Sunday, September 21, 2003

Seeing Red

From a team perspective, the Braves didn't have much reason to be extending themselves against the Marlins today. Sure, they're playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs, and yes, they were trying to help Greg Maddux become just the second pitcher in baseball history to win 15 games for 16 straight seasons. But having already wrapped up National League East, Atlanta's biggest concerns are properly lining up its post-season pitching rotation and playing the final games of the season without sustaining major injuries.

So the Phillies should have looked at the Braves' thumping of the Fish today as the gift from the baseball gods that it was. For a tantalizing hour, Philadelphia and Florida were deadlocked in their wild-card race. Successfully nursing their 3-1 lead over the hapless Reds would have given the Phillies a half-game lead entering the season's final week.

Alas, Cincinnati scored once in the sixth and twice in the seventh to spoil the Phils' parade for the second straight game. Wasted were a decent start by Vicente Padilla and Jim Thome's 44th tater, an electrifying three-run blast that brought the Veterans Stadium sellout crowd to its feet. Thome now has hit more homers in a season than any left-handed hitter in Phillies history, and the sole Phil ahead of him is Mike Schmidt, whose 48 dingers in 1980 were part of an MVP season that saw Philadelphia bask in the glow if its sole World Series victory.


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