Rangers beat Phillies on Beltre's single in 9th

The other side of a walk-off: Carlos Ruiz leaves the field after the Rangers beat the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth.
The other side of a walk-off: Carlos Ruiz leaves the field after the Rangers beat the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: April 03, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas - The ball bounced from Marlon Byrd's right hand, and the Phillies rightfielder never bothered to retrieve it. He plopped his glove on his head, sauntered into the visitors' dugout, and this is what defeat looked like for the first time in 2014.

Adrian Beltre's ninth-inning single to right sealed a 3-2 Rangers walk-off victory. It launched a litany of questions about the current disarray of the Phillies bullpen, which submitted Mario Hollands and B.J. Rosenberg for the decisive batters.

"The guys are here to pitch," Ryne Sandberg said. "It's not experimenting at all. It's putting them in the best situations to be successful."

The manager flipped a lineup that bashed 14 runs on 17 hits in Monday's opener. There was no spark from that. A.J. Burnett pitched all night with men on base, and that forced the Phillies to open a bullpen that lacks organization and trustworthy arms in the seventh.

Case in point: Hollands made his major-league debut in the ninth inning of a tie game because lefthanders Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo - each pitching for the second straight day - were used before him. Hollands' first five pitches were balls. He walked two batters and recorded one out, a sacrifice by Elvis Andrus. Rosenberg entered. The game soon ended.

"It didn't matter when it was going to happen," Hollands said of his debut. "I'm supposed to get those outs. It doesn't matter if it's my first time or not."

Sandberg's altered lineup provided scant support. The manager benched Domonic Brown and Cody Asche, dropped Ryan Howard to the fifth spot, and inserted Cesar Hernandez at second while Chase Utley served as the designated hitter.

Howard started 665 straight regular-season games as the cleanup hitter until Tuesday. When asked if he had a preference, Howard said: "I don't know." This was not a shocking decision; Sandberg tested the new configuration - with Marlon Byrd as his cleanup batter - late in spring. The manager discussed the possibility with Howard before Tuesday.

"Yeah," Howard said, "it's noteworthy, but at the same time I see all the other stuff. . . . I'm not even going to go there. You can talk to [Sandberg] about all that stuff. I really have nothing to say about it. I'm going to stay away from all of that."

For Sandberg, the positives of splitting his lefthanded hitters outweighed any damaged egos.

"The fifth spot is still an RBI spot with men on base," Sandberg said. "It's a power spot. It's still a good spot for him regardless."

Howard delivered in the sixth inning against Martin Perez, the lefthanded starter for Texas. He belted a 92-m.p.h. belt-high fastball to right for a run-scoring double.

Instant replay cost the Phillies an additional run. With Byrd batting, Ben Revere was called safe on a pickoff play at second base. Rangers manager Ron Washington challenged the play, and after a 2-minute, 18-second review, the ruling was overturned. The scoreboard showed the play while umpires deliberated. The home crowd roared while Perez tossed with his catcher during the delay. He did not retire another batter. Byrd singled to center before Howard's double.

The reconfigured middle of Sandberg's order squandered an eighth-inning chance. Utley rapped a two-out single to right on the 10th pitch lefty Neal Cotts threw him. He moved to second on a wild pitch, which allowed Cotts to intentionally walk Byrd. Cotts, who dominated with a 1.11 ERA in 57 innings last season, threw Howard four sliders. Howard waved at the last one, well off the plate.

The Phillies relievers were less effective. Diekman, who replaced Burnett in the seventh after throwing 23 pitches Monday, could not navigate the heart of Texas' lineup Tuesday without permitting the tying run.

Hollands and Rosenberg could not preserve the tie. As the Rangers danced on the infield, a bat boy sprinted to the outfield grass. He fetched the ball Byrd abandoned, a memory the Phillies would like to soon forget.

Lineup Change-up

Phillies batting orders (changes in bold):

1. Revere, CF

2. Rollins, SS

3. Utley, 2B

4. Howard, 1B

5. Byrd, RF

6. Brown, DH

7. Ruiz, C

8. Asche, 3B

9. Gwynn, LF

1. Revere, CF

2. Rollins, SS

3. Utley, DH

4. Byrd, RF

5. Howard, 1B

6. Ruiz, C

7. Mayberry, LF

8. Nix, 3B

9. Hernandez, 2B


@magelb www.inquirer.com/


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