Friday, October 9, 2009

Phils Fall Short in Game 2, Head to Iceland

Rockies v. Phillies

With optimism and positive energy from a big game 1 victory still energizing a stadium full of fans and an entire city, the Phillies dug themselves a hole that they could not quite escape in game 2. After Wednesday's all around strong opening game performance, visions of 2008 returned with Cole Hamels scheduled to take the mound. With Cliff Lee having dominated the Rockies a day earlier and a similarly imposing left hander with a great post season pedigree on the mound, most expected to see Hamels have similar success in leading the team to a 2-0 series advantage.

The Rockies clearly had other ideas, chipping away to build a 4-0 lead while their own starter Aaron Cook held the Phillies at bay. Execution produced a run in the first inning- good on the part of the Rockies and poor on the part of the Phillies. After lead-off hitter Carlos Gonzalez singled to open the game, he stole second on a botched pick off play. Hamels was slow to deliver the ball to first and then Ryan Howard was slow to get the ball out of his glove. A sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly moved him around the bases with Hamels showing some clear frustration.

With two outs In the 4th, Yorvin Torrealba jacked a hanging curve ball into the left field stands to extend the lead to 3-0. It was a particularly painful blow considering that it came with two outs, Torrealba hit only two homers all year and it was his first since early May.

The Rockies chipped away again with another run in the 5th inning. Cook hit a soft flare that landed just inside the right field line and Gonzalez ripped a double to right center. Dexter Fowler followed with a sacrifice fly. Again, Hamels was clearly frustrated as he walked to the dugout at inning's end.

It seemed that the Phillies still had a run in them as Cook was surely not over powering them. They finally broke through in the bottom of the 6th, rallying for 3 runs, but the promise of a bigger inning ended when Carlos Ruiz bounced into the team's 3rd double play of the day. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley singled to start the inning, before Howard roped a double to right. After Jayson Werth went down swinging, Raul Ibanez lined a single to center to make it 4-3. Pedro Feliz dumped a single to center before Ruiz came to the plate.

An interesting sideline was some managerial decisions by Charlie Manuel. He chose to bring starter Joe Blanton into pitch the 6th and then brought in starter J.A. Happ when Blanton worked into trouble in the 7th. Unfortunately, Happ took a line shot off the shin from the first batter he faced and had to leave the game. The moves created much questioning about Manuel's plans for games 3 and 4 starters as well as the health of Happ.

The Rockies threatened in both the 7th and 8th, loading the bases, but some pressure pitching by Scott Eyre and Antonio Bastardo limited the damage to a single run. In the bottom of the 8th, Werth smashed a solo shot to center that closed the gap to 5-4.

Although they fell behind early, the Phillies battled to the end. They mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth off closer Huston Street. Pinch hitter Matt Stairs fought off pitches to work a walk with one out. After a flyout, Jimmy Rollins also fought off several pitches and kept the game alive by lining a single to right. Victorino hung in himself and sent a humped back liner towards right that looked like it had a chance for a moment before second baseman Clint Barmes stabbed it to end the game.

The large crowd witnessed a great game, but went away disappointed. They had arrived to a party atmosphere with high hopes that the Phillies would build upon their game 1 victory. Now the team must go to Iceland, or Denver, to battle frigid weather and the Rockies in an attempt to regain home field advantage at the least or win the series at best.

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