Reds Deal Another Blow To Phillies Chances

Once again, the Phillies offense proved to be their undoing as they came up short against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, losing 4-3 and dealing a serious blow to their wild card chances. The Reds came into the series with the second highest team ERA in the National League, but it was good enough to shut down the Phillies enough to take two out of the three games that the two teams played over the weekend.

Reds starter Aaron Harang made one major mistake during his 5 innings of work Sunday, when he served up a homerun ball to Jim Thome that gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead. The long ball was Thome's 44th of the season and with Vicente Padilla (14-11) pitching pretty well, it looked like the lead might be enough to stand. Then again, looks can be deceiving.

Padilla was shaky in the first inning and allowed a first inning run as the Reds went up 1-0. Padilla put himself in trouble when leadoff hitter Ryan Freel bounced a ball back to Padilla that he threw away, putting Freel on second base on the error. Tim Hummel then reached on an infield single to move Freel to third and with one out, Sean Casey picked up another infield single to give the Reds an unearned run for their 1-0 lead. Padilla worked his way through the rest of the inning without any further trouble and seemed to settle down.

Harang gave up singles to Placido Polanco and Bobby Abreu in the fourth, putting runners on the corners with nobody out. Thome then stepped to the plate and took Harang deep as the Phillies gained their 3-1 advantage. Harang regrouped and put down the next three hitters to get back on track, but it seemed like the damage was done.

Padilla worked his way through the fifth inning, but got into some trouble in the sixth. With one out, D'Angelo Jimenez and Sean Casey put together back to back doubles, closing the gap to 3-2. Padilla struck out Russell Branyan and got Wily Mo Pena to ground back to the mound for the final out of the inning and preserve the one run lead for the Phillies.

Harang was lifted after five innings, allowing five hits, three earned runs and striking out three hitters. Dan Serafini (1-3) put the Phillies down in order in the sixth. Little did the Phillies know that Serafini would wind up winning the game thanks to two runs that the Reds would score in the top of the seventh.

Padilla started the seventh by walking catcher Corky Miller. Former Phillie Eric Valent came in to run for Miller and wound up scoring the tying run when Darnell Stenson – pinch hitting for Serafini - doubled to drive in Valent with the Reds third run of the game. Another infield single, this time by Freel put runners on the corners with one out. Hummel then picked up his second hit of the game as Stenson scored, putting the Reds up 4-3. Larry Bowa lifted Padilla in favor of Turk Wendell, who gave up a single to Jimenez to load the bases with just one out. Bowa popped out of the dugout again to bring in Dan Plesac to face Casey. Plesac, who pitched in all three games of the series, got Plesac to hit a weak ground ball to second that Tomas Perez took control of to turn into an inning ending double play.

John Riedling came on in the seventh and put the Phillies down in order and then got Marlon Byrd and Polanco to start the eighth. The Reds called on left-hander Phil Norton to face Abreu, who grounded out to end the inning. Chris Reitsma came on to lock down the game in the ninth, getting Thome and Lieberthal without any problem. Jason Michaels – who had come in the game defensively – doubled on a 2-2 pitch to suddenly give the Phillies some life. Jimmy Rollins walked on four pitches, putting the winning run on base and bringing Perez to the plate. Reitsma quickly struck out Perez to end the game and record his 11th save of the season.

The win kept the Phillies ½ game behind the Florida Marlins in the National League Wild Card standings, thanks to the Atlanta Braves, who thumped Florida 8-0 Sunday in Atlanta. The Marlins and Braves play again on Monday, while the Phillies are off, meaning that the Phillies will either be tied for the wild card lead or one game behind Florida when the two start a three game series at Pro Player Park Tuesday night. Kevin Millwood (14-11, 3.87) faces Dontrelle Willis (13-6, 3.37) in the series opener Tuesday night.

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