The Phils lost another close one to the Mets last night by a score of 5-4. Jon Lieber pitched ok but did not improve upon his already high 5.83 ERA and he uncharacteristically gave up four walks on the night, nearly doubling his season total. He didn’t blame himself though, "I thought [the home plate umpire] was terrible at times. I don’t know what the deal is. This is the first time I ever said this, but when you make certain pitches that are obviously strikes, it changes the whole count. I just don’t think he was very good." Pat Burrell had a solo homer to tie the game in the seventh but Rheal Cormier quickly coughed up the lead in the bottom of the inning. Eventually, Billy Wagner came on and shut the Phillies down 1-2-3 to close the game for the Mets and keep his buddy Pat Burrell in the on deck circle. This leaves the Phils as losers of seven of their last eight and even more depressing is the fact that they had a lead in six of those seven losses. This also means the Phils are now 7-9 in one run games after dropping the past two to New York. In the division, they drop to five games back of the Mets and into a tie with Atlanta who has won 12 of their last 17.
As I watched the eighth inning last night, something struck me after two consecutive Phillies at bats. First, Abraham Nunez batted for Sal Fasano with the tying run on second. He immediately popped out as he punched the first pitch foul to the catcher. Then David Dellucci came on to pinch hit for Ryan Franklin and grounded out to end the inning. The first thing to come to mind of course was "great, more worthless pinch hitting." But then I began to wonder is it about time to start to blaming Charlie Manuel for continuing to use these pinch hitters rather than blaming the players themselves for their underperformance? I mean it’s painfully clear the bench cannot hit in any situation let alone clutch ones. Ok, I see Charlie’s rationale in the Dellucci move since the pitcher was due up, and maybe its ok to use lefties Nunez and Dellucci to bat against the righty Aaron Heilman; but why not just let Fasano hit? He can be just as bad as Nunez if you only give him the chance. Sure Sal hits .216 versus righties, but Nunez is even worse at .154!
If you read the news yesterday evening the actual game may not have been the most disheartening Phillies fodder for you. There were two stories of concern, neither positive. First, Cole Hamels has been placed on the 15-day DL. He had his MRI yesterday which revealed no structural damage in his left shoulder but it is still strained. It is likely not too serious as his move to the DL was made retroactive to May 19, so he can be activated as soon as June 3. The Phils hope he will make a rehab start on May 30 or 31 and then return for the road trip through Los Angeles and Arizona. While Hamels nurses the injury, right-handed reliever Clay Condrey will take his roster spot in his second callup of the year. As for Hamel’s rotation spot, it appears Ryan Madson will return to his old duties for the time being.
The second piece of bad news has the Mets finally landing starting pitcher in El Duque, Orlando Hernandez. He was traded yesterday from Arizona for reliever Jorge Julio. New York will pick up his $4.5 million salary and El Duque will be a free agent after the season ends; Julio is making $2.525 million as a reliever. Hernandez has been performing spot starts for the Diamondbacks but is expected to pitch every five days in New York. He will help to solidify the Mets’ rotation after the Jose Lima experiment went pear-shaped. That makes two Cuban defectors now in the Mets starting five (you might remember the other, Alay Soler, as last night’s starter) With Arizona out a starting pitcher, this might give former Phil Terry Mulholland a chance to fill the hole in the rotation.
Finally, in case you missed him on Comcast SportsNet, I was just made aware that Matt Yaloff is now an anchor for the Mets’ new SNY station. I’ll have to find heart in the fact that his departure was the only good news to come out of yesterday.