The Phillies watched another great opportunity crumble into dust, losing to the Pirates 3-2 tonight.
Every story from yesterday's 3-1 loss used the word "lowly" to describe the Pirates. After tonight, there's no reason the same word can't be used for the 9-14 Phillies.
The Phils had a chance to tie or go ahead in the ninth, but with one out and the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Alex Gonzalez tried to be a hero and hit into a game-ending double play. This came after two separate relief pitchers walked the bases loaded. The pitch to Gonzalez was not a strike and he was ahead 3-1 in the count.
Pat Maholm, who entered the game with a 7.40 ERA, dazzled the Phillies for seven innings, giving up just one run. For the second night, Aaron Rowand offered the only hope with a homer in the eighth. Pat Burrell had an RBI single in the fourth.
Both Gonzalez and Abraham Nunez had banner moments off the bench. With one out and a runner on first in the seventh, Charlie Manuel pulled Cory Lidle after 77 effective pitches. Nunez bounced into an inning-ending double play.
The Phillies need a hero of their own to make sure the kinds of things that happened tonight never happen again.
The problem: The man in position to do it is unable, and probably unqualified. There wasn’t a single part of Charlie Manuel tonight that wasn't preposterous. From the randomness of the lineup, to his on-the-fly decisions, to his posture hanging on the dugout rail. It was bothersome how casual he appeared to be, watching the season slide further down the toilet.
As for this offense, this isn't a funk. This is a pattern, one that repeats itself every season and has nothing to do with talent. A win tomorrow would tie their futile record of 10-14 from last year.
The Phillies are hoping the pattern follows last year's model and they play themselves back into contention. There's one small problem with that thinking. This team isn't as good as the 2005 version, particularly in bullpen. In addition, everyone's fear has come true. The Mets are for real, and everyone knows the Wild Card threats are in the central.
If that's the case, the Phillies have just played themselves out of contention, and it isn't even May.
Tomorrow, do yourself a favor. Skip the game, enjoy the weather and make sure the last day of April ends on a winning note.