Reds menace Phillies' bullpen

Kevin Frandsen twice threw out runners from his knees.
Kevin Frandsen twice threw out runners from his knees. (STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 23, 2012

WHEN TALKING about his unexpected and remarkable run as the everyday third baseman playing in place of the injured Placido Polanco, Kevin Frandsen described himself with the following:

"You're not going to fall in love with me one day; it's going to be something you appreciate over time."

Frandsen said that 12 days ago, when he was in the midst of a stretch that saw him start 20 straight games at third base. Nearly 2 weeks later, he pretty much proved his words invalid.

With the bases loaded and no one out in the sixth inning of Tuesday night's game - and Cliff Lee and the Phillies clinging to a one-run lead - the Reds' Ryan Ludwick ripped a rocket of a ground ball to the hole between third base and short.

Frandsen dived to his left, got his uniform dirty and found the ball, too. Then he sprang to his knees and fired a strike to home plate to nail the lead runner.

"I can't really explain it," Frandsen said, "it was just an instinct play."

Frandsen received a well-deserved standing ovation for what was arguably the best defensive play of the season by any Phillies player. The doubleplay that followed - with Jimmy Rollins doing a Mitch Williams-like leap-split to avoid Ludwick's take-out slide - was also impressive as it helped Lee and the Phils escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam unscathed.

While Frandsen saved the starting pitcher in the sixth and also hit a game-tying triple in the eighth, it was still not enough to help the hard-luck Lee escape his yearlong funk in South Philly - and it didn't stop the bullpen from putting its own stamp on game afterward - as the Phils suffered a deflating, 5-4 defeat to Cincinnati.

"I felt like Frandsen had a hell of a game, defensive and offensive," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We just didn't execute good tonight."

An inning after Frandsen's play that likely made the two third basemen (Polanco and Scott Rolen) with 11 combined Gold Gloves in the building blush, Lee came undone and the two veteran relievers who followed later weren't any better.

After six shutout innings, Lee surrendered three runs on three hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh. Lee was pulled in the middle of the inning, keeping him winless in 13 straight starts at Citizens Bank Park.

Afterward, Lee wasn't even sure when he won his last game at home.

"I barely remember yesterday," he said.

His last win at Citizens Bank Park came on Sept. 5, 2011.

Although the Phils' offense rallied for two runs in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game, Toms River, N.J., native and NL Rookie of the Year candidate Todd Frazier deposited an Antonio Bastardo fastball into the seats to put the Reds back on top.

In the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon repeated Bastardo's feat.

After Frandsen's two-out RBI triple, his third hit of the night, helped the Phils rally back to tie the game for the second straight inning, Papelbon served up a solo home run to another Reds rookie, shortstop Zack Cozart, on the first pitch he threw.

Game over.

"My job isn't to go out there and overthink," Papelbon said. "I was thinking too much about him being a leadoff hitter and maybe taking the first pitch and the team trying to manufacture a run off me instead of going out there and executing the pitch. I was overanalyzing it. For me, that's not what's going to make me successful."

The home run was the fifth Papelbon has allowed this season, all at Citizens Bank Park. Papelbon, who signed a $50 million deal this winter, the richest contract for a reliever in history, has a 4.05 ERA in 25 games at home this season and a 1.52 ERA in 24 games on the road.

Entering Tuesday's game, opponents were hitting .387 with a 1.070 OPS against Papelbon in the 10 tie games he had pitched in this season.

"I don't have an answer for that," Manuel said of Papelbon's overall struggles in non-save situations. "We pretty much have to use him there. The guy bushwhacked him."

Cincinnati All-Star closer and Cy Young Award candidate Aroldis Chapman did what Papelbon couldn't. With the tying run on third base in the bottom of the ninth, the Cuban lefthander threw a 102-mph fastball by Chase Utley to end the game.

Although Papelbon and Bastardo - who has a 7.71 ERA and seven home runs allowed since June 1 - were less than impressive, the Phils' offense didn't do Lee any favors in the first two-thirds of the game.

Lee, who has two wins in 22 starts this season, was victimized by his teammates' bats as much as he was saved by their gloves. After scoring 20 runs in the previous two games, the Phils scored one while Lee was still in the game Tuesday.

While Lee took a shutout into the seventh, Homer Bailey was right behind him, holding the Phils to one run on five hits in his first six innings of work.

Lee will get one more crack at collecting his first win of the season at Citizens Bank Park before the 1-year anniversary of his last one arrives 2 weeks from Wednesday.

"It's definitely been a strange year," Lee said. "But all I can do is focus on my routine, prepare for each start and go out there and expect to win every time I take the mound. And that hasn't changed."

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