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Mental Errors Hurt Phillies in Loss to Rays

Kevin McGuireSenior Analyst IJune 25, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 15: Designed hitter Pat Burrell #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on April 15, 2009 in St. Petersburg, Florida. All Major League Baseball players are wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson day. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)


As well as the Phillies have played on the road, last night came as a bit of a shock. What had been a pitcher's duel for seven innings ended up looking like a rout because of a pair of crucial misjudgments during the game.

The first mental letdown occurred in the top of the fourth inning. After Pat Burrell's two-run homer gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead, Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza worked himself into a bit of a jam in the fourth inning. After Garza walked Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to start the inning, the Phillies looked prime to tie the game or take the lead.

But Jayson Werth inexplicably swung at the first pitch he saw, grounding into a deflating double play. Not only do I not comprehend any logic that compels a batter to swing on a first pitch in any situation, but I will likely go to my grave wondering why you swing at a first pitch after the three batters in front of you walked.

The second lapse came in the eighth inning from the usually defensively-sound Jimmy Rollins. Rollins has never taken his poor game from the batter's box to the field but last night he may have. Rollins was 0-for-4 on the night but his biggest gaffe came with two outs in the eighth inning.

With the bases loaded Chan Ho Park was trying to keep the Phillies within one run, down 2-1. With Burrell at the plate for the Rays the Phillies could get an easy out at first to end the threat. When Rollins fielded the ground ball up the middle he tossed the ball to Utley for a force at second, despite having plenty of time to get the slow-footed Burrell at first. The close play went to the runner, a run scored to make it 3-1, and inning continued.

The Rays took full advantage of the extra out. A bloop base hit scored two more runs and before the dreadful inning was over the Rays had a 7-1 lead.

Instead of being down by one run with some of the best hitters coming up against a shaky closing situation for the Rays, the Phillies would have to score six times just to keep the game alive.

The mental errors took away from a terrific game from starter Joe Blanton. Blanton made one mistake to Burrell, which resulted in a two-run home run. But in seven innings Blanton sprinkled six base hits, struck out ten batters, and walked just two.

The Rays closed the game without another run from the Phillies. With the loss the Phillies' lead in the NL East was trimmed to 1.5 games as the Mets won last night.

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For the series finale, the Phillies will send Antonio Bastardo to oppose Andy Sonnanstine of the Rays.

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