Pirates score in ninth to beat Phillies

Posted: April 09, 2012

PITTSBURGH - The Pirates had stormed the field for the second time in less than 24 hours, so the Phillies dressed in a quiet visitors clubhouse on Sunday at PNC Park. Dinner was ham, egg noodles, and some vegetables. Life was relatively normal after a 5-4 loss dropped the Phillies below .500 for the first time in 1,080 days.

Michael Stutes lamented his bad luck. Jim Thome iced his back. David Herndon grabbed his ukulele for the plane ride home.

Then there was Shane Victorino, seated at his locker, putting on his suit.

"It's three games into the season," Victorino said. "There is no reason to sit here and . . . panic. Do we want to be 3-0? Absolutely. I don't want to be 1-2, but we sit at 1-2 and that's what it is."

The 2012 Phillies could very well arrive at the same fate of division champions as their five predecessors have. No narrative is the same, and this season clearly will test the ways of an aging roster and its manager. This weekend could only be a taste.

They leave Pittsburgh with one victory and two games rife with second guesses. That will happen when offense is not easily generated. The three Phillies starting pitchers - Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Vance Worley - allowed two runs in 20 innings.

Like Saturday's, this game was lost by the bullpen. Herndon allowed a leadoff double and recorded two outs with the winning run still stranded at third. Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' $51.5 million face of the franchise, batted with two bases empty.

Charlie Manuel's choice was pitch to McCutchen or walk both Neil Walker and him to face Rod Barajas with the bases loaded.

"I thought about that," the Phillies manager said.

Herndon said he wanted McCutchen. "Absolutely," he said. Walker would have batted lefthanded, and lefties have hit .343 off Herndon in his career. There wasn't even a discussion about it.

McCutchen was down 0-2 in the count, fouled off two pitches, and worked it to 3-2. Herndon threw what was supposed to be a sinker down and away. It was only away, and landed beyond Victorino's reach in center for a game-winning single.

"I made a mistake on that, and they made me pay for it," Herndon said. "Simple as that."

Herndon was in the game only because Manuel's hand was forced earlier. Worley was extremely effective for six innings, throwing only a bad change-up hit for a solo home run, but his day was done at 78 pitches. With two runners on base and one out in the seventh, Manuel said he needed to go for more offense. So Laynce Nix pinch-hit for Worley but feebly grounded out.

One Juan Pierre swing produced as many runs as the previous two games combined, so the Phillies emerged with a 4-1 lead. Still, runs were left out there.

And that was crucial once Pittsburgh scored twice in the bottom of the inning. Stutes struck out the first two batters, but the second one was on a slider in the dirt. Brian Schneider had trouble picking it up, and his throw took Ty Wigginton off the bag. Wigginton said he couldn't have done anything more to make the play, although he was charged with the error.

"You want to give them 27 outs and that's it," Schneider said. "Anything can compound off that, which it did."

Stutes retired the next batter on a fly ball, which should have ended the inning. A double and single later, the Pirates had scored twice.

On the road and tied during the two losses, the Phillies weren't able to use Jonathan Papelbon, the highest-paid reliever in baseball history. Manuel has always played those decisions by the book. They also were without an injured Chad Qualls, which forced Herndon into a crucial moment.

"You can't say we've played good," Manuel said. "But we've played three games."

Herndon stood on the mound and stared well after the deciding ball had landed. The Pirates flew past him with plenty of optimism in a city so accustomed to losing.

Then again, it is April.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow @magelb on Twitter.

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