Phils' can't extend lead with walk-off loss
Club's magic number remains four in National League East
MILWAUKEE -- Jimmy Rollins has said that nothing comes easy in Philadelphia.
The Phillies are proving him correct once again. They had an 8 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East with 13 games to play early last week, but their lead has shrunk to five with eight to play following Saturday's 7-5 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.
The Phillies remain in great position to win a third consecutive division title. Their magic number is four.
They're just not making it easy on themselves.
"I'm not taking it for granted that we've got the division won," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Noooo, not at all."
Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth said he isn't, either. He noticed on the wall in the visitor's clubhouse at Turner Field last weekend that the Braves play seven of their remaining 10 games against the Nationals, who are the worst team in baseball.
"Ever since I saw that, I realized that potentially they could still make a run at it," Werth said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over when we've got it."
The Braves have won 14 of their previous 17 games to make them the hottest team in baseball. They could sweep the Nationals with a victory on Sunday. They finish the season with a three-game series at home against Florida and a four-game series at home against Washington.
The Phillies, who have lost four of their past five, are struggling. They need right-hander Joe Blanton to pitch well Sunday to salvage a series split against the Brewers. The Phils finish the season with a four-game series at home against the Astros and a three-game series at home against the Marlins.
"You never want to lose," Werth said. "It's always frustrating to lose, no matter how you lose. But the good news is we are still who we are. We're a really good ballclub and we're in the driver's seat. We just need to get the job done here."
The Phillies had a 4-0 lead entering the bottom of the third inning on Saturday when the Brewers scored twice against right-hander Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick started in place of Pedro Martinez, who still has stiffness in his neck after swinging at a pitch on Sept. 19 in Atlanta.
Kendrick allowed another run in the fourth. He issued a leadoff walk to J.J. Hardy. A balk moved Hardy to second. Kendrick then hit Jason Kendall with a pitch. Braden Looper's sacrifice bunt advanced both runners and Felipe Lopez's fielder's choice scored Hardy to make it 4-3.
Kendrick allowed six hits, three runs (two earned runs) and two walks, and struck out four in four-plus innings.
"It was kind of a weird game," Kendrick said. "A couple ground balls found [their way through]. Base hits. A balk. I feel like I didn't get hit around, just some weird plays."
Left-hander Jamie Moyer replaced Kendrick. He allowed two runs in four innings. Those two runs came with two outs in the sixth inning after Ryan Howard's solo homer to right field in the fifth inning made it 5-3. Moyer walked Jason Bourgeois and allowed a ground-rule double down the right-field line to Lopez to put runners on second and third. Craig Counsell then hit a flare into center field. Rollins pursued and tried to make an over-the-shoulder catch. The ball appeared to hit the heel of his glove. It bounced away to allow both runners to score to tie the game.
Rollins declined comment after the game.
Rollins had a tough play there, and an even tougher night at the plate. He went 0-for-5, but he wasn't the only one. Shane Victorino (0-for-5), Chase Utley (0-for-4), Werth (0-for-3) and Raul Ibanez (0-for-3) all were hitless.
They were a combined 0-for-20.
"That about tells the story right there," Manuel said.
Right-hander Tyler Walker started the ninth. He allowed a leadoff single to Counsell before Ryan Braun hit an 0-1 fastball for a two-run home run to right-center field to win it. It was Braun's first home run since Sept. 11 and 30th of the season.
"I feel like every time I looked at the scoreboard I saw a huge 29 staring back at me," he said. "It definitely makes it a little bit more enjoyable that it won the game for us."
The Phillies found plastic rolls hanging over their lockers when they arrived to Miller Park on Thursday in preparation for a potential champagne celebration. They were gone Saturday because the Phillies no longer can clinch the division this weekend.
They will have to try to make that happen at home this week.
"It's been a tough trip," Walker said. "We've been on the road for quite a while. It will be nice to get last at-bats. It feels like a long road trip, but we've got to battle through it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.