Jul 092010

July 8 Philadelphia Inquirer

The Phillies’ lineup won’t be in full working order at least until second baseman Chase Utley returns sometime around Labor Day. The starting rotation is the area in which general manager Ruben Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel would most like to strengthen their team before the July 31 trade deadline.

The one place the Phillies finally find themselves almost at full strength is the bullpen. With Ryan Madson back from the disabled list tonight, Manuel was able to use his relievers in the exact order he wanted.

The manager’s reward: two blown saves in consecutive innings.

Madson, despite striking out the side, blew a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth and Brad Lidge failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the ninth, turning another hot evening at Citizens Bank Park into an extra-inning marathon between the Phillies and Cincinnati Reds.

The boos eventually turned to cheers with one swing of Brian Schneider’s bat in the bottom of the 12th inning. With one out, Schneider launched a 0-1 pitch from Jordan Smith into the right-field seats, giving the Phillies a 4-3 victory.

The two bullpen heroes turned out to be Jose Contreras and Nelson Figueroa. Contreras pitched a perfect 10th and Figueroa retired the side in order in the 11th and 12th innings to earn his second win of the season.

The game included two of the oddest scoring plays you’ll ever see. Jimmy Rollins scored from first base on an infield single in the third inning for the Phillies and Drew Stubbs scored from second base on a strikeout in the eighth inning for the Reds.

After Rollins drew a two-out walk in the third, Shane Victorino hit a hard grounder down the first-base line. A diving Joey Votto got his glove on the ball, but it squirted away from the first baseman. A hustling Victorino got to the bag about the same time as pitcher Johnny Cueto, and when the two collided, the pitcher’s glove and the baseball went flying toward right field.

Rollins went to the third on the play and Victorino unwisely rounded first base. Cueto stood at first and instructed Votto to throw home, but instead the first baseman threw the baseball to the gloveless pitcher in an attempt to get Victorino before he returned to the bag. Cueto again lost the baseball and Rollins headed for home. Cueto retrieved the ball, but his throw was too late to get Rollins, who went headfirst into the plate.

That run gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead and, thanks to a second straight strong performance by righthander Kyle Kendrick, it stood through the seventh inning.

Votto celebrated his addition to the National League all-star team in Internet voting by slamming a solo home run in the first inning off Kendrick, but the Phillies righthander allowed only two hits the rest of the way before being lifted with two outs in the seventh.

Madson, fresh off the disabled list, made his first appearance since April 28 in the eighth inning.

With runners at first and second, Madson got Brandon Phillips to chase a two-strike pitch in the dirt for what should have been the third out of the inning. The ball, however, got past Schneider.

Phillips remained at home plate for a long time, but Schneider couldn’t locate the ball. Madson ran past home in an effort to inform Schneider where the ball was, but that left home plate uncovered and Stubbs scored the tying run all the way from second base.

Madson had a chance to get his second win in as many appearances – yes, he was the winning pitcher in the game he broke his toe in San Francisco – but Lidge made that possibility disappear in the ninth.

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