Over-analyzing one baseball game is frivolous. Heck, over-analyzing a three-game series is frivolous. The baseball season is a 162-game grind that is best viewed in large chunks — halves or quarters, whatever.
But, every year and without fail, there are games that seem to swing the pendulum of momentum within a division race. The Cardinals’ three-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati this week felt important. And it was important. Same goes for the Dodgers’ brutal loss to the Phillies on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Up 9-2 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning, the Dodgers looked to have a victory in hand. Sure, their bullpen is not without flaws, but getting six outs while protecting a seven-run lead is not exactly a daunting task. At least, not on most nights.
Reliever Ronald Belisario, fresh off a stint on the restricted list due to a substance abuse problem, opened the bottom of the 8th for the Dodgers. He surrendered a single to Placido Polanco, a single to Mike Sweeney, then threw a wild pitch that allowed both Phillies to advance. Jayson Werth made him pay immediately with a two-run base hit, then Werth advanced to second when Belisario was issued a balk.
Collapse in session.
Belisario served up another RBI to Ben Francisco before exiting to a 9-5 deficit and a large, sarcastic applause from the Philadelphia faithful. The Phils got one more run across the plate against Kenley Jansen, closing out the 8th inning with a big “9-6” flashing on the outfield scoreboard.
You could smell trouble in the air. And the cheesesteaks. You could definitely smell cheesesteaks.
Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, a massive and mostly dominant right-hander, has never pitched well against the Phillies. Including Thursday’s ugly showing, he is 2-2 with a 9.82 ERA, one save and three blown save chances against Philadelphia. Par for the course, he hit the first batter that he faced, allowed a walk to Mike Sweeney, then third baseman Casey Blake booted a ground ball that allowed the winning run to reach first base.
Carlos Ruiz knocked in that winning run in the game’s next at-bat with a shot that nearly cleared the center field wall.
The Dodgers now stand nine games back of the Padres in the National League West and can probably be counted out of the postseason barring a major collapse at the top of that division. The Phillies, meanwhile, have won eight of their last 10 games to move within two games of the Braves in the National League East.
Maybe in October we’ll look back to Thursday, August 12, and say, “Hey, that’s when the Phillies got ignited. And when the Dodgers took their last gasp of hope-filled air.”