Thursday, April 15, 2004

Phillies 6, Reds 4 | Brilliant sunshine rendered Citizens Bank Park a glittering, flawless diamond Thursday afternoon, a welcome change after Monday's sodden Opening Day disappointment and last night's rainout.

But the Phillies came out flat, again, against the Reds, scratching out just two hits through the first six innings. Cincinnati touched Vicente Padilla, who faded after a strong start, for four runs in five innings, and the home crowd was in a restless mood, although CBP's open design doesn't capture and retain catcalls quite the way its more insular predecessor did. As a fellow fan in the 300 level remarked, "The boos don't resonate the way they did at the Vet."

Strong middle relief from Roberto Hernandez and Rheal Cormier kept the Phils' deficit at four runs, and when David Bell punched a hole in the brisk left-to-right wind with a two-run dinger in the seventh, we regained some hope. An inning later, Placido Polanco and Bobby Abreu reached base, bringing Jim Thome to the plate and 37,000 fans to their feet. For an instant Thome appeared poised to add to his folk-hero status, but his towering drive to right was nudged just foul by the stiff breeze. His subsequent fielder's choice groundout put runners at the corners for Pat Burrell.

Two quick strikes looking put Burrell in an 0-2 hole, and he seemed destined to halt the rally in its tracks. Swinging off the wrong foot, he reached out on a tough outside pitch and dumped a base hit into shallow right that plated Polanco to draw the Phillies to within a run. It was an uplifting moment for Burrell, who is famously trying to wipe last season from everyone's memory.

With Billy Wagner now heating up in the bullpen, Mike Lieberthal slammed a pitch deep into the leftfield seats to give the Phils their first lead. CBP rocked with joyous bedlam.

Enter Sandman.

As Metallica boomed from the stadium speakers, Wagner sprinted in from the centerfield bullpen, circled the mound, picked up the ball, and took his warmups. Adam Dunn never took the bat off his shoulder and went into the book as a backward K for the first out. Jason LaRue, flailing desperately, somehow got wood on a fastball and blooped a single into right; Abreu probably never had a shot at catching it, but didn't help his cause among the fans with his lackluster pursuit of the pop-up. Wagner, who elicited cheers by hitting 100 on the stadium radar gun, was unfazed. He simply overpowered the pinch-hitting Barry Larkin, inducing a weak grounder to second that Polanco and Jimmy Rollins converted into their third smoothly turned doubleplay of the afternoon.

The twin killing gave the Phillies their first home win and just their second W of the season. The Expos now come to town for a weekend set.


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