Inside the Phillies: Tough defeat is symbolic of Phillies' season

Posted: June 07, 2012

Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence had provided the helium that had been missing from Citizens Bank Park for most of this season.

The Wednesday morning Phillies conversation was going to be about Lee's 12 strikeouts against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was going to be about Lee's great defensive play to nail catcher Matt Treanor at third base for the first out of the eighth inning.

It was going to be about Pence's incredible throw from right field to third base that gunned down Tony Gwynn Jr. for the second out of the eighth inning.

And then, with one swing, Dodgers rookie centerfielder Elian Herrera ripped a misplaced 2-2 curveball just over the head of Juan Pierre in left field for a two-run double.

The ballpark fell silent.

Lee and the Phillies were left to deal with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night that pretty much symbolized the team's season.

That's what you get when you don't score.

"What happens is you sit there and it only takes one swing of the bat to beat you," manager Charlie Manuel said. "When you let them stay around like that - we didn't add on - and they came back and got us."

That Lee was the victim of so little run support is an old story now. During his nine winless starts, the Phillies have scored 16 runs while he was still on the mound. That's how you end up being 0-3 despite a 2.92 ERA.

There will be some criticism of Manuel for sticking with Lee through 122 pitches, but you will not hear any from the pitcher.

"I felt strong to the end," Lee said. "They're a good offense. They hit some good pitches. The only mistake I really made was the curveball, the last pitch I made. I made some mistakes that I got away with throughout the game, but that's really the only one I really paid for."

Every time it looks asif things finally might be going in the right direction for the Phillies, they hit a destructive detour.

Their biggest obstacle at the moment is their own ballpark. Their fourth consecutive loss here left their home record for the season at an inexplicable 12-17. It rained again during Tuesday's game, and it seems to pour bad news on a nightly basis, too.

The injury du jour was to third baseman Placido Polanco, who suffered a cut left index finger while tagging Treanor on a fielder's choice in the same disastrous eighth inning in which Herrera connected with his winning hit.

This day and this game started pleasantly enough for the Phillies.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s latest injury update was encouraging.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are scheduled to take a few more baby steps on their excruciatingly long journey down rehab road. Utley will be the designated hitter in an extended-spring-training game for the second time in three days, and Howard is scheduled to hit, but not run the bases, in the same game.

That's not the preferred use of your two highest-paid position players, but you have to crawl before you walk. Apparently, if you're Howard, you have to hit and not run before you hit and run, and if you're Utley, you have to hit and run before you go into the field and take ground balls.

Nevertheless, if you can't spin the fact that your two best players finally are playing together in some capacity as good news, what's the point of spinning news at all?

Before the Phillies and Dodgers took the field for Game 2 of their series, Manuel said he thought the eventual return of Utley and Howard would benefit Pence the most.

If you'll recall, Pence was sensational with those two in the lineup after he joined the Phillies at last year's trade deadline. He hit .324 overall, had a .394 on-base percentage, and batted .339 with runners in scoring position.

Going into Tuesday's game, however, he was hitting .203 with runners in scoring position, but after Jimmy Rollins doubled in the first inning off righthander Chad Billingsley, Pence delivered an RBI single.

That ended up being the Phillies' only run, and one was not enough to get Lee his first win.

"We couldn't generate nothing," a frustrated Manuel said. "That's the inconsistency of our team. Tonight, we didn't have a whole lot of chances to score. Their guy kind of shut us down."

That, too, is an old, sad story the Phillies keep telling over and over again.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or on Twitter @brookob.

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