Monday, September 21, 2009

Phillies 4, Braves and 2nd Base Ump 2- Team Moves Closer to Some Rest for the Weary

MLB 2008 - NLCS Game3 - Phillies at Dodgers

The Phillies shrugged off an early Braves lead, a long rain delay that took their top starting pitcher out of the game and some questionable umpiring to register a big win. By virtue of the Marlins loss, it reduced their magic number to 6 and extended their NL East lead to 8 games. They now head to Florida for a twin bill tomorrow evening.

After sitting out the first two games of the series with an illness, Shane Victorino had a suddenly short day of work,again. With one out in the first, Victorino drilled a line single to right. He took off on a 3-2 pitch to Chase Utley, who was rung up on what appeared to be an outside pitch, and called out by second base umpire Chad Fairchild. Victorino briefly complained and then bounced his helmet. When he continued to state his case, Fairchild threw him out of the game. Replays confirmed that Victorino was in deed safe. In the space of 15 seconds, the Phillies went from runners on 1st and 2nd with one out, to inning over and Victorino done for the day.

To say that Fairchild was a little trigger happy was an understatement, especially in an important game with playoff implications. It also contrasted to the handling of several Braves players who screamed at home plate umpires all series long about strike calls.

The Braves plated a run in the first, but the Phillies proceeded to scratch out a 4-1 lead after 4 1/2 innings. At that point, the rain that had been present all day intensified and the umpires halted play. Almost 2 hours later, play resumed, but Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee decided not to risk sending started Cliff Lee back out. Instead, Tyler Walker took the mound and quickly retired the Braves to make the game official.

Walker tossed another scoreless frame and earned the win. Three other relievers held the Braves off the board and then Manuel handed the ball to Lidge to register a save. He did get nicked for a run after yielding a walk on some close pitches, defensive indifference and then a pinch hit single by Brian McCann. Lidge got a swinging strikeout to end the game. He looked poised and confident, was throwing hard and his 2008 vintage sharp breaking slider.

A similar performance for the Phillies in the Marlins series would put them close to clinching and could give them some room to breathe over the balance of the regular season. This would be very welcome considering their growing list of aching pitchers. Both J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez left games in the series early due to injuries. Additionally, Brett Myers is seeking a medical opinion on what is being labelled a "shoulder strain" (an injury that kept him out for an extended time in 2007.) JC Romero and Scott Eyre are still shut down, and Clay Condrey is just returning after months on the DL. Their steadiest pitcher in the bullpen this season, Chan Ho Park, went down with a pulled hamstring last week and is likely out at least the rest of the regular season and possibly longer.

It would be a great time for Phillies hitters to heat up and carry the pitching staff. No better time than tomorrow, for that matter.

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