually going to win this division," Manuel said. "You can sneak by every now and then with mid-80s to 90, somewhere in there. I'd say to really make sure, you got to win 90 games or better."
The Phils may acquire a pitcher from another organization, and they will be helped by the return of Raul Ibanez, who was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday.
Yet no matter who is on their roster, they cannot afford to squander chances like they did Tuesday.
They insisted that Monday's blowout had nothing to do with it. The Reds weren't so sure.
"We deserved that butt-whooping we got [Monday]," said Phillips, who enjoyed his fifth career multi-homer game. "I'm glad it happened. I thought it was kind of funny because it really woke us up."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.