PHILADELPHIA -- Between innings of last night's ugly 10-1 Cubs loss to the Phillies, the strange-looking green Philadelphia mascot the Phillie Phanatic came racing out on his small motorized vehicle wearing a Batman cape and mask. At first, this didn't seem to make any sense -- until the scoreboard in left field showed actor Jack Nicholson sitting in the front row behind the plate. Nicholson, who played the Joker in the 1989 movie "Batman", is in Philadelphia to film what is currently known as "Untitled James L. Brooks Project" with, among others, Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson. He sat there with a Joker-like grin on his face as the Phanatic tried to hex him.
That, my friends, was the only amusement Cubs fans had in this loss, which broke a four-game winning streak and was the Phillies' ninth win in a row. We knew it wouldn't be easy here in Philadelphia and, to be sure, the Phillies aren't the Nationals... but this was one of the worst, if not the worst, losses of the year.
Ted Lilly didn't have it last night -- but everything might have changed everything had plate umpire Larry Vanover had given him a third-strike call on a 1-2 pitch to Raul Ibanez. Ted thought he had Ibanez and gotten out of the inning unscathed, but Vanover called the pitch "ball two" and Ibanez sent the next Lilly offering into the shrubbery in center field for a three-run homer, just out of reach of Kosuke Fukudome.
As it turned out, any Cubs fans in Citizens Bank Park -- and there weren't many last night, perhaps the fewest Cubs fans I've seen at any road game in the last couple of years -- could have left right then, because those three runs were enough to win the game. The Cubs managed only a consolation run off
Greg Maddux Rodrigo Lopez on an Andres Blanco double and a RBI single from Ryan Theriot.
Oh, and Lou? Take careful note of what Charlie Manuel did with his pitchers last night. That's how you manage a bullpen in a blowout! Instead of playing it like a spring training game, pitching a bunch of relievers for an inning or maybe two at a time, Manuel put Chad Durbin in the game in the seventh inning and let him finish; that resulted in Durbin's third major league save, since the save rule allows you to post a save if you throw three innings with any lead. (The most extreme example of this occurred on August 22, 2007, when Texas' Wes Littleton threw the final three innings of their 30-3 blowout of the Orioles, getting a save in a game his team won by 27 runs, although his team led by "only" 11 runs when he entered the game.)
Lou could have had Jeff Stevens throw two innings and Aaron Heilman, who needs the work to get straightened out (since they seem to be immune to suggestions to get rid of him), the other two. There was absolutely no reason to put Angel Guzman, who might be needed in more important play the next two days, in a 9-1 game in the 8th inning. Guzman threw 20 pitches and allowed Ryan Howard's 24th homer of the season. I'd rather have seen him kept fresh for tonight.
Meanwhile, the Phillies fans were giving it to Alfonso Soriano in LF for dropping one fly ball that led to a pair of unearned Phillies runs, and for letting another ball drop between him and Kosuke Fukudome. I can't say I blame them -- Soriano had a bad game in the field last night, although his three singles boosted his BA to .244, the highest it's been since June 2. Late in the game, Soriano chased after a foul ball down the line and the fans in LF were yelling for him to throw it up to them. I'm thinking, "You've been heckling him all game and you think he's going to throw you a ball?" He tossed it to the ball girl.
I'll have more to say about Citizens Bank Park tomorrow, as I didn't get a chance to walk around the entire stadium last night. I will say that although it feels more intimate than Nationals Park and the sightlines, even from seats low in the LF corner right next to the foul pole, are good, there were some problems that struck me right away. The lines in the food court like area in the outfield were extremely long even more than an hour before game time. I wound up in "Bull's BBQ" in dead center field -- the BBQ chicken is quite good and that was about the only place there wasn't a line. After eating, trying to get to my seat in the LF corner was an adventure -- the concourse was extremely crowded and you have to walk around the back of some sort of sports bar in LF just to get from section 145 to section 141 from the CF food area. Jessica tried to come by and visit during the game, but instead I just got a text message saying "the ushers were mean" and wouldn't allow it. Security took a couple of innings to get around to ejecting a woman who was spraying beer around the end of her aisle, apparently trying to get Soriano's attention (she failed). Finally, traffic getting out of the place was miserable.
I hope to have more positive things to say about the ballpark and the Cubs in tomorrow's recap. In the meantime, remember that this only counts as one loss and with the Cardinals and Brewers both losing last night, the Cubs remain in second place by themselves, still only two games out of first. (And, for what it's worth, three games off the wild-card lead, now held by the Rockies.)