Going into last night’s series opener against the Houston, the Phillies had a Texas-sized monkey on their back after not winning there since May 2003. Fortunately, it appears the Phils will be leaving that monkey in Houston as they took last night’s game 4-3. All the offensive was provided by a Pat Burrell grand slam in the first. All the dramatics, however, took place in the bottom of the ninth which shaped up to be an all too familiar scene for Philly when facing the ‘Stros. After errors by Ryan Howard and a particularly bone-head one by Jeff Conine loaded the bases with the score 4-3, Tom Gordon thankfully induced a 4-6-3 double play to notch his 30th save of the season. With Greg Maddux flirting with a no-hitter against the Padres, the Phils whittled their WIld Card deficit back down to one and a half games. Yet, the real reason for this Saturday morning post is Pat Burrell.
Pat finally did the two things everyone has been asking him to do lately. First, he made a team pay for walking Ryan Howard. After Chase Utley walked, Roger Clemens intentionally walked Howard then issued David Dellucci a pass. This brought Pat to bat with two outs and the bases loaded in the first. After taking the count full, Burrell unleashed a bomb to left-center to give the Phils a four run lead. The second feat accomplished by Burrell is that the 3-2 pitch he saw was on the inside corner at the knees – a pitch he usual avoids like the plague. Upon immediate contact, it appeared Burrell hit it off the skinny part of the bat and it would likely be a fly out; yet with the roof closed and the power Pat has neglected, the ball soared out for a grand salami. If you recall, Pat recorded a backwards K in same exact situation last week in Philly – same pitch as well.
It was also notable that Burrell was still batting in the six hole last night. He got the start against the righty Clemens over Jeff Conine. Conine, who hit Clemens well last week, has recently taken over the fifth spot in the lineup, so there was a chance with him out, Pat would reclaim his spot. Charlie Manuel instead chose to bat Dellucci after Howard. Perhaps, Pat took notice; but I would hope the real reason for his heroics last night was that Manuel and Milt finally took him aside on helped him correct his timidness at the plate.
Now before we herald the second (or is it third?) coming of Pat Burrell, it must be noted that the Rocket was not fully in command of his stuff. Pat’s slam was the Phillies’ only hit of the inning and after Clemens loaded the bases on walks he put himself in a deep hole when the count to Burrell went full. He also walked Brett Myers twice. At one point Scott Graham even went so far as comparing Clemens to Gavin Floyd and Scott Matheison. Ouch! The difference is that Clemens stayed in the game, got out of jams, gave his team a chance to come back and finished five innings.
There were a few other news stories to come out of last night’s game. Mike Lieberthal started behind the plate for the first time in 11 games and batted seventh in the Philles new-old look lineup. Brett Myers who pitched well overall had some issues with one of the nails on his pitching hand during the game. He could be seen giving administering a self-manicure between innings. Ryan Howard hit a single, but his two strikeouts are cause for further concern on whether his is officially slumping. Not yet, I say – only if he leaves Houston without a home run or 3-4 game. And finally, congratulations to the Lakewood Blue Claws who captured the South Atlantic Championship. Go Phils!