Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Posted: 11 p.m. Updated: May 18, 12:30 a.m.
By Jim Salisbury
ST. LOUIS The box score says the Phillies lost their fourth straight game when Lance Berkman launched a ball over Michael Martinez head with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday night.
But that was just the final lowlight in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Really now, the Phillies lost this one in so many other ways, most notably another horrendous offensive performance by a watered-down lineup. Catcher Dane Sardinhas missed tag at the plate didnt help and neither did Danys Baez allowing three straight no-out singles in the ninth. But in the end, you arent going to win many games scoring one run. And the one the Phillies scored Tuesday night was unearned.
It seems like were all in a rut right now, Ben Francisco said afterward. Our pitching is doing a good job, but were not getting big hits.
The Phillies arent getting many hits at all.
Tuesday night marked the fourth straight game that they had been held to five or fewer hits. They finished the eight-game road trip at 3-5 and hit just .205 (54 for 263) while averaging three runs per game. They have scored three or fewer runs in 22 of 41 games yet, almost amazingly, still lead the National League East at 25-16. Their four-game skid, however, has allowed second-place Florida to pull within a half-game.
If there was any good news to come out of Tuesday nights loss it was that Roy Oswalt felt healthy and strong in pitching five innings of one-run ball. Oswalts fastball had pop and he believes hes back on track after missing three weeks with a back strain.
Oswalt was held to 76 pitches as a precaution.
In my next start I think Ill be able to increase my pitch count, Oswalt said. By the third start I should be at 100.
In addition to the defeat, there was bad news as rookie reliever Mike Stutes strained his back throwing a pitch in the sixth inning. Manager Charlie Manuel said Stutes felt a burning sensation in his back. Stutes, who had been earning more work in crucial moments of the game, is likely to go on the disabled list. He said the pain was in the middle of his back.
With Shane Victorino (hamstring) still out of the lineup and Chase Utley (knee tendinitis) working out in Florida, Manuel used a lineup that resembled Ryan Howard and The Reserves. It wasnt exactly sweet music. Howard struck out three times. The rest of the lineup included Martinez, Francisco, Sardinha, John Mayberry, and Wilson Valdez. Thats essentially five part-time players. Yes, after a 3-for-21 trip dropped him to .218, Francisco is looking like a part-time guy.
Manuel acknowledged the JV quality of his lineup, which had the unenviable task of going up against lefty Jaime Garcia, whose ERA fell to a microscopic 1.64 after he went eight innings and allowed just an unearned run.
Weve got guys up there who might want it too bad, Manuel said. Weve got five guys trying to get a niche in the big leagues and its pretty tough for us right now.
Maybe it will get better when Victorino returns in the coming days. Utley could be back in the next week, as well. And it would sure help if Placido Polanco could get it going again. He went 5 for 26 on the trip.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz got a planned night off as he continues to work his way into form after a trip to the DL for a sore back. The Phillies missed his defense when Berkman eluded Sardinhas tag at the plate in the fourth inning. Ruiz handles those plays well and might have blocked the plate on Berkman. That was a big run, of course. Any run is big when you score as infrequently as the Phillies, who have scored just seven runs in the last four games. Seven. In four games. Thats pretty bad.
After pushing across an unearned run in the eighth, the Phillies lost the game in the ninth as the Cardinals got four hits off Baez and J.C. Romero. Manuel, as he does on the road, saved closer Ryan Madson in case the Phils got the lead.
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