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Despite hitting four home runs off of one of the best pitchers in baseball, the Phillies dropped the first game in New York to the Mets, 6-5. Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez hit back-to-back solo homers off of Johan Santana in the fourth; Jimmy Rollins hit a two-run shot in the fifth; and Chase Utley hit a solo home run to lead off the eighth inning and chase Santana out of the game.
Unfortunately, the Mets’ bullpen — strange as this is to hear — was dominant and kept the Phillies from tying the game in the eighth and ninth innings. Bobby Parnell gave up a single up the middle to Jayson Werth, the first batter sans-Santana. Manager Jerry Manuel wasn’t taking any chances, and brought in left-hander Pedro Feliciano to face Howard and Ibanez. Howard swung at Feliciano’s first pitch and promptly hit into a double play. Raul Ibanez followed suit and weakly grounded out to end the inning.
In the ninth, Jimmy Rollins led off the inning with a single to right field off of closer Francisco Rodriguez, but that was all the Phillies could muster. K-Rod struck out Pedro Feliz and Greg Dobbs to earn his 16th save in as many opportunities.
The Phillies’ lead in the NL East shrunk to two games with their loss tonight. The third-place Braves and fourth-place Marlins also won, meaning that first and fourth place are only separated by six games.
J.A. Happ didn’t have a particularly great outing, but he pitched well enough to keep the Phillies in the game. Like Santana, Happ was also homer-prone, allowing a solo to David Wright in the second and a two-run round-tripper to Carlos Beltran in the third. Relievers Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin didn’t help matters much, as Condrey allowed the Mets to tie and then regain the lead, and Durbin gave up an insurance run in the form of a Ryan Church solo home run to dead center field that gave the Mets a 6-4 lead.
Cole Hamels will face Mike Pelfrey tomorrow night as the Phillies look to even the series. Jamie Moyer will take on the notorious Tim Redding in what the Phils hope will be a rubber match.
. . .
It’s been a while, but I finally have a couple more items to add to the “NL East Whining” category. First is an obvious one: Johan Santana’s bickering with manager Jerry Manuel when he was taken out of the game in the top of the eighth inning after surrendering a solo home run to Chase Utley that cut the Mets’ lead to 6-5. It looked like Santana said, “My ball,” which indicates that he was frustrated about coming out of the game.
After surrendering five runs on four hard-hit home runs, no matter who you are, it should never be surprising when you get the hook.
[Chipper] Jones ripped the Mets’ new park in a recent radio interview, blasting the decision to make it play so big.
“It is the biggest park that I have ever played in in my life,” Jones told the show “Ripken Baseball” on Sirius XM Radio. “It is a huge ballpark to center and right center and right field. You know, I actually feel sort of sorry for some of the guys out there because their power numbers are really going to take a hit; guys like David Wright David Wright , [Carlos] Beltran, [Carlos] Delgado. The days of them hitting 35, 40 homers — they’re over.”
Jones also recalled a telling moment from his first visit to Citi Field last month, when the Braves took two of three from the home team.
“I juiced the ball just right of center field as hard as the good Lord can let me hit a ball, and it hit midways up the center-field wall for a double,” he said. “And every time there was a long fly out or a double that hit off the wall or something, David Wright would run by me and go, ‘Nice park.’
Whining from a member of the Atlanta Braves is really nothing new. Maybe whenever a team is thinking about building a new stadium, they should have the contractor meet up with Chipper Jones first so the park meets his high standards.
Despite the reputation, Citi Field actually has played rather neutral so far this season. However, it does rank 22nd in the Majors in ESPN’s Park Factor using runs. Yet, not even counting the seven homers hit tonight, it ranked eighth in Park Factor using home runs. Citizens Bank Park, which has a reputation as being a bandbox, is 15th in runs and 13th in home runs.