Phillies Head Into All-Star Break With Best Record in N.L.
Philadelphia, PA (AP) - The Phillies play on the field was about as sloppy as the conditions, as Philadelphia practically gave away the series finale against Atlanta, losing 6-5 in a rain-soaked Citizens Bank Park.
The defense made a couple of miscues that proved to be costly, and the Phils also made some bad plays on the base paths, ultimately killing a potentially game tying rally in the middle innings.
|Ben Francisco is thrown out at the plate in a rough collision with Braves catcher Brian McCann.
"It's disappointing to see us play like that," said a very frustrated Manager Charlie Manuel. "We usually catch the ball good, we run the bases good. I don't want to hear it was because of the rain, either. The mistakes we made were dumb ones."
The most glaring error happened in the top of the fifth inning. Starter Roy Halladay gave up a lead off walk to Bengie Molina, and then Joe Mather followed with a single. Pitcher Tommy Hanson attempted to sacrifice bunt the runners over. Placido Polanco came charging in and made a bare-handed throw that went way over first baseman Ryan Howard's head. That allowed a run to score, and put 2 more runners in scoring position.
Martin Prado then took advantage by doubling to the left-center field gap, scoring both of those runs, and suddenly Philadelphia was trailing 5-1. The double was one of 4 hits on the day for Prado.
"I had a lot more time," admitted Polanco. "I could've easily gathered and thrown to first to get the pitcher. It's unfortunate, because I cost my teammates some runs that could've potentially been prevented."
|While the Phils struggled, Atlanta made some nice plays in the field, including this diving catch by catcher Brian McCann.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies were trying to get back into the game. They loaded the bases with nobody out, and Carlos Ruiz came through in the clutch with a single to left field. Two runs scored, but Ruiz tried to turn on the jets too late and was thrown out at second trying for a double.
With one out, Aaron Conner stepped up to the plate and hit a hard grounder to first. Braves first baseman Bengie Molina was playing medium depth. Still, the ball was hit hard enough that he threw out Ben Francisco at home by a mile.
"I was certainly glad to see us being aggressive. But, you also have to make smart plays. We ran into 2 outs that we shouldn't have, and that could've been an even bigger inning for us." said Manuel.
The Phillies had another good chance to tie the game the very next inning. Chase Utley smacked a one out double and Ryan Howard walked. But, Raul Ibanez flew out weakly to left field and Shane Victorino grounded out to leave both runners stranded.
Still, the Fightins' didn't go down without a fight. Trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth and down to the Phillies' last strike, Utley barely cleared the right field wall with a Jonny Venters pitch to cut the deficit to one. But, Howard could not keep the game going and grounded out to end it.
|One of the few bright spots on a gloomy day, Raul Ibanez hit his 13th homer of the year.
Despite the loss, the Phillies head into the All-Star break riding a good amount of momentum. They took 2 of 3 from Atlanta to increase their division lead to 5.5 games. Philadelphia also set club records with the most wins before the All-Star break (58) and best winning percentage (.637).
"There's certainly a lot to be happy about," said Utley. "But, there's an awful lot of baseball to be played. We just have to keep playing good baseball and try to keep winning series. If we do that, we'll be in good shape for the playoffs."
The Phillies use the break to continue healing up a bit. Domonic Brown could be back within a week, and that would provide a nice boost to the lineup. After the break, the Phils go on a road trip to New York and Chicago, before finishing the month on a long homestand.
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