Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Game Report: Phillies vs. Astros - Four Batters, Four Runs, For Shame!

If only we could eliminate the first four batters of tonight's game. Doing so would give the Phillies a nice handy 2-0 shutout against the bane of their existence: the Houston Astros. Never mind that they haven't won a game against the Astros since sometime in 2003. Never mind that this is the team they need to beat to secure the wild card. And never mind the undeniable fact that the Phillies are OWNED by lefty pitchers such as Andy Pettitte.

This guy has too many T's on his T-shirt.

This was my second time at Citizens Bank Park, and I'm still really in love with everything about the place except the ticket prices. I miss the days of buying a general admission ticket for $3 and sitting with my friends up in the 700 level of Veterans Stadium. We'd hold up spraypainted bedsheet signs that said things like "Put Us On TV And The Phils Will Win", and of course, we never ended up on TV and the Phillies never won. But, I digress.

Tonight's ballpark giveaway was Bobby Abreu collectible figurines. I didn't realize that the gates didn't open until 5:30 before a 7:05 game, so I was at the park at 5pm or so, and ended up having to wait around outside for a while and also had to go find the friend I was meeting up with. Eventually we got inside and just walked around the park for a while, because he had never been there before, and this was only my second trip. I really wanted a non-ugly Chase Utley t-shirt, but all the ones they had were the new style ones with no number on the front and skinny ugly writing on the back, so screw that, I'll just have to wait and see what next year's styles are like. (I loved the blue number t-shirts they used to make; I wonder what happened to those?)

Because Astros batting practice was going on by the time they let people in, and Phillies batting practice was over, I decided to abandon any hope of getting a player autograph... until my friend decided to get dinner at Bull's BBQ, and then I looked over and noticed that Greg Luzinski was actually there! So, I went over and got him to sign my ticket. I thanked him, saying "My mom is going to be totally jealous when she sees this." He gave me a really weird look and didn't reply. I walked off. Hee.

After some more wandering around, admiring the kids' stuff in the outfield, seeing all the plaques in the Philly Hall of Fame (including the new one for Bobby Boone) and the history stuff, and taking a bazillion pictures, we went up to our seats in section 315 and awaited the game. A guy was sitting behind me talking about how he was at Saturday's game, so I turned around and chatted with him for a bit. That was cool.

The game started off with a total bucket of suck. Infact, I bet Brett Myers is currently wondering whether someone hypnotized him for the first ten minutes and had him throw crap, because he pitched a great 7 innings after those first four batters. Willy Taveras hit the ball to David Bell, who bobbled it. It's got to suck when the first thing that happens in the game is an error. Taveras stole second, which probably threw off Myers even more, as he walked Biggio after that. Morgan Ensberg came to the plate and singled out towards Burrellville, as Taveras scored the first run of the inning. Lance Berkman, who had homered in three of his last four games, socked the 3-1 pitch hard into the right-field seats to bring the score to 4-0 and his homer streak to four out of the last five games. Yow.

After that, Myers set down the rest of the side, and to be fair, he shut down the Astros for the next 7 innings. Without those four batters, his line for the day would read 7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K, but instead, it reads 7 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR. Bleh. An amusing point is that in the 3rd inning, when Berkman was up again, he grounded to Myers, who ran over to the baseline and tagged him out personally. Sort of like a "in yo' FACE, homer-boy" gesture.

Is it me, or is seeing Luke Scott and Adam Everett listed in that order sort of backwards? The baseball historian in me reads it "Everett Scott", not "Scott Everett".

I have a lot of notes scribbled down about the Phillies' at-bats, but for the first several innings, they're mostly stadium notes. For example, I saw a lady wearing a Kevin Stocker jersey! I haven't seen one of those in like ten years! And then they showed Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams up on the big board, because he was attending the game today! That was cool. I noted that Chase Utley comes up to "Kashmir" as his at-bat song, and that the whole stadium booed David Bell for his at-bats. I suppose they didn't know/care about his weekend home runs. Somehow I doubt he'll be playing in Philly much longer.

Brett Myers got a single off of Andy Pettitte's shins in the 3rd inning for the first hit for the Phillies. It wasn't as elegant as the single Pettitte got off him in the 2nd, but it was fine. Myers also hit an extremely long drive in the 6th, which would have been a home run if it wasn't straight to center. It was quite a nice at-bat for him, where he fouled off 8 or 9 pitches in a row before hitting that drive, weakening Pettitte enough to let up a bizarre double to Jason Michaels two batters later. I say bizarre because I could think of several other creative ways to score it. He hit the ball to left field, where it bounced in front of Luke Scott, who fell over trying to get it. Everett came out to get the ball, as Michaels rounded first and headed to second. The throw to second was definitely in time to get Michaels, except it came at a weird angle to Biggio, who couldn't quite hold on to the ball. I wrote down a single and an E-4 on my card, but the scoreboard flashed it as a double. I guess. They took out Pettitte at that point, and Bobby Abreu grounded out to first on Chad Qualls's first pitch.

"God Bless America" was sung by a stadium usher, Terry Pier, before the 7th inning stretch. That was sort of cool, and she wasn't half bad, either.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Phillies actually started scoring runs, since the Big Bad Lefty wasn't out there any more. Pattycakes hit a home-run-wannabe into Taveras's glove, but then Chasey-at-the-Bat hit a sweet single to right. David Bell, amidst all the boos, also hit a single to right, advancing Utley. Lieberthal singled to left, driving in the first run for the Phillies. Tomas Perez hit the fourth consecutive single for the Phillies, loading the bases, and Shane Victorino came in to pinch-run for him.

With the bases loaded and a righty pitcher on the mound, Charlie Manuel did the smartest thing a manager could ever possibly do: he put Ryan Howard in to pinch-hit for Brett Myers. The music got extremely loud and the crowd got extremely loud and then the Astros manager got extremely scared and lifted righty Qualls for lefty Gallo. Howard stayed in, and I remarked to my friend: "Oh, crap. This kid is AMAZING at mashing righty pitching, but he suuuucks against lefties."

Sure enough, he struck out.

Jimmy Rollins was up next. I watched him do something I've never seen him do so convincingly before: he stood there and WATCHED SEVERAL BAD PITCHES GO BY WITHOUT SWINGING and walked. Even better, since he walked with the bases loaded, that was another run scored. Wheeee!

They switched lefty Gallo to righty Wheeler, and since Jason Michaels has notorious platoon problems as well, Charlie pinch-hit Michael Tucker for him instead. Sadly, Tucker grounded out to second, ending the inning and the rally. But it was cool while it lasted, and it brought the score to 4-2.

The friend I saw the game with is Canadian, so he asked whether the Phillies still had "that guy from New Brunswick". I informed him that they do, but he sucks -- and that I have a brilliant master plan, see. Since Ryan Howard sucks at hitting lefties, and Rheal Cormier sucks at striking out batters, I humbly propose we have Cormier pitch to Howard until either Howard learns to hit lefties or Cormier's arm falls off, and either way, we've solved at least one problem, right?

The 8th inning was all almost-beens for the Phillies. Abreu almost hit a home run but it fell a few feet short of the center field wall. Burrell almost hit a delicious line drive to center but Biggio snagged it in a gorgeous running catch.

I was all sad that the Phillies weren't winning, so I wasn't going to get to see Billy pitch, except as the 9th inning started, I heard the strains of a familiar Metallica song, and sure enough, out came Billy! Yay! My friend couldn't understand why I was so excited about a pitcher, until I explained the whole story behind him being an unnatural lefty and how he can throw 100 mph. I bet that the crowd would boo him if he didn't throw enough heat. I was right. There was a guy three rows back or so yelling things like "Only 98 miles per hour? Billy, you SUCK! BOOOOOO!" And to think, this is what a guy gets for pitching one inning, walking one, letting up one hit, no runs, and strikes out three guys. Ah, Phillies fans. Incorrigible and incomprehensible.

They play the same Animal House speech at CBP as they do at Safeco to inspire a rally. Things didn't look so good in the bottom of the 9th with closer Brad Lidge out there and David Bell leading off with an easy fly to right field. But then Kenny Lofton came in to pinch-hit for Lieberthal. He hit what initially looked like a relatively easy grounder to shortstop, except it must not have been, because Everett bobbled the throw and pulled Berkman off the bag. As the ball flew past Berkman, Lofton pushed him away football-tackle-style and went running for second.

Shane Victorino was left in to hit for himself; I guess we were light on lefty bench and he's a switch-hitter. Someone behind me yelled, and I kid you not, this is an exact quote: "C'MON VICTORINO! GIVE US A REASON NOT TO BOO YOU!"

Victorino grounded out to first, but he moved Lofton to third, which was relatively important. Ryan Howard stayed in to bat against the righty Lidge. The second pitch to him was wild, and Kenny Lofton ran in and scored. 4-3. The count got to 3-0 on Howard, and I wondered if they were just going to intentionally walk him. I don't know, but they did walk him, so Jimmy Rollins was up next. Not being one to kill a rally, Jimmy hit a looooong fly ball into the right field corner for a double. Sadly, even for Matt Kata, who had come in to pinch run for Ryan Howard, it wasn't possible to score from first on that.

So we had guys on second and third with two outs, and it was Billy Wagner's turn to bat. They pinch-hit Endy Chavez for him.

Predictably, Chavez struck out, and that was the game. Astros player high-fives and Phillies fan boos commenced, as people filed out of their seats.

Call me weird, but I would have left Billy in to hit. I'm serious.

Perhaps that's why I'm not a major-league manager.

After taking a super-crowded subway ride back, I got home, and my dad was surprised I was there so soon after he saw the game end on TV. He said, "Did you get any cool souvenirs?" I got out my ticket to show him, and he looked at it for a minute, and as he recognized the name he lit up like "The Bull was there? No WAY!" I never knew my dad actually followed the Phillies much before he met my mom, but he dug out and showed me a program he had from 1960, autographed by Jim Coker, Bobby Del Greco, Johnny Callison, Harry Anderson, and a few other Phillies. That was *cool*.

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