The Phillies announced a paid attendance of 45,048 for tonight’s game, and while those fans showed up tonight, the Phillies, division title in hand and two weeks to go on the season, really didn’t until the ninth inning, when a furious last-ditch comeback fell just short. La Furia Roja, to borrow a phrase from James Richardson of The Guardian, resembled a pair of pants and went down to defeat, this time by a score of 4-3. Of course, with the Cardinals offering a potentially easier first-round opponent than Milwaukee or Arizona come playoff time, and the Redbirds breathing down Atlanta’s neck for the Wild Card, losing 3 of 4 isn’t the worst-case scenario.
As the FanGraphs WPA chart illustrates, the Cards had this one in hand pretty much from start to finish. St. Louis tagged Roy Halladay for three runs in the first two innings, led by Lance Berkman‘s solo homer in the first and RBI single in the second. Halladay threw 107 pitches in eight innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits and an appalling (for Halladay) four walks. Former Phillie Nick Punto chipped in with an RBI in the first and a run scored on an Albert Pujols double in the seventh.
Ross Gload of all people led the offense with a 2-for-3 performance, and while the Phillies put at least one man on base in seven of their nine innings, they managed but one unearned run off Cardinals started Kyle Lohse, who dodged trouble for 7 1/3 innings.
But like a teenager who spots his kid brother a 10-point lead in a game of pickup basketball, the Phillies came storming back in the bottom of the ninth. Cardinals closer Jason Motte allowed a leadoff double to Carlos Ruiz, struck out pinch hitter Brandon Moss, and allowed Jimmy Rollins‘ 100th career triple to plate Ruiz and make the score 4-2. Shane Victorino grounded out to drive in Rollins and make the score 4-3, but crucially for the Cardinals, the bases were empty with two outs. At this point, Tony LaRussa, who thinks we follow baseball to watch him manage, went to lefty Arthur Rhodes to face the left-handed Chase Utley. Utley, disregarding the platoon disadvantage, kept the game alive with a single. Then LaRussa, who goes to the bullpen more than Charlie Manuel puts his hands down his pants, retrieved Octavio Dotel from the bullpen, and he retired Hunter Pence to end the game.
It was the first time this season the Phillies lost a four-game series this season, they had won each of their first eight.
Tomorrow, we’ve got a big ol’ mess of baseball, with two, count ‘em, two ballgames against Ross Detwiler and the Washington Nationals of D.C. Tune in at 1:05 p.m. for the top half of the doubleheader. Now go watch the Charlie Sheen roast.