Phillies 3, Mets 2, or: WTF?!?

It's hard to imagine the last three games going more poorly than they have, as the Mets deftly sweep their once-sizable division lead under the rug and breathe new life into their closest rivals. For the third game in a row the Mets' offense failed to answer the bell. For the third straight contest the Mets' supposedly-potent bats managed just a couple of runs against one of the worst pitching staffs in the National League. And for the third consecutive day the Mets lost a ballgame to the Phillies, watching their advantage shrivel up like Jose Canseco's grapes on a hot August night.

The Mets were again stymied by a mediocre starting pitcher, this time undone by the aging and largely unimpressive Jamie Moyer. The Mets did manage to scrape together eight hits and a couple of walks against Moyer but they stranded seven baserunners and lost a Jose Reyes twice on the basepaths. Reyes was 0-for-9 in the series coming into tonight's game. A quick glance at the boxscore would have you believe that he put together a decent night at the plate: a single and a walk in four trips to the plate. However, despite his gaudy stolen base total for the season (71) he has now been erased seventeen times. Tonight he was picked off by Moyer and J.C. Romero, thrown out both times going from first to second. The first pickoff likely cost the Mets a run as David Wright smacked one out of Citizen's Bank Park shortly thereafter.

Oliver Perez did a decent job of keeping the Mets in the ballgame while their offense was sputtering about. Perez struck out ten Phillies in six innings, but he also walked five and allowed six hits, ultimately getting saddled with the loss. The winning run was scored by Moyer, who reached base on one of Perez's five walks and eventually scuttled home on a sacrifice fly by Pat Burrell.

I guess I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the game's final play. If you missed the action I will clumsily set the stage for you. With the Mets trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth, Carlos Delgado led off the inning by flailing away uselessly at several Brett Myers breaking balls. Paul Lo Duca followed with an opposite-field single and was promptly removed in lieu of pinch runner Endy Chavez. Marlon Anderson pinch hit for Lastings Milledge and knocked a single to center that chased Endy to third. Shawn Green pinch hit for Jorge Sosa and, after almost swinging at a couple of two-strike pitches, hit a slow-roller to shortstop. Jimmy Rollins flipped the ball to Tad Iguchi at second who was taken out by Anderson. Iguchi bounced the return throw to first and Green was safe, seemingly scoring Endy with the tying run. Only the tying run didn't actually score because second base umpire C.B. Bucknor called Anderson out for what crew chief Joe West described as "[going] after the second baseman to break up the double play and did not, and could not reach the base".

Fine. Except there are a few problems. The biggest problem is that Joe West is absolutely incorrect in his assertion that Anderson didn't, nay, "couldn't" reach second base. Need proof? Click to enlarge.

A little grainy, but it seems pretty clear to me that Anderson could reach second, and if you watch the video it becomes even clearer that Anderson *did* touch the base. So, if West and Bucknor are contending that Anderson should be called out because he couldn't reach the base then they are mistaken and Anderson should have been called safe on the play.

If they had made the argument that Anderson went out of his way to knock into Iguchi and that he used excessive force (whatever that is), then I can at least buy that argument. Replays show that Anderson did kind of shove Iguchi out of the way and Rule 7.08(b) of the MLB Official Rules vaguely states:

Any runner is out when --

(a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner's baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely; or (2) after touching first base, he leaves the baseline, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base;

[snip]

(b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball; Rule 7.08(b) Comment: A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not. If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire's judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter out. With two out, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

As I interpret it, Anderson would have been cleared of (a) but likely violated (b) by intentionally hindering Iguchi's efforts to throw to first. Of course, that's not the call that Bucknor or West made, but it's tough to cry foul on this one since it looked to me like Anderson was a little too pushy. The kicker is that Green probably would have been safe at first had Anderson slid like a baseball player and not a UFC grappler.

And I'll leave you with this doozy: Coming into tonight's game the Phillie bullpen was 15th in the National League with a 4.58 ERA and dead last in the league with a 1.57 collective WHIP. Through the first three games of this series their 'pen has tossed ten innings. Their combined line:

IP H ER R BB SO
10.0 5 0 0 4 8

The Mets have their best starter on the mound tomorrow as they try to salvage the last game of this series, and perhaps El Duque's arm can overcome the offense's morass of ineptitude.

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