PITTSBURGH (AP)—Exactly 29 years after one of the best-remembered blunders in Philadelphia Phillies history, Bobby Abreu did what Tim McCarver couldn’t on a long-ago July 4 in Pittsburgh: score on a grand slam.
Abreu celebrated his All-Star selection by hitting a grand slam during the first of two breakout innings for Philadelphia against Pittsburgh starter Dave Williams, leading the Phillies to a 12-1 victory Monday in a matchup of slumping teams.
Abreu drove in five runs before being lifted with the Phillies up by nine in only their fourth win in 15 games—two by Cory Lidle (8-6), who held the Pirates to one run and seven hits over seven innings in his second consecutive victory.
Pat Burrell had three hits and two RBIs, and Jason Michaels, David Bell and Ryan Howard each had two hits and an RBI. Michaels played after sitting out Sunday night’s 4-3 loss to the Braves, hours after he was arrested for allegedly punching a uniformed police officer outside a Philadelphia nightclub.
Abreu, elected as one of the NL’s starting outfielders, added an RBI single as the Phillies scored six runs in the fifth before reliever Ryan Vogelsong got the first out, on Howard’s sacrifice fly. Vogelsong and Williams each gave up eight of the Phillies’ 18 hits.
Abreu’s drive on a 3-2 pitch in the third inning gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead and was his fourth career slam.
“That’s why he’s an All-Star,” teammate Jimmy Rollins said, relating how Abreu scratched to work the count full before lifting Williams’ inside fastball into the right-field seats.
Coincidentally, Abreu’s grand slam came on the same holiday—and in the same city—as the most famous grand slam that wasn’t in Phillies history.
As baseball helped celebrate America’s 200th birthday on July 4, 1976, McCarver hit an apparent grand slam in the second inning off the Pirates’ Larry Demery at Three Rivers Stadium. But McCarver lost his homer, and was credited with only a single, when he accidentally passed Garry Maddox on the basepaths. Maddox held up at first base because he thought the ball might be caught, and McCarver inadvertently ran past him.
“Is that right?” Abreu said, laughing, when told of McCarver’s mistake. “That’s funny.”
The 1976 Phillies overcame that major gaffe to win the first game of the holiday doubleheader 10-4, but dropped their next four games before bouncing back to win the NL East, their first title since the 1950 NL pennant.
Now, the Phillies are struggling merely to stay out of last place in the NL East—they are in fourth, just ahead of the Mets—and are looking for their first series victory in seven series.
“A game like this helps a lot,” Abreu said. “I think the second half of the season is going to be different for us.”
Williams (6-6) was roughed up for eight hits and eight runs in four innings in his worst start of the season, though he didn’t get much help. Right fielder Matt Lawton and center fielder Tike Redman each committed a run-scoring error by overrunning a ball in a span of three batters in the fifth.
With misplays and pitching like that, the Pirates didn’t put on much of a show before an unexpectedly large Independence Day sellout crowd of 37,259 that turned out despite a just-concluded 3-7 road trip. The Pirates have lost 16 of 21 since they were 30-30 on June 11 and, at 35-46, have a worse record midway through the season than they did a year ago (37-44), when they lost 89 games.
“To come off a difficult road trip and get that kind of fan support was overwhelming,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Our guys are disappointed they didn’t play well.”
Lawton agreed, saying, “As players, we can always say we’ll be back the next day. But a lot of these fans probably won’t be back, and that’s disappointing.”
Abreu needs two homers to join Bobby and Barry Bonds as the only players with seven consecutive seasons of at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. He has 21 steals. … The sellout was the Pirates’ fourth at home this season. The crowd was the largest at home on Independence Day in team history. … Abreu is 3-for-4 with a homer and a double against Williams. … Bell went 1-for-2 against Williams to raise his average against left-handers to a major league-leading .442. … Phillies reliever Tim Worrell pitched a scoreless ninth in his first appearance since May 5, a day before he went on the disabled list for personal reasons.