Until the 7th-inning stretch, it seemed like the Phillies would manage to salvage a split against intrastate rival Pittsburgh, but that was before the wheels came off in spectacular fashion. In the second and third, the Phils strung together enough singles and productive outs to build a 4-2 lead. They stretched it to 5-2 when Dane Sardinha homered in the 7th. But in the bottom half that inning, Joe Blanton, who hadn’t given up a hit since the bottom of the 1st, imploded.
Pedro Alvarez led off with a homer, and in almost the blink of an eye, Blanton had surrendered a single, a double, and had run a 3-0 count on Ronny Cedeno. After coming back to strike out Cedeno, Blanton was lifted for Jose Contreras, who, far from stopping the implosion, picked up right where Hamburger Joe left off. Contreras retired only one of the four batters he faced, allowing both of his inherited runners to score, plus one more, putting the Pirates ahead by one. In the meantime, Jose Tabata stole second on a truly remarkable play, oversliding the bag, then avoiding Jimmy Rollins’ tag by lifting his foot over J-Roll’s glove and tapping his toe on the base.
Uncle Cholly then lifted Contreras for Mike Zagurski (and if that isn’t an admission of defeat, I don’t know what is). Zagurski allowed another double, the Pirates’ third of the inning, to Garrett Jones, who reached second courtesy of Ryan Howard inexplicably holding the cutoff throw for about a full second while Jones ran to safety.
A few bloop hits (apart from Alvarez’s home run, no one really hit the ball all that hard), a couple lucky breaks on the bases, and suddenly the Pirates sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs on six hits in the space of one inning. In the end, the Phillies lost by a final of 8-5.
In today’s submission for the Captain Obvious award, Tom McCarthy noted that giving up six runs in the 7th “really changed the complexion of the game.”
Joel Hanrahan and Octavio Dotel didn’t allow another baserunner, and the Phils are now 5 1/2 games back in the division, with Atlanta still to play tonight.
Atlanta’s up tomorrow night. Maybe the Phillies will have better luck then.