On Saturday night, the Phillies should have ended their losing streak at four games. The victory would have put the Phils in position to win their weekend series against Baltimore. The game would have had a prominent place in the Season In Review section of the 2009 World Series Champions DVD. Ryan Howard's heroism on this fateful night would have merited a mention in Chase Utley's Cooperstown speech, in which he welcomed Howard as the second (of three) member of the 2008 Phillies to enter the Hall. One Ryan Madson offering, wholly devoid of command, sent the Phils to a painful loss, and made Howard's heroics almost an afterthought.
J.A. Happ started for the Phillies, and managed to allow ten hits AND four walks, in only six innings. Somehow, those fourteen baserunners were converted into only two runs. The Phillies' lineup featured reserve Matt Stairs batting cleanup, reserve Greg Dobbs in the sixth spot, and (should-be-minor-league) reserve Paul Bako, inexplicably, in the lineup. Yet, as play entered the bottom of the seventh, the Phils only trailed 3-0.
Ryan Howard had been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms prior to the game, and it appeared that he would be unavailable. The Phillies had closed to within 3-2 in the seventh, with two runners on base for...Paul Bako. However, Ryan Howard was, surprisingly, amazingly, sent in to face Orioles right-hander Danys Baez. The Orioles did not have a southpaw ready to face the flu-stricken slugger, and Howard made them pay. The three-run homer gave the Phillies a 5-3 lead, and added another highlight to Howard's Cooperstown application.
The two-run lead remained into the ninth, with interim closer Ryan Madson summoned from the bullpen to close out the victory. Surely, the Phils would snap their losing streak, and Madson would snap his save-less streak? Well, no. Madson surrendered a three-run homer, decreasing the Phillies' Win Expectancy from 91.9% to only 19.6%. Chris Coste, Pedro Feliz, and Eric Bruntlett (yes, Bruntlett batted in the ninth inning of a one-run game) were retired in order, and the Phillies' fifth consecutive loss was, easily, their most excruciating one.
The Phillies will try to avoid another sweep, and a six-game losing streak, on Sunday afternoon. With ace Cole Hamels in the stopper role, and Paul Bako back on the bench, you have to like the Phils' chances. They are certainly due for a win.