Friday, September 05, 2003

Phillies 6, Mets 5

The boos began as soon as Jose Mesa emerged from Veterans Stadium's right field bullpen and started trotting toward the mound. They intensified when public address man Dan Baker announced his appearance in the game to begin the ninth. With the Phillies up by a run and Mesa's disastrous appearance against the Red Sox Monday still fresh in many fans' minds, the crowd was in no mood for another bullpen high-wire act.

Too bad, because that's what we got.

Leading off the top of the ninth, Prentice Redman, in just his eighth major league at-bat, whacked a Mesa offering into the netting of the leftfield fair pole. The crowd really let Mesa have it at that point. The Phils' soon-to-be-former closer whiffed another Met no-name, Jorge Velandia, before Timo Perez blasted a rocket off the right field wall; the ball was hit so hard that Perez had to settle for a long single.

Larry Bowa popped out of the dugout with surprising speed and agility. But his stroll to the mound was long and leisurely, allowing the crowd to deluge Mesa with wave after wave of verbal abuse. This wasn't the scattered, disappointed rumbling that moves through the Vet when Pat Burrell punches out with the bases loaded; no, this was loud, sustained booing, the kind for which we've become famous.

New guy Valerio De Los Santos -- and how pathetic is it to shore up your bullpen by raiding the Brewers' relieving corps, for crying out loud? -- retired the Mets without further incident.

Happiness returned in the bottom of the ninth. Marlon Byrd walked and was sent to second on Jimmy Rollins's second beautiful sacrifice bunt of the game. After Bobby Abreu made an out, unlikely cleanup hitter Mike Lieberthal (eight home runs) dropped a single to left-center, scoring Byrd without a throw and sending the Phillies to victory.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle was a strong outing by Randy Wolf, who allowed just four hits and two earned runs in seven innings; Rollins's three-run blast to left in the fifth ; and Jason Michaels's pinch-hit homer in the seventh.

More important, the win kept the Phils tied with the Marlins, who had defeated Pittsburgh earlier in the day, in the National League wild-card race.


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