Jul 022010

July 2 Philadelphia Daily News

“Whether Octavio Dotel’s final pitch of the evening cut back across the inside corner or missed the black completely, home-plate umpire Chris Guccione’s final verdict stood: Shane Victorino was out, the game was over, and the Phillies were on the wrong side of a 3-2 game against a team that entered the night with the worst record in the National League.

When faced with Dotel’s 1-2 cutter in the ninth inning and the tying run on third, Victorino had reacted as most human beings would when a spherical object traveling at 92 mph appears to invade their personal space. And when fielding questions about it afterward, he reacted as most human beings would when faced with the prospect of drawing a fine.

“I thought it was a ball,” he said, and left it at that.

Baseball is a game of inches, and the importance of those inches would seem to grow with each starter who lands on the disabled list. Last night, the Phillies ended up on the wrong side of several of those inches – in the second inning, when Ryan Doumit fouled off four two-strike pitches en route to a walk that moved a runner into scoring position, and in the ninth, when Victorino struck out to end the game.

Doumit’s walk, one of the few blemishes in Cole Hamels’ seven-inning performance, set up an RBI single by Bobby Crosby that gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Victorino’s strikeout, one of six by an injury-riddled lineup, dropped the Phillies (41-36) four games behind the Braves in the National League East.

But while they might have served as interesting displays of the thin line between success and failure on the diamond, neither instance bore the bulk of the fault for the Phils’ disappointment. Hamels was strong for most of his seven innings, striking out eight and allowing just five hits. One of those hits was an RBI double by Pedro Alvarez in the third. Two more came in the fourth as the Pirates added another run.

But the Phillies, who earlier in the day learned they would be without star second baseman Chase Utley for 8 weeks and third baseman Placido Polanco for 3 to 4, were unable to produce against a pitching staff that entered the day with a 5.15 ERA. In a bit of irony, four of their eight hits were tallied by fill-ins, two of them by interim third baseman Greg Dobbs and another by second baseman Wilson Valdez, whose solo shot in the third inning was his fourth home run in the last 10 games.

With the Phillies trailing 3-2 in the eighth, Jimmy Rollins hit a one-out double but was stranded after a strikeout by Ryan Howard, a walk by Jayson Werth and a flyout by Raul Ibanez.

High above it all, manager Charlie Manuel watched from the visiting executive’s suite while serving a one-game suspension for making contact with umpire CB Bucknor in a game against the Reds on Tuesday night.”

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