Game of Shadows: Howard's Ejection Eclipses Bigger Issue

Adam RichardsonContributor IAugust 25, 2010

Ryan Howard checks his swing on a play that third base umpire Scott Barry calls a swinging strike two. The third base umpire draws a questionable look from Howard.

Howard checks his swing on the third strike and the umpire appeals to third. For those who saw last night’s events unfold, the outcome seemed inevitable.

Barry called strike three. Howard angrily tossed his bat and cursed himself. Or was he talking to the umpire? Nonetheless Scott Barry wasted no time in giving Howard the boot. It was a matter of split seconds between the strikeout, bat toss, curses, and old’ heave hoe.

Predictably the ejection has become the talk of Philadelphia, with third base Scott Barry drawing the ire (and I’m sure carefully worded letters) of the Philly faithful.

Unfortunately the ugly events that concluded the game overshadowed uglier events that led to it.

Scott Barry’s decision ultimately became the focus of a 16-inning game in which the Phillies produced only two runs. The game marked the fourth time this month that the Phillies failed to score more than two runs for starting pitcher Cole Hamels.

The end of Ryan Howard’s night was ugly; however, no more than the rest of his game during which he went 0-7 with five strikeouts. Add to that Chase Utley’s two strikeouts last night and you have a 3,4 combination that went just 2 for 13.

The five and half hour game that resulted in a loss with two pitchers in the Phillies’ lineup overshadowed the fact that for the second time in two nights the Phillies could not close the gap on the Atlanta Braves or score more than two runs against mediocre Astros pitchers’ Brett Myers and Bud Norris (nearly 4.00 ERA between them).

The game will be memorable for the simple fact that it was the first time in almost two decades that a player listed as a pitcher was forced to play an outfield position (Rick Ankiel outstanding). The game also featured the rare situation when two pitchers occupied batting lineup spots for more than one inning.

However, for all the oddities that surrounded the game it is one the Phillies need to forget. With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back in the lineup strangely Charlie Manuel has to figure out ways to get run production out of his team. He must find chances to give Dominic Brown, who has only eight plate appearance in the last 12 days, opportunities to play.

Spanning nearly a week the Phillies have been unable to either to close the gap on the NL East leading Braves or build on their lead in the Wildcard. With the Braves losing two straight two the wily Rockies before beginning a 10 game stretch against the Marlins and Mets, the Phillies should be looking to gain ground sooner than later.

There is over course plenty of time for the Phillies to make a move against the Braves. During September and October the two teams will face off six times. However, In a week during which questionable calls by the umpires have seemingly affected the outcome of games, the Phillies have allowed these discrepancies to overshadow the simple fact that they aren’t playing very well offensively.