IT WAS A VERY bad ballgame for us.
Charlie Manuel could have ended his press conference after those eight words. The game, a 6-2 loss at the hands of the Dodgers last night, was nothing extraordinary. It wasn't the first time the Phillies left eight runners on base, nor was it the first time they managed only a lone extra-base hit. It wasn't the first time they failed to hit, and it wasn't the first time they lost to a team they were supposed to beat.
But this one seemed to bother the manager more than the others. Maybe it was the fact that they were facing a rookie pitcher who threw nothing but fastballs. Maybe it was the culmination of a month of offensive futility. Or maybe his team's inability to deliver a critical blow unlocked the part of his brain that holds the memory of the night their 2010 season ended, when Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez couldn't find the strike zone for two innings, and the Phillies could not find a way to turn that result into a win.
Two key performers from Game 6 of that National League Championship Series were on the field last night. Roy Oswalt, who started against San Francisco, took the mound for the Phillies. Juan Uribe, whose eighth-inning home run off Ryan Madson sent the Giants to the World Series last October, was at second base for the Dodgers. Like Sanchez before him, Dodgers starter Rubby De La Rosa was wild throughout the first two innings, walking five batters while struggling to locate his high-90s fastball.
The Phils could not capitalize.
They put eight runners on base in the first three innings but managed just one run, thanks in part to some impressive situational fielding by Uribe. In the first, the Dodgers second baseman fielded a ball that deflected off De La Rosa's glove and threw across the diamond to get Shane Victorino as he slid into third for the first out of the inning.
The Phillies also had two runners thrown out at home, the first on a bases-loaded nubber by Victorino that De La Rosa fielded and tossed to catcher Dioner Navarro for the force, the second on a two-out single by No. 8 hitter Wilson Valdez that Andre Ethier fielded in short rightfield and threw home to beat Raul Ibanez attempting to score from second for the final out of the third.
"Everything, from a bad standpoint, kind of happened," Manuel said.
Really, though, the loss was a product of the Phillies' season-long struggle to drive the ball for extra bases. They entered the night ranked 12th in the NL in doubles and ninth in triples and home runs. In losing four of their previous six games they had managed nine extra-base hits and 17 runs.
They entered last night logging 24 games with fewer than two extra-base hits, second in the NL. They were 27-9 in games in which they hit at least two, and are now 9-16 in games in which they hit one or none.
Last night, their only one came in the form of a seventh-inning triple by Chase Utley that drove in one of their two runs.
"The goal is to get on base, and we did that tonight, and we weren't really able to capitalize on the opportunities we had," Utley said. "Some of the credit has to go to their guy, but we had some pitches to hit and it didn't work out for us tonight."
They also committed two errors, both in the Dodgers' three-run third inning. First, Oswalt made a pickoff throw to first base, thinking Howard was covering. Instead, the ball rolled into foul territory, allowing Dee Gordon to score from second and Casey Blake to move from first to third. Then, Utley threw wide of Howard on a potential doubleplay ball, although the error did not lead to any runs.
Oswalt allowed four runs on eight hits with two walks and one strikeout in six innings. The Phillies have lost four of the five starts he has made since returning from the disabled list. Although he hasn't struck out more than three batters in any of those games, the longest stretch of his career, last night was just the second time this season he has allowed more than two runs.
In his first four starts of the season, Oswalt struck out 21 batters and walked six while allowing five earned runs in 24 innings. In six starts since, he has struck out 12 and walked eight while allowing 14 earned runs in 32 innings.
"I look for wins," said Oswalt (3-4, 3.05 ERA). "I don't look for anything else. Strikeouts are nice if you can get him, but if you can get wins, that's what you shoot for."
On Monday night, Tom Gordon had a chance to see his 23-year-old son, Dee, make his major league debut with the Dodgers. Last night, the retired Phillies closer saw Dee, a shortstop, get his first major league hit, a first-inning single off Roy Oswalt that dropped in front of Raul Ibanez in leftfield. Dee Gordon finished the night 3-for-5.
The 43-year-old Gordon pitched for the Phillies from 2006-08, winning a World Series ring and saving 42 games while logging a 4.19 ERA and averaging 8.8 strikeouts-per-nine, 3.6 walks-per-nine and 1.3 home runs-per-nine in 137 appearances.
"To get a chance to watch and sit down and watch your kid playing - you can't describe it all, because it's such a wonderful feeling," said Gordon, who retired after an injury-plagued season with the Diamondbacks in 2009. "At the same time, you try to take it all in and try to help any way I can to keep him under control and give him the best opportunities and watch him progress."
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.