Phillies can't spell relief
The bullpen blows the lead for the third straight game and the bats can't deliver with the bases loaded in the ninth, as the Phillies lose to the Cardinals 6-5 and appear to be going nowhere fast.
Manager Charlie Manuel made a questionable call to go with Aaron Fultz instead of Billy Wagner with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning. Fultz responded by walking in the tying and go-ahead runs on nine pitches.
The Phillies wasted a good outing by Cory Lidle, who went 5 1/3 innings, allowed 1 ER with one strikeout, and a solid all-around game by David Bell, who went 2-4 with 2 RBIs and played excellent defense at third.
Somewhere on Balls Sticks & Stuff is Tom G.'s article on how to use bullpen effectively, using your best reliever in the most critical situation. It doesn't get much more critical than bases loaded, two outs, holding onto a 5-4 lead.
It's possible Manual's decision not to pitch Wagner cost the Phillies the game, as Wags, a star pitcher with the Astros, is slipping further and further into irrelevancy with the Phillies. Deciding not to use him begs the question "Is Wagner on the Phils to collect saves, or help them win games?"
I was OK with Manuel's decision to go with Tim Worrell yesterday, since Worrell is proven. But the only reason Fultz is even on the team is because he's left-handed. Otherwise, he'd be in Scranton or trying to find work in some other town. I don't understand why you hand him the ball in that situation.
Every one of them: Terry Adams, Ryan Madson and Fultz, struggled to varying degrees today, but you could feel it coming. Trying to contain the Cardinals bats is like trying to put a leash on a tiger.
After 5 innings, including a long fifth-inning battle with the heart of St. Louis' order, Lidle was hanging on by the skin of his teeth. Though his changeup was working and he kept the ball down, he needed Adams to bail him out in the sixth. Lidle only struck out one batter, but managed to contain them.
In the sixth, Adams allowed runners on first and third, prompting Manuel to make the call to Madson, who got Albert Pujols to hit into a double play and Scott Rolen to pop up on the first pitch to end the inning. It was an excellent job by Madson, but the Cardinals were creeping back into it and the score was now 5-3 Phillies.
In the bottom of the eighth, Madson loaded the bases, prompting Manuel to make the call for Fultz. He walked Larry Walker on four pitches, then walked in the eventual go-ahead runner, Pujols.
Top of the ninth
Jason Isringhausen made a crowd of 50,000 Cardinal fans sweat, walking Placido Polanco to lead off the inning, giving up a single to Pat Burrell and throwing a wild pitch that advanced both runners. Jim Thome was intentionally walked afterward to load the bases, but David Bell popped out on the next pitch, then Isringhausen struck out Kenny Lofton to end the game.