note: My role as an MLB writer for sportshaze.com has increased and shifted to the AL West. Considering this new position and my regular sports writing job, I must unfortunately curtail my blog postings about the Phillies. Time simply will not allow me to continue to do so at the rate I have been all summer. I'll still post when something monumental happens, but those one or two of you who were getting their Phillies news from me, you'll have to choose another outlet. Thanks to all of my readers, regardless of frequency. As always, GO PHILS!
Charlie Manuel may have been able to pencil in his entire starting lineup for Tuesday night's game, but he never would've guessed what the lineup would look like by the end of it.
Ryan Howard single-handedly wrecked the night for my Fantasy Baseball offense with his 0-for-7, five-strikeout performance. His final strikeout on an attempted check swing to end to the bottom of the 14th resulted in just the second ejection of his career. With Raul Ibanez moving over to first base in the top of the 15th, Manuel figured Roy Oswalt may as well face his former team in some capacity, so the good sport ace trotted out to left field to replace Ibanez.
Naturally, Oswalt then made the first put out of the frame, and the consummate professional couldn't help but crack a smile at the absurdity of it all.
The smiles didn't last long as Houston took a 4-2 lead in the top of the 16th, and Oswalt failed to come through with a walk-off, three-run shot in the bottom half to keep Philadelphia in sole possession of first place in the Wild Card.
The loss also continued a frustrating trend, holding the Phillies exactly 2.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East for the eighth consecutive day. Both teams are 5-4 in their last nine games and each has picked up every win and loss on the same day. The scenario is pretty intriguing, but mostly just annoying.
Unfortunately, the Phillies seem to be returning to their late-May swoon, as they've managed more than two runs in a game just once since their 8-2 win over the Giants a week ago. Howard and Chase Utley have been non-factors since their return from the DL, making the basepaths a lonely place for hot-hitting Jimmy Rollins.
As J-Roll used to say, Philadelphia still is the team to beat in the division, and the National League. Its pitching rotation is as good as any in baseball, and a strong September is still in the cards for the offense. As long as Howard doesn't get thrown out of anymore games and the Phillies start winning when the Braves lose, the baseball universe will unfold as it should.