Good God, where do you begin?
Single runs by the Mets in the second and third, followed by the traditional Joe Blanton Runs in the Sixth(TM) -- last night three of them -- buried a team that, for most of the last two weeks, plays like it has just smacked itself over the head with a shovel after digging its own grave in just such a way that the shovel winds up in the hands of the other team and then the team can easily shovel dirt on top of them.
Damn, it's been so bad that the knuckleballers have messed up my metaphors for a week. The Phillies haven't scored runs in 38 of the last 39 innings they've played. For you masochists out there, or Schadenfreude-loving pants-stuffers from Amazin' Avenue, follow me as we slump-jump:
Let's just thin-slice this game. Emblematic of this dismal stretch was the sixth inning. Down 2-0, Shane Victorino led off with a single. Good, we all thought- will he now have a chance to run? And behold! On the first pitch he took off for second. But alas! Placido Polanco swung hard, also at the first pitch, and grounded the ball sharply to David Wright, who threw him out at first on a fielder's choice. But wait! Chase Utley then knocked a single through the right side, and Victorino scored! Well, not exactly. He was held at third, respecting Jeff Francoeur's arm, which was the source of a throw that went up the first base line, as the team continues to move around the bases with all of the grace of Prince Fielder. Well, there were still chances. So up stepped Ryan Howard. And he struck out on four pitches. Well, okay, how about Jayson Werth? Nope. Flew out to Francoeur to end the inning.
But wait! There was more. Joe Blanton continued his 2010 campaign for Bestest Losingest Pitcher with the following sequence: David Wright doubled on a 2-2 count. Like some kind of fiendish magic, Angel Pagan dropped a bunt down the third base line for an infield single, then promptly stole second base, as Phillies are now awarding second base as a lagniappe to Mets runners who reach first (with no end in sight, apparently, as Carlos Ruiz, off of the knee injury he suffered in Colorado, is apparently suffering from a shoulder injury). As Matt Gelb noted, the Mets have swiped seven bases this series, while the Phillies have 16 all season.
Then, of course, up stepped Rod Barajas, who smacked a 2-run double to left field. After Jeff Francoeur flied out, pinch hitter Alex Cora hit a ball off the mound that Chase Utley fielded and threw a one-hopper to Howard, who couldn't hold on, chasing Blanton. Chad Durbin came in and promptly gave up a single to a reborn-looking Jose Reyes, scoring Barajas, before getting the final two outs.
So, to sum up: Crazy/plodding situational running and hitting, failure with runners in scoring position from the guys expected to do the job, just-bad-enough pitching, subpar defense, and a frisson of bad luck combined with some very capable, mistake-free baseball played by opponents.
Tonight's tip of the pitching cap goes to Hisanori Takahashi, who threw six innings, gave up 5 hits, struck out 6, and walked no one, although it wasn't entirely clear that anyone in the lineup is terribly interested in doing so. Takahashi improved to 4-1, and, notably, beat the Yankees and the Phillies in consecutive starts. So, Takahashi-san may be pretty good, and indeed had a plenty good track record in Japan, but it's kind of hard to tell when pitching mediocrities from every continent are now beating down opposing managers' doors to get a start against the Phillies. Opposing starters (Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Dickey, Takahashi) have now thrown 28 scoreless innings against the Phillies.
Charlie Manuel held a closed door meeting held by after the game for the better part of an hour. Agenda:
-Doing Little Things Consistently (10 minutes)
-Keeping Your Heads Up (5 minutes)
-Results of Recent Employee Satisfaction Survey (10 minutes)
-Playing The Game The Right Way(TM) (10 minutes)
-Staying Aggressive at the Plate (2 minutes)
-Signs Update: Mick Billmeyer (2 minutes)
-Jayson Werth Needs to Shave (5 minutes)
-Snack Assignments for Next Staff Meeting (5 minutes)
Okay, the part about the signs I might have made up. But as of this posting, Jayson might be down to the soul patch. It'll be an interesting game tomorrow night, as Cole Hamels tries to salvage one against Mike Pelfrey.