Phillies rookie-of-the-year candidate lefthander J.A. Happ provided another quality start on Thursday, although being tagged for a leadoff homer on his 3rd pitch of the game by centerfielder Andrew McCutchen and for the winning 2 run homer in the eighth inning by rightfielder Garrett Jones. 1st baseman Ryan Howard plated a first inning run on a bases-loaded none-out fielder’s choice grounder and catcher Paul Bako belted a second inning 1 out solo homer but the Phils offense went into deep freeze continuing to struggle with runners on and failing to plate runners in scoring position. They failed to capitalize 4 walks by Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton as the ice-cold Phillies lost their final to Pirates by a 3-2 score.
Having lost 2 of their 3 games with the Pirates, the Phils remained 7 games up in the NL East race as Atlanta and Florida jockey back and forth and are currently tied for 2nd place. Atlanta nipped San Diego on Thursday while Florida was pounded by the Mets who are 16 1/2 games back in fourth place.
While Happ gave up more than 2 runs for the first time in 6 starts, only one Buc reached 3rd and, only once in the game did the Pirates put 2 men on. Happ was aided by good defense and 2 doubleplays. The bottomline is, despite the AP game recap which demeaned Happ’s effort:
J.A. Happ looked like a rookie on the key pitch of the game and Garrett Jones didn’t
you cannot expect to win consistently without offensive support and the Phils’ offense has huffed and puffed but, aside from homers, has been unable to produce runs with men on throughout the series. Even the best pitchers make an occasional mistake. For the record, Happ has coughed up but 4 homers in his last 63 innings.
The AP recap noted further regarding Garrett Jones:
Jones has been quite a find for the Pirates after being cast off by the Twins, hitting .291 while anchoring the middle of the order… His 15 homers lead NL rookies and his 11 homers in July topped all major leaguers.
McCutchen’s leadoff homer was his 2nd homer of the series and Jones’ game-winning eighth inning homer was his 4th dinger against the Phils, the other 3 coming, 1 per game, in the 3 games series in Philadelphia in July just before All Star break.
The Phillies had an excellent opportunity to knock around Charlie Morton right from the chute. The Phillies only had one run to show in a bases loaded, nobody out situation. Ryan Howard’s RBI ground out put the Phillies on the board, but Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez each popped out to end the threat. The Phillies added another run in the second inning on Paul Bako’s (2-2, 2 BB) homer.
With a struggling closer in Matt Capps, the Phillies had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the ninth. Matt Stairs represented the go-ahead run, but he’d have to snap an 0-for-24 streak. The last time he had gotten a hit was on July 11, when he homered against Capps. It wasn’t meant to be, because although he swung for the fences, he struck out.
Jimmy Rollins grounded out to end the game…. When the Phillies bats are hot, they’re on fire. When they’re cold, they’re frozen. The offense has been very streaky and they’ve become too reliant on the home run.
Expecting to sweep, the Phillies learned they can not take the Pirates lightly. With the 3-2 loss, the Phillies now have a record of 9-13 at PNC Park since 2002. The Phillies have a history of falling to bad teams, but they still have a comfortable lead in the division.
History will hang the the Phillies’ 3-2 loss to the Pirates last night around the neck of rookie lefthander J.A. Happ, who surrendered a go-ahead two-run home run to Garrett Jones in the eighth inning.
But history - at least in the form of baseball box scores - can be misleading. For while Happ may have lost the battle of the Rookie of the Year candidates, allowing Jones and fellow first-year star Andrew McCutchen to blast home all three of the Pirates’ runs, the war might have been lost in the first inning, when the Phillies converted a bases-loaded, no-out situation against previously unimpressive righthander Charlie Morton into just one run.
“We didn’t hit,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We let him get away there in the first inning . . . We didn’t hit him.”
Happ’s line for the game; eight innings, 114 pitches, 3 runs (on the 2 homers), 7 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. Opposing starter Charlie Morton pitched 5 innings throwing 106 pitches and didn’t figure in the final decision. Pirates reliever Denny Bautista shut down the Phils in 2 perfect innings while striking out 2. Clsoer Matt Capps was awarded the win for shutting down the Phillies on 1 hit in the ninth inning.
For the scores of all of Thursday’s games, click here.
The Phils return home Friday for a 3 game series against the Atlanta Braves. In Friday’s opener, Pedro Martinez opposes Tom Hanson who has won 5 of his last 7 starts. On Saturday, ace lefthander Cliff Lee hopes to continue his undefeated string since joining the Phils. Lee is opposed by Derek Lowe who has been pounded in his last 2 outings.