Braves rip Moyer, Phillies, 7-5

 Posted by at 11:15 pm
Jul 072010

July 7 Philadelphia Inquirer

An hour before the Phillies’ 7-5 loss Wednesday night pushed them a season-high six games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, Charlie Manuel walked into his team’s clubhouse and issued a proclamation.

“It’s hittin’ time,” he said to no one in particular. “Let’s go.”

Ryan Howard’s head popped up from his locker and first baseman and manager chatted for a few minutes. During the trying times of the last eight weeks, Manuel has picked his spots, deciding when to best approach his players.

After Tuesday’s demoralizing 11-inning loss to the Braves, Manuel, still in uniform following his news conference with reporters, sauntered into the clubhouse – an unusual happening. He sought out Jimmy Rollins, sitting at his locker, and the two had a brief talk.

In the last three seasons, Manuel has pressed all of the right buttons. His players respond to his positive, encouraging tactics. Winning helps facilitate that, of course.

Eighty-three games into the 2010 season, Manuel faces a great test. His group of 25 players, saddled with oh so many expectations before even pitchers and catchers reported in February to Clearwater, Fla., looked very ordinary against the Braves in three games.

“Days we hit, we don’t pitch,” Manuel said before Wednesday’s game. “Days we pitch, we don’t hit.”

On Tuesday, the Phillies wasted a superb outing from Cole Hamels by having only three hits in 11 innings. File Wednesday’s game in the first category Manuel spoke of.

Jamie Moyer allowed a home run to Martin Prado on the third pitch of the game. He retired 15 of the next 16 batters only to crumble in the stifling heat. In the sixth, six straight Braves reached base. Brian McCann cleared the bases with a double. Matt Diaz followed with a two-run home run into the shrubbery beyond the centerfield wall.

Moyer had been dominant against Atlanta. In 20 previous innings before the fateful sixth, he had allowed three runs (one earned), prompting Atlanta manager Bobby Cox to liken Moyer to four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux.

“He has you always guessing wrong as a hitter,” Cox said Tuesday. “He’s a big story this year for me.”

He was the story for the wrong reason Wednesday, as far as the Phillies are concerned. Their offense smacked 10 hits and scored plenty enough to win.

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