This time, Jimmy Rollins ended the Phillies’ third-inning rally when the Braves caught him stealing. And Hunter Pence bobbled the ball in the outfield, letting the eventual go-ahead run move 90 feet closer to home. And Joe Blanton couldn’t keep Atlanta at bay.
For manager Charlie Manuel, the postgame speeches have slipped into autopilot.
“I say, ‘Well, we didn’t do enough to win,’ ‘We didn’t play good enough to win,’ things like that. I say it every night,” he said. “The more we lose the older it gets.”
After a 58-minute rain delay at the beginning of the game, Blanton coughed up his National League-leading 20th home run of the season, this one a second-inning solo shot by Brian McCann. But the Phillies bailed out their pitcher by sending three runs across the plate on a trio of hits in the bottom of the second.
Juan Pierre knocked in a run with a double, Blanton helped his own cause with a bases-loaded RBI single, and Rollins helped another run score when he reached on a fielder’s choice. Entering Saturday’s contest, the Phillies hit a combined 9 for their last 57 with runners in scoring position. In that second inning, though, they hit 3 for 5 in such situations.
But with runners on the corners, and the pressure bearing down on Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson, Rollins tried to steal second. McCann beat him with a dart to second. Rollins tried to evade the tag, and replays made him look successful. Still, second-base umpire Mike Muchlinski called Rollins out, and the rally died.
From there, the Phillies’ bats became hollow, and never again would they see a runner in scoring position on Saturday. Hanson retired 12 straight batters after the third inning. And even when Hunter Pence broke the streak with a one-out single in the seventh, he advanced no farther. Hanson earned the win, allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings.
In the loss, Blanton surrendered six runs (five earned) on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. He fell to 7-8 on the season.
“No sugar coatin’ it: It’s been real tough, all the way around, I’m sure for a lot of guys,” he said. “It’s just the way it is. Baseball’s a game if you start getting down on yourself, someone’s going to keep kickin’ you. You got to fight your way out.”
And after the second inning, Blanton failed to hold back the Braves. In the third, Martin Prado laced a two-out double to left-center, bringing Michael Bourn home from first base and cutting the Phillies’ lead to one.
Then, in the fourth, Atlanta seized the game. Chipper Jones, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann started the inning with consecutive singles. On the last, a line drive to right field, Jones scored, and Freeman advanced to third when Hunter Pence bobbled the ball.
Two batters later, Andrelton Simmons floated a ball to right field, and Freeman scored from third on the sacrifice fly. It was the only unearned run against Blanton, and it gave the Braves a 4-3 lead.
Atlanta tacked on two more runs in the seventh. With one out and runners on first and second, Prado singled up the middle, scoring Simmons. Then, with Bourn on third base, reliever Jason Diekman fanned Jason Heyward for the second out of the inning. But the ball squirted away in the dirt, and Heyward ran to first. Ruiz threw him out, but Bourn stole home on the play, giving Atlanta a firm, 6-3 lead.
At that, Phillies fans filed out early, a sight that has become all too familiar this season. Of late, the early exit is one of the few consistencies in Phillies baseball.
Contact Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org.