for this game

Phillies' playoff hopes damaged with controversial loss

Sep 27, 2006 - 2:04 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Chase Utley has 31 home runs this season. But it might end up being one that did not count that ultimately costs the Philadelphia Phillies a playoff spot.

Utley hit a three-run homer that was incorrectly ruled a foul ball and the Phillies left 10 runners on base in a crushing 4-3 defeat to the Washington Nationals.

Philadelphia (82-75) has lost two straight games following a five-game winning streak, leaving the team one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (83-74) in the National League wild card standings with only five to play.

The key moment in Tuesday's contest occurred in the second inning, when Utley hit a shot down the right-field line that replays confirmed was a home run. But the umpires did not realize the ball actually ricocheted off the foul pole and the Phillies did not argue the call at the time.

Afterward, however, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel left no doubt as to his displeasure with the incorrect ruling.

"That really hurt us big time," Manuel said. "I got really upset because I couldn't see the ball he hit off the foul pole because that's a home run. Any time we earn a home run, that's three runs. From where we were standing in the dugout, nobody in the dugout could see. And evidently nobody on the (darn) field saw it.

"Somebody's got to see it. And I want to tell you something, the (darn) umpire has to see it, too. We play all year long and we're trying to get somewhere and all we need is for somebody to miss a call like that. It's terrible. It's absolutely unreal. But at the same time, I'm not standing here actually (moaning) over that because we could've scored more runs than we did."

The Phillies scored two runs off Ramon Ortiz in the first inning, but still stranded a pair of runners. They also left two runners on base in the second, third and fifth innings.

But of all the Phillies' missed opportunities, the second-inning umpiring blunder continued to stand out well after the game ended.

"When I hit it, I kind of looked up at it and I kind of lost it in the lights," Utley said. "I saw it come down and I couldn't tell. I was kind of blinded by the lights. It's unfortunate. It would have been three big runs for us and probably could have changed the outcome of the game, but no one said this was going to be easy. We've got to put this one behind us and come back tomorrow and be ready to go."

Manuel did not fault his All-Star second baseman for not arguing the call.

"Chase hit the ball and he turned and came running right back," Manuel said. "When the umpire called it foul, he probably didn't have any reason to argue or say anything if he didn't see it."

Philadelphia stranded Shane Victorino on third base in the seventh and squandered another chance in the following frame when rookie Michael Bourn slid past second base after a successful steal.

"We had runners on third base and nobody out and couldn't get a big, two-out base hit," Manuel said. "We had people standing all over the bases. I looked up there and we had 10 hits, two runs - what the heck? I don't feel like I should be standing here screaming about the umpire, but at the same time we had a three-run home run and it didn't count."

Ortiz (11-15) did a fine job of limiting the damage, allowing just two runs despite giving up 10 hits in six innings. He struck out six and did not walk a batter for the first time in 10 outings.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson was pleased with his starter's effort but was not particularly interested in discussing Utley's controversial hit.

"It's what the umpire thinks - that's the main thing," Robinson said.

While Ortiz entered 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA in his last three games, Phillies starter Brett Myers (12-7) came in 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his last six outings.

Despite never appearing to get into a rhythm on the mound, Myers made it through seven innings, allowing three runs, six hits and a pair of walks. He yielded only an RBI groundout to Ryan Zimmerman in the first inning and a two-run double to the rookie sensation two frames later.

"I've only got one thing to say: I lost us the game," Myers said. "I made one mistake on Zimmerman and lost the game for us. That's all I've got to say."

Washington added a key insurance run in the eighth to make things easier for Chad Cordero, who surrendered an RBI single to Utley in the ninth before recovering to retire major league home run leader Ryan Howard on a fly ball for his 29th save.

"We lost the game. How frustrating can it get?" Howard said.

Robinson paid Cordero a visit on the mound before the righthander buckled down to get Howard for the final out.

"(Robinson) said, 'Just keep pounding him in,' and that's what I did," Cordero said. "Usually when he does come out, he's not very happy, but that wasn't one of (those times.)"






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