Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cloudy skies

Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard didn't have much to celebrate today.

This was a day to reflect upon the freedom we enjoy in this great nation and the men and women who are serving in the military for us, and for a few select baseball players, this was a day to enjoy being selected to represent their team and their sport in next Tuesday's All-Star Game. Any pleasant feelings brought on by those events were destroyed in the bottom of the seventh inning when six Pirates triumphantly crossed the plate and completed a demoralizing Keystone Series for the Phillies.

It would be unfair to say that the team is playing as bad as it did during that horrific stretch in late May/early June, but it is hard to remember how much worse that was when you lose three out of four to Pittsburgh. That kind of failure would be understandable if this was football or hockey, but the Pirates are a team not playing for anything. The team that just passed them in the NL Central standings started the season 0-8, and who knows how many of their players will still be taking the field at PNC Park this time next month.

It was shocking how quickly Joe Blanton's motor went from cruising to stalled out. The pitcher who closed the sixth and then opened the seventh seemed like two different people. Three of Blanton's first four pitches in that crucial inning were crushed, and suddenly the go-ahead run was at the plate. To add insult to injury, his catcher had just given him some insurance in the top of the seventh with a solo homer (Dane Sardinha has turned plenty of heads during his short time with the major league club). It was an ugly meltdown to watch, and we've all seen more than our fair share this season.

Now the Phillies have to carry this burdensome load into a three-game series with the division-leading Braves. In the absolute worst-case scenario, Philadelphia could be eight games back by the end of it and just one game above .500 (a place the team has not fallen to since the third game of the season). Then again, the Phillies were in this spot just three weeks ago. They were fading fast before they managed to take two of three from the Yankees and start a brief resurgence. Should they pull that off again, they could still end the first half feeling good about where they are.

And Halladay and Howard could feel good about being All-Stars.

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