Mesa serves up homer in 13th inning to rookie

Posted: July 04, 2007

HOUSTON - The Phillies have suffered plenty of excruciating losses this season, but this one might have stung the most.

That's because, despite their putrid performance with runners in scoring position, they actually should have beaten the Houston Astros last night. Only an umpire messed it up. Then Jose Mesa got in the way.

The Phils lost, 5-4, when Astros rookie Hunter Pence crushed Mesa's first pitch of the bottom of the 13th inning high over the left-field wall in Minute Maid Park.

As the ball sailed over the wall, Phillies players walked dejectedly off the field. Mesa stayed on the mound and watched the home run before walking off.

The game lasted 4 hours, 23 minutes. The Phillies used all their regular players and were forced to use pitchers Cole Hamels, who starts today, and Jamie Moyer as pinch-hitters.

There were two culprits in the loss. First-base umpire Lance Barksdale blew a call in the bottom of the ninth that would have ended the game with the Phillies taking the win.

But as much as Barksdale's call hurt, the Phillies had plenty of chances to put the game out of reach. They went 5 for 24 with runners in scoring position. The only walk Phillies hitters drew all night - in 13 innings - was intentional.

In losing, the Phils once again missed a chance to gain ground on the New York Mets, who lost their second straight in Colorado.

Michael Bourn, a Houston native, made the most of his first start in his hometown. He was 3 for 6, including a seventh-inning double that gave the Phils a 4-3 lead.

Moments after Bourn doubled in that run, rightfielder Shane Victorino gunned down Morgan Ensberg at the plate to end the seventh and preserve the one-run lead after reliever Ryan Madson had nearly given it up.

It was Victorino's 10th outfield assist this season.

Starter Adam Eaton allowed three runs over six innings and left with the lead. The Phillies' much-maligned bullpen walked a tightrope for three innings but appeared to close the game out successfully.

Manager Charlie Manuel went way against the book in using lefthander J.C. Romero against Mike Lamb (.370 against lefties, .296 against righties) and Luke Scott (.321 against lefties and .226 against righties) in the eighth. But Romero got the job done.

The ninth was entrusted to Antonio Alfonseca, and he pitched himself into the jaws of trouble by allowing one-out singles to Craig Biggio and Pence. Alfonseca then walked Lance Berkman to load the bases.

Gulp.

Up came National League RBI leader Carlos Lee, who last week ended a game with a grand slam.

This time, Lee appeared to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play. Actually, he did ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play, but Barksdale ruled Lee safe, allowing Biggio to score the tying run.

Replays showed Barksdale had missed the call. He got an earful from Manuel, who watched the end of the game in the clubhouse after getting ejected.

Lost in the craziness was Ryan Howard's losing another home run to Minute Maid Park.

Last September, he was denied a home run in this ballpark when umpires ruled fan interference on a ball that had reached the left-field seats.

Last night, Howard led off the eighth inning with a monstrous drive to center off lefthander Trever Miller. It's 436 feet to dead center, and Pence nearly went all the way to the wall to chase this one down. Pence climbed the goofy hill behind the warning track and hauled in the blast right next to the flagpole, which sits in play.

The ball must have gone 435 feet. It would have been a home run in Fairmount Park, but not Minute Maid Park.

Earlier in the game, a Phillies pitcher walked in a run for the second night in a row.

Eaton, pitching with a 1-0 lead in the second inning, allowed three consecutive baserunners (two singles and a walk) to open the frame, loading the bases for Brad Ausmus. Eaton appeared to have Ausmus rung up on a 2-2 pitch, but umpire Tim Welke said otherwise. The count went full and Ausmus walked, bringing home the Astros' first run.

The Astros scored two more runs in the inning, one on a groundout and the other on Biggio's two-out single, his 3,008th career hit.

The Phillies struck back quickly and tied the game against Roy Oswalt in the top of the third. Jimmy Rollins and Bourn opened the inning with singles and scored when Howard mashed a first-pitch double over Scott's outstretched glove.

After the shaky second inning, Eaton pitched effectively and allowed just three baserunners before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.

The Phillies managed to get Eaton the lead as he headed to the showers, thanks to Bourn's RBI double in the top of the seventh.

They kept the lead thanks to Victorino's arm in the bottom of the inning.


Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or jsalisbury@phillynews.com.

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