David Murphy: Rollins hustles but Brewers have kick

Domonic Brown is unable to come down with Corey Hart's eighth-inning, game-winning grand slam.
Domonic Brown is unable to come down with Corey Hart's eighth-inning, game-winning grand slam. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: August 17, 2012

MILWAUKEE - We interrupt the controversy du jour to bring you one of the real reasons the Phillies are making vacation plans for October.

The eighth inning.

As the airwaves back in Philadelphia buzzed with talk about Jimmy Rollins' failure to run out a groundout in Wednesday's loss to the Marlins, the Phillies watched another eighth-inning lead disappear with one swing of the bat. This time, it was Corey Hart hitting a two-out grand slam off Josh Lindblom to give the Brewers a come-from-behind, 7-4 victory on Thursday.

Really, though, it could have been anybody, off anybody, in any count, with the Phillies leading or trailing by any amount of runs. That is how the eighth inning has gone this season, and that is how it must stop going if they hope to make 2012 a distant memory. Thursday marked the ninth time the Phillies lost a game in which they held a lead after seven innings. Seven more losses have come when they entered the eighth with a tie.

Phillies pitchers entered the night with a 5.38 ERA in the eighth inning, and that number only grew by the time this one concluded. With his team leading, 4-3, Phillies lefthander Cliff Lee retired the first two batters he faced, bringing Jonathan Papelbon one out away from entering for the save opportunity.

But a throwing error on Kevin Frandsen allowed Rickie Weeks to reach base and advance to second. With Lee at 111 pitches and having already surrendered three home runs - two to Ryan Braun - manager Charlie Manuel went to his bullpen, where Lindblom has gotten plenty of opportunities since the Phillies acquired him in the trade that sent Shane Victorino to the Dodgers.

"When we first got him, we wanted him to be able to pitch in the seventh or eighth inning," Manuel said. "We like his arm and everything. So we definitely have to give him a chance to pitch."

This one did not end well. After intentionally walking Braun, he unintentionally walked Aramis Ramirez to load the bases. Lindblom got ahead of Hart, 0-2, but threw a fastball for a ball and a slider for a ball before unleashing a 2-2 fastball that the Brewers' first baseman drilled over the wall in right-centerfield, just past the glove of a leaping Domonic Brown.

"I haven't really made pitches, I haven't executed," said Lindblom, who has allowed runs in three of seven outings and baserunners in six of seven. "There's really no excuses other than you have to go out and make pitches, and I haven't done that since I've come over here. It just comes down to executing and being aggressive and attacking guys. Tonight, I wasn't aggressive. Kind of nibbling. It's just a matter of making pitches."

Which was a shame. because Lee was pretty much unhittable when he wasn't allowing home runs, striking out 12 of the 29 batters he faced for his 13th double-digit strikeout game as a Phillie, sixth most in club history.

The Phillies inflicted most of their damage on a three-run double by Frandsen with two outs in the fifth inning. Marco Estrada retired the first two batters in the frame before giving up a single to Ryan Howard, a walk to Brown, and a single to Laynce Nix to load the bases. Frandsen then drove a pitch to deep centerfield to erase a 3-1 deficit.

The Phillies' other run came in the third inning, when Rollins led off with a single, then stole second and third with one out and Chase Utley batting. He stole third by taking advantage of lapses in attention by Estrada and Ramirez. Rollins surprised Estrada by taking off and slid into third just as Ramirez was starting to react to what was happening. He later scored on a ground ball by Howard that resulted in a botched fielding play on Jean Segura, who might have been distracted by an oncoming Utley, who had just walked.

That provided an interesting, if not entirely relevant, bookend to the day, which began with Rollins and Manuel meeting in the manager's office about the lack of hustle the shortstop showed in the sixth inning against the Marlins on Wednesday. Manuel decided against benching Rollins for a game, expressing confidence that the issue had been dealt with.

The pair of bases he swiped were the kind of heads-up baserunning the manager wants to see. At the same time, the issue that sparked the powwow wasn't Rollins' hustle on plays of consequence. It was his lackadaisical effort on a groundout.

And while Manuel's concern was certainly justified, the result of the ensuing game highlighted the most pressing issue facing his team.

Phillers

Recovering third baseman Placido Polanco (back) played five innings for Class A Clearwater, going 1-for-3 with a single. The Phillies are hoping to activate him on Monday . . . The Phillies received Class A righthander Ryan O'Sullivan, 21, from Los Angeles as the player to be named later in the Joe Blanton trade. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2011.


Contact Dave Murphy at dmurphy@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @HighCheese. For Phillies coverage and opinion, read his blog at philly.com/HighCheese.

 

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