How should we think about this weekend's traveshamockery of a home sweep at the hands of the Florida Marlins? Was it merely a series of unfortunate events? Regression to various means (the wild good fortune of July, Jamie Moyer's dominance of the Marlins, etc)? An unfortunate but salutary corrective to the whiff of overconfidence that had scented the air in South Philadelphia? A harrowing display of all the Phillies' deepest weaknesses?
Define it how you will, but the conclusion was one of the Phillies' worst losses of the 2009 season, punctuated by one of the worst innings you'll ever see in the top of the 7th. The Phils trailed 3-1 after home plate umpire Ed Rapuano had called Ryan Howard out on a full-count pitch to end the bottom of the sixth. A walk would have loaded the bases and brought Raul Ibanez up to face a tiring Josh Johnson, and tensions in the Phils dugout and in the sold-out stands were high. With Rodrigo Lopez on in relief, facing Wes Helms with two strikes, Rapuano called a close pitch inside for a ball. Three hundred-plus feet away, Shane Victorino raised his hands in disbelief--and Rapuano ejected him. Jayson Werth came in to replace Victorino... and quickly committed two errors as the Marlins went on to score six runs in the inning, all with two outs.
The Phils' frustration with Rapuano had begun much earlier. In the bottom of the first, Jimmy Rollins led off with a single and Victorino followed with a four pitch walk. Unable to command his fastball, Johnson threw two more balls to Chase Utley--then got back to 2-2 as Rapuano called two balls that looked well outside as strikes. After a nine-pitch battle, Utley followed with a deep flyout to center that moved Rollins to third. Howard launched another deep drive that Jeremy Hermida caught against the fence, with Rollins scoring just before Hermida's throw doubled Victorino off first. The home club had a 1-0 lead, but the Marlins ace was dominant--helped by two more double-play balls--over the next four innings, until Rapuano helped him again.
Meanwhile, in the early going it looked like Moyer might just bedevil Florida yet again as the Marlins stranded six base runners through the first four innings. But in the fifth, Emilio Bonafacio reached base on a one-out bunt that Paul Bako couldn't pick up. Hanley Ramirez followed with a soft single to center. Then Jorge Cantu, Helms and the inevitable Cody Ross each dropped perfectly placed singles to score one run, as Moyer's inability to put away hitters with two strikes stung him yet again. He left after the first two men reached in the sixth inning, having allowed 11 hits--all singles. The extra base hits came later, against hapless relievers Rodrigo Lopez and, inevitably, Brad Lidge, who was torched again for three relatively meaningless runs in the top of the ninth.
With the Marlins enjoying new life in the NL East race, they go on to face Houston at home. After an off-day to suck on this one, the Phillies and their unsettled starting rotation head to Chicago for a series with the Cubs.