Friday, July 16, 2004

Free Baseball Thursdays
It wasn't quite the spectacular contest I caught two weeks ago, but I did see the Phils and Mets go beyond the alloted nine last night at Shea. The Phils lost the game, though I was gone by then: I've seen Jose Mesa pitch in Shea enough times that I didn't feel the need to watch Roberto Hernandez--Shemp to Mesa's Curly--give up the game. It was actually funny listening to the Mets' (excellent) radio broadcasters while walking out, trying not to just slag the man we've dubbed Roblowto: "You have to be patient with Hernandez, because he will walk people... of course, he's also surrendered over a hit per inning, so he's been, um, far from effective..." Sure enough, Hernandez walked Mike Piazza--who can't buy a hit right now--to lead off the inning, then retired Richard Hidalgo on a hard-hit line drive Ricky Ledee ran down. Then a single to Cliff Floyd, a walk to Shane Spencer, and the game-winning infield single to Ty Wigginton... but by then I was on the 7 train bound for home. Of all the stupid, silly "by the book" strategems of pro baseball, I think the one that holds you don't bring your closer into a game late on the road unless and until you get the lead is the dumbest. The difference in last night's game was that the Mets deployed Braden Looper for two innings, while the Phils lost with Billy Wagner still sitting in the bullpen. (I also just really wanted to watch Wags pitch in person). To be fair, the reverse was true in the Phils' win last Thursday night: Art Howe isn't much better as a strategist than Bowa... though he does seem to be a much better clubhouse guy, and his A's played meaningful games in October--unlike any of Scary Larry's clubs.
The frustrating denouement aside, it was a pretty good game. Eric Milton pitched very well for the Phils, giving them I think just their third quality start in the last month or so. A week after single-handedly beating the Mets in Philly, Bobby Abreu tried to do it again with a two-run homer off Slow Steve Trachsel. And Ryan Madson showed a lot of guts and skill working out of a first and second, no out jam in the home ninth. But Mike Lieberthal twice came up small with guys in scoring position--in the 6th and the 9th--and increased the gap between his average with RISP and the Mendoza line.
This is a scary time for the Phillies. They're now tied with the surging Braves for the division lead--and with Atlanta hosting hapless Montreal this weekend, it's hard to conclude other than that the Braves will be back in their accustomed spot by Monday. The Phils have 18 of their next 23 on the road, and all are against teams with records over .500. Meanwhile, Bowa continues to smolder, Ed Wade--or, as I like to call him, "Dead Weight"--continues to fiddle, and the season slips away.  

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