Monday, September 01, 2003

As the Vet Turns

Our Phillies sure are considerate. Not only have they provided us with a pennant race, they've given us a soap opera to watch! Woo-hoo!

Last week brought the ruinous Montreal leg of the two-week road trip, the lowlight of which was Larry Bowa's clubhouse detonation. The cliched players-only meeting followed. In New York Friday night, Pat Burrell bashed a two-run homer, then pointedly returned to the middle of the dugout instead of the more typical route -- to the end closer to home plate -- thereby avoiding Bowa's congratulatory handshake.

The next day, the Phillies released baseball's best pinch hitter, Tyler Houston, one of the team's so-called Bench Dog. Phils brass cited Houston's clubhouse grumbling over a lack of playing time and worried privately that he was a bad influence on Burrell. In an interview with the Courier-Post, Houston savaged Bowa, saying that his team hates hit guts and that the players' meeting resulted in a commitment to band together in spite of the manager, not because of him. The Phillies, Houston maintained, resented such an uprising and needed to make an example of someone -- and he was it.

Bowa responded by calling Houston "a loser" and telling reporters to ask Jim Thome whether the players dislike him. The Phillies' $90 million man sidestepped the question more than once, asking reporters to focus their queries on what happens on the field.

Oh, yeah, meanwhile the Phils were busy sweeping the Mets. Terrific starting pitching, from Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, and Vicente Padilla, carried the day, and the rest of the team chipped in with timely hitting, nifty fielding, and a lot of fundamentally sound play. The series at Shea brought the Phillies home on an upswing for a week's worth of games -- a makeup today against the Red Sox, a pair with Montreal, and then a four-game weekend set versus the Mets.

Sixty large were at the Vet to watch the Phils take on Boston, and they saw a corker. Brett Myers, whose locker-room feud with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan was part of last week's drama, quickly coughed up a four-run lead and lasted just four innings. The teams traded leads several times through the course of the game, but the Phillies seemed to sew it up with three in the eighth -- a pinch-hit solo shot by Ricky Ledee tying the score and Thome's liner to right plating the go-ahead two runs.

Jose Mesa, supposedly all straightened out, came on and promptly got into trouble. Yeah, he got squeezed a lot by the home plate umpire, but still. Closers close, no matter who's calling balls and strikes. Instead, Mesa loaded the bases, then gave up an infield hit that brought the Sox to within a run. Turk Wendell, reliable all season long, was summoned, only to walk in the tying run and get rocked by Trot Nixon for a salami to right. Final score: Boston 13, Phillies 9.

Given a golden opportunity to slingshot into a big homestand with crucial momentum, the Phillies coughed it up. Fourteen walks. Ineffective starting pitching. A bullpen collapse. No runs after beginning the seventh by loading the bases with nobody out.

So, just when we thought last week's clown show had left town, we look up to see the anointed closer again wearing a red nose and big shoes.

Is this any way to win a playoff spot?


Post a Comment

<< Home