09/22/08 11:08 PM ET
Mistakes costly as Braves fall
Error, mental miscue lead to decisive eighth inning vs. Phillies
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Such was the case yet again on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies used a pair of errors -- one physical and the other mental -- to compile a four-run eighth inning that carried them to a 6-2 win over the Braves.
"I've never played against a team that has had this much success against us," Chipper Jones said after the Phillies improved to 14-2 on the season against the Braves. "There have been four or five games that we've handed them on a platter, and this one fits that category."
Even though his ailing right shoulder limited him to a pinch-hit appearance, Jones was on the field during a nearly controversial ninth inning, when there was briefly reason to wonder if Brian McCann should have been rewarded a two-run homer instead of a double.
Without having to use the replay system, the umpires correctly ruled McCann's hit a double and avoided following the leads of Jeff Bennett and Clint Sammons, who combined to make the two eighth-inning mistakes that allowed the Phillies to gain a win that moved them 2 1/2 games in front of the second-place Mets, who lost Monday, in the National League East standings.
After Jair Jurrjens provided seven solid innings and exited with the game tied at 2, Bennett inexplicably made an errant pickoff attempt that soared well above Casey Kotchman's head. The wayward throw allowed pinch-runner Greg Golson to advance to third base with nobody out.
Just one inning earlier, Kelly Johnson had reached third base with nobody out, before getting thrown out at the plate attempting to score on Jeff Francoeur's one-out grounder. It looked like Golson might be destined for the same fate when Bennett got Jayson Werth to hit a sharp one-out grounder to Martin Prado at third base.
But Sammons hesitated before moving on the plate, and when he received Prado's throw, he wasn't in position to block the plate. His left foot was in the middle of the plate, allowing Golson to easily slide home with the go-ahead run.
"He didn't get in front of the plate, it's as simple as that," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The guy is out easily. ... I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
Sammons, who was making just his 22nd Major League appearance behind the plate, said that he was ready for Prado's throw. But he explained that because he didn't know how Golson would approach the plate, he took time to secure the baseball with two hands before making a swipe tag.
The hesitation provided home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook the opportunity to make an easy call.
"It's a tough play," Sammons said. "It really is. I was trying to figure out what he was going to do. I felt I needed to protect the ball in case he did barrel me."
Sammons' mental error prolonged the eighth inning long enough for Pat Burrell to provide the Phillies more cushion with a three-run homer off Julian Tavarez. Burrell's blast provided Cox even less reason to extensively argue when third-base umpire Chad Fairchild ruled that McCann's ninth-inning double hit just under the left-field foul pole and was still in play.
Even if McCann had been awarded the homer off Ryan Madson, the Braves still would have been trailing 6-4 in a game that Jurrjens certainly provided them a chance to win. Jurrjens surrendered one run in each of the first two innings and still exited a seven-inning effort having allowed just the two runs and five hits.
"It sure is a letdown the way [Jurrjens] pitched to lose it like that," Cox said. "[Jurrjens] was outstanding."
Jurrjens proved to me more aggressive than he was last week in Atlanta when he allowed the Phillies four first-inning runs in a five-inning effort. While losing that night, the 22-year-old rookie right-hander was outdone by J.A. Happ, who tossed six scoreless innings.
Happ resumed his success on Monday by blanking the Braves during the first five innings. The only damage he ended up incurring came when Johnson drilled a game-tying, two-run homer in the sixth inning. Johnson's 12th homer of the season extended his hitting streak to a career-best 20 games -- the longest streak in the NL this year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.