No Time To Mope About Stunning Loss

There are plenty of places to point fingers to assign blame for Wednesday night's debacle in Atlanta. The Phillies though have to get past that and look for ways to close the gap in fighting for a playoff spot.

Charlie Manuel stared out at the field in stunned disbelief. Loquacious center fielder Aaron Rowand was at a loss for words. Top relievers Tom Gordon and Brett Myers couldn't think of anything they might have done better.

Of all the Phillies' tough losses this season, this was the toughest.

A series of broken-bat hits, three infield flares and Matt Diaz's decisive three-run double that glanced off right fielder Chris Roberson's mitt in the ninth inning gave the Atlanta Braves a 9-8 victory Wednesday in a game the Phillies led 8-2 with six outs remaining.

"I totally can't believe that," Manuel said after the Phillies surrendered four runs in the eighth inning and three in the ninth. "It's mind-boggling. I don't know what to say. I've seen some strange, weird games. I've seen balls find holes. I've never seen anything like that. I can't believe what happened. I'm totally amazed, really."

Gordon added, "A game like that can take all the breath out of you."

Now, a week after their rousing four-game sweep of the first-place New York Mets, the Phils (73-66) return from a bitterly disappointing 2-4 road trip - but still only three games off the pace in the National League wild-card race with 21 remaining. But the latest loss won't be easy to overcome. "Twenty-seven years playing baseball, I've never seen that," Gordon said.

While Gordon and Myers weren't ready to look at themselves when figuring out what went wrong, you have to consider the weak job turned in by the back end of the Phillies bullpen. Bloop hits or not, Gordon and Myers have been generally ineffective in their roles. Myers last blamed Citizens Bank Park for another save that he blew and in Atlanta, he walked three hitters over just 1.1 innings of work. Gordon's season ERA ballooned to 6.49 and Myers boasts a 5.09 ERA on the season.

RF Chris Roberson forgot to bring his sunglasses to right field in the eighth inning Wednesday. It was a costly oversight. Roberson got a poor read on flare singles by Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur, enabling the Atlanta Braves' four-run inning en route to their improbable, come-from-behind victory. A few batters after Francoeur's single, during a break in play, Jimmy Rollins retrieved a pair of glasses and tossed them to Roberson. "I just rushed out," said Roberson, who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning.

A rookie mistake, but one that shouldn't have happened.

The loss also points out how much the Phillies miss outfielders Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino, who have both missed considerable time because of injuries. Victorino is technically available to play, but is still hurting from a leg injury. Bourn still hasn't been activated from the disabled list and his return might not come until next season. Had either Bourn or Victorino been available, one of them would have been in right field and could have helped to stem the Atlanta rally that led to the Phillies loss.

The Phillies return home for their penultimate home series of the season with games against the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies. After that comes the final road trip of the season that takes them to New York, St. Louis and Washington. They wrap up the season with home games against Atlanta and Washington.

Tom Gordon chose to look for a silver lining from Wednesday night's loss. "This may work well for us. This could help us see that, just because we won four against the Mets, we don't have anything wrapped up. We have three weeks left. We can be out of this in a week, or we can make this really special by learning from this. It's up to us."

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