It has gotten oh, so familiar with the Phillies in this series, to the point of gross repetitiousness.
The Arizona Diamondbacks get on the board early, the Phils’ offense snoozes for 7 innings as Randy Johnson and a reliever toss a 1 hit shutout for 7 innings. Arizona adds 3 late inning insurance runs on two 8th inning homers. The Phils offense wakes up to make a 9th inning charge which falls short.
And so the Phils, who began this series off of a sweep of Atlanta — 2 games over .500 and a mere 2 1/2 games behind the Braves, now find themselves 4 games behind the Braves, tied with Florida a game beneath .500 and swept by the Diamondbacks by a 4-3 score.
Almost too frustrating to write about.
“Big Unit” was vintage for 6 innings as only 2 Phillies reached base;
leftfielder Pat Burrell on a one out, 2nd inning single and rightfielder Shane Victorino leading off the 4th making second on a shortstop throwing error. That was all she wrote for the Phils, minus Ryan Howard in the lineup, as Johnson made 61 pitches over 6 innings striking out 6 with no walks. It was his first start since suffering with tendinitis.
In the meantime, aside from leftfielder Eric Byrnes’ leadoff homer to start the game, losing pitcher Jamie Moyer acquitted himself well for 7 innings giving up 5 hits while walking one and striking out 3 in this duel of lefthanders. Moyer was supported defensively by 3 double-plays.
But after Byrnes clubbed his 2nd homer, a one-out shot to leftfield, and after a double to leftfield by 1st baseman Conor Jackson, 3rd baseman Mark Reynolds clubbed a 2 out 2 run blast to center. That was it for Moyer. Ryan Madson came in and retired the side to end the 8th inning. Antonio Alfonseca pitched a perfect 9th but the damage was already done. It was up to the Phils offense to wake up in the 9th to pull this one out. But they came up short once again.
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston describes the phillies’ 9th inning for Yahoo sports;
Howard was held out of the starting lineup a night after suffering a cramp in his left leg. Howard said he was OK, but the slugging first baseman also has never faced Johnson.
Manager Charlie Manuel tried to rest Howard the last time the Phillies faced the 6-foot-10 lefty. That lasted until the seventh when Howard hit a pinch-hit grand slam against Arizona’s bullpen to win the game for Philadelphia.
Howard had a chance to win it again because reliever Brandon Lyon faltered in the ninth.
Lyon hit a batter and Shane Victorino reached on a grounder that went through second baseman Orlando Hudson’s legs for an error. Jimmy Rollins’ two-RBI triple made it 4-2.
Arizona brought in Valverde to stop the rally, but Burrell singled home Rollins with one out to make it 4-3 and Howard pinch hit for Wes Helms.
After pinch-runner Michael Bourn stole second, Howard hit a line drive to Hudson stationed in short right field against the lefty slugger and Bourn was easily doubled off to give Valverde his 19th save.
“I knew he was over there,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said of Howard. “It was just a matter of time until we were going to get him.”
Howard said once he hit into the shift, he realized his liner, “wasn’t going to fall.”
Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Todd Zolecki adds these comments and observations about Ryan Howard and his absence from the lineup vs Randy Johnson;
Howard’s not hurt
Ryan Howard seemed amused yesterday as reporters circled his locker. He left Tuesday’s 11-5 loss to Arizona in the top of the ninth inning after he said he suffered a cramp in his left leg. Howard did not start last night but said he felt fine.
Manager Charlie Manuel said he rested Howard because he had played five straight days after returning from the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps. Also consider that Arizona had lefthander Randy Johnson on the mound. Howard is hitting .133 with three homers and nine RBIs against lefthanders this season.
But truthfully, after the club’s lack of candor about Tom Gordon’s right rotator cuff inflammation and after the length of time that it took the team to reveal Howard’s leg injury, one has to wonder about Charlie Manuel’s explanation.
AP’s Gelston adds this comment from Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and these notes on the game;
“I’m concerned about our team. I’m worried,” Manuel said. “We’ve got to improve and stop making mistakes.”
Former Seattle teammates Johnson and the 44-year-old Moyer (5-4) combined to set a record for the matchup of the oldest lefties in history. At a combined 88 years, 90 days, Johnson and Moyer broke the record set the last time these two faced off in early May.
Moyer earned the win in that game, but was done in by home runs in this one.
The Diamondbacks announced in an Associated Press report that the they have signed their 2006 first-round draft choice, pitcher Max Scherzer to a four-year, $4.3 million contract with bonus opportunities that could make it worth up to $6 million for the Scott Boras client.
For the scores, boxscores and recaps of this and all of Wednesday’s games, click here.
The Phillies get a much needed day off on Thursday before the San Francisco Giants come to town for 4 games.
On Friday, Adam Eaton faces Matt Morris in the series opener. On Saturday, Cole Hamels opposes Noah Lowry in another battle of lefties. On Sunday, Freddie Garcia faces Tim Lincecum. Pitchers for Monday’s get-away game have yet to be determined.
For the scores, boxscores and recaps on all of Thursday’s games, click here.