Crash and Burn Loss to Braves leaves Phillies devastated Phils blow six-run lead to let Braves steal victory

Posted: September 06, 2007

ATLANTA — Oh.

My.

Goodness.

In the aftermath of an incomprehensible and inexcusable 9-8 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field yesterday, the Phillies still couldn't believe it. They couldn't believe they had just blown a six-run lead in spectacular fashion to prevent them from gaining ground in the National League East and National League wild-card races with just 23 games to play.

"Did this just happen?" Jayson Werth said.

"I can't believe it," Charlie Manuel said. "I totally can't believe it."

"I'm really devastated," Tom Gordon said.

The nightmare ended when Matt Diaz sliced a ball to right field with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning off Brett Myers with the Phillies holding a two-run lead. The ball hit off the top of rightfielder Chris Roberson's glove to clear the bases and send the Phillies home 2-4 on a road trip through Florida and Atlanta after they had swept the New York Mets last week at Citizens Bank Park to pull within two games of the division lead.

The sweep?

History.

There has been plenty of talk about the Phillies' resiliency this season. They started the season 4-11. They lost countless key contributors to injuries. They certainly have suffered their share of bad losses.

But nothing like this.

"I'd say this is a hell of a good test for us," Manuel said.

The Phillies scored five runs off Braves starter Tim Hudson in the first two innings and then three more off Oscar Villareal in the seventh for an 8-2 lead.

Then the craziness started.

The Braves had a runner on second with one out in the eighth inning against Gordon when Brian McCann lofted a ball into shallow right-center field that fell between Aaron Rowand and Roberson for a hit. Jeff Francoeur then hit a ball over the head of second baseman Chase Utley to score Chipper Jones to make it 8-3. Both times Roberson, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, had a chance to make a play, but he said he got poor reads on the ball. He also forgot his sunglasses, which might have been a factor. During a stoppage in play, he headed toward the dugout for his shades before Jimmy Rollins tossed him his.

"They were tough reads," Roberson said. "I couldn't tell how hard they hit the ball."

Scott Thorman followed with another flare into shallow left-center field that fell in front of Werth to load the bases with one out.

"I got a good jump on it," Werth said. "I saw it right away. I got a good read. It was one of those perfectly placed balls."

Manuel called for Myers, who unexpectedly found himself in a save situation with the tying run in the on-deck circle. But Myers didn't help himself. A wild pitch allowed pinch runner Chris Woodward to score to make it 8-4. Myers then walked Yunel Escobar to reload the bases.

Diaz then hit a chopper to the left side of the infield. Jimmy Rollins barehanded the ball, but couldn't make the throw to first in time.

8-5.

Myers walked Willie Harris to force in another run.

8-6.

The eighth inning ended there, with Myers retiring Kelly Johnson and Jones. It looked as if they had dodged a bullet.

Not quite.

Myers retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth to put the Phillies one out away from a much-needed victory. But Francoeur hit a ball in the hole between third and shortstop for a single. Martin Prado then chopped a ball in front of the plate that hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity to Myers.

"Come on, ball. Hurry up. Come down," Myers said. "There was nothing I could do. I couldn't have jumped up to grab it." Prado beat the throw to first, which pulled first baseman Ryan Howard off the bag anyway.

Two on. Two outs.

Myers walked Escobar.

Bases loaded.

That's when Diaz ripped his double to right field to clear the bases.

"It tipped right off my glove," Roberson said. "If I had stretched out, I might have had a chance to get it. Right off the bat, I didn't think it was going to go as far as it did. It kind of shocked me a little bit. I tried to speed up on it, but it just kept tailing away from me."

Myers (3-6) also thought Roberson was going to catch it. "I thought it was game over," he said. "I started walking off the field. It was a good tennis shot, I guess."

One of many.

There was mostly silence in the visitors' clubhouse afterward.

This loss shook them.

"I'd say the day off [today] is going to be good," Manuel said. "If we need time to stomach this, it's going to be good. It's a tough one."

The worst.

Contact staff writer Todd Zolecki at 215-854-4874 or tzolecki@phillynews.com. Read his blog at http://go.philly.com/zozone.

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