Ryan Howard's Return to the Phillies Lineup Spoiled by the Bullpen

Tim StoeckleContributor IIIJuly 6, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 06: Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a double in his first at bat of the season during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on July 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

It was a humid night at Citizens Bank Park, but that didn't keep the fans away. The team's big bat, Ryan Howard, returned to the lineup for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of last year's NLDS.

His return gave some hope to a fanbase that is in need of some. Howard will come back, ignite this offense, and get this team back into playoff contention; that was the plan. But not only could the Phillies still not score in Howard's season debut, the same thing that's been plaguing the team all year struck again: the bullpen.

Ryan Howard received a standing ovation as he stepped up to the plate in the second inning. After ripping a double into deep right-center field, the crowd of 44,441 at Citizens Bank Park erupted.

This was going to be the start of the Phillies playoff run.

Not quite.

Phillies pitcher, Kyle Kendrick, threw seven shutout innings, but got no support as the game went into the 8th inning scoreless. Antonio Bastardo, a formerly reliable reliever, entered the game in an attempt to keep the Braves at zero.

Pinch-hitter, Matt Diaz, lead off the 8th with a single which brought Michael Bourn to the plate.  Bourn attempted to sacrifice bunt, but Bastardo walked him.  Bastardo then retired Martin Prado and Jason Heyward, giving Phillies fans hope that that their team would be able to escape the inning without surrendering any runs.  

Bastardo continued to struggle finding the strike zone and walked Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.  

Before the Phillies fans were able to finish yelling insults at Bastardo, Brian McCann hit a ball over the fence to make it a 5-0 game.

Bastardo left the game to the sound of boos and the sight of disgusted fans exiting the park.

The Phillies are 13 games back of Washington in the NL East and 9 games back in the Wild Card race.

44,441 fans showed up to watch the Phillies blow another game. They deserved better. I could have spent my Friday night relaxing at the shore after a week of work. Instead, I went to Citizens Bank Park, sat up in section 422, sweat through my Hunter Pence t-shirt and watched the Phillies blow another game.

To say I left the stadium angry is an understatement. I left feeling cheated.