PITTSBURGH (AP)—A weekend after they were the visiting team in their home ballpark, the Phillies brought so many fans to Pittsburgh that it almost seemed like they were the home team in a visiting ballpark.
Not that it helped.
Garrett Jones(notes) and Delwyn Young(notes) drove in two runs each during Pittsburgh’s comeback six-run seventh inning, and the last-place Pirates beat the sliding Phillies for the third time in four games, 8-5 on Sunday.
Pirates rookie Pedro Alvarez(notes) started the rally with his second homer in as many games and drove in two runs, while Jones had three RBIs as the Pirates won their fourth in five games. They are 5-2 since losing 18 of 20.
“Coming from behind from a three-run deficit, it shows our resilience,” Alvarez said of the Pirates, who are 22 games below .500. “A lot of time what happens is we don’t get a break (in those situations), but we’ve got to keep going and keep playing the way we are.”
The defending NL champion Phillies couldn’t hold a 5-2 lead in losing their fourth in five games and fifth in seven games. Now, they head into an important homestand in which they play NL East-leading Atlanta three times and NL Central-leading Cincinnati four times. And they’ll play it without seven injured players, including All-Star second baseman Chase Utley(notes).
A week from now, the two-time defending NL champions might regard it as the homestand in which they re-established themselves as a prime contender—or, conversely, as the one in which their season got away from them.
“Any series we play against the Braves is bigger and any series we play right now is big, whether it’s a first-division team or a second-division team,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “You start losing some games, it becomes more important.”
Especially losing them this way.
“A three-run lead in the seventh, most likely you win those games,” Manuel said.
Normally, nothing’s more certain than a Phillies victory on Independence Day — fittingly enough for the team from the city of independence—but they lost on the nation’s birthday for the first time in seven years. They hadn’t lost a July 4 road game since 1995 in Pittsburgh.
They looked to have this one secured with Joe Blanton(notes) holding the Pirates hitless following a two-run first inning, but Alvarez drove a curveball into the right-field seats for his fourth hit in two games leading off the seventh.
The game began unraveling for the Phillies from there as Ryan Doumit(notes) singled and Ryan Church(notes) doubled against Blanton, and pinch-hitter Young tied it at 5 with a two-run double to left field off Jose Contreras(notes) (3-3).
“That’s pretty much the inning, that’s pretty much the game,” Blanton said.
Pirates rookie Jose Tabata(notes), who doubled and scored during the first, followed with a run-scoring single and Neil Walker(notes) walked to set up Jones’ two-run single, his fifth hit in 34 at-bats. Tabata, Walker and Alvarez, the Pirates’ recently recalled rookie starters, all had hits during a two-run first inning, too.
“Every day is a learning opportunity for us,” Alvarez said. “Every situation, every opportunity, you’ve got to try to treat it like it’s do or die. So when you get in a situation like today, it seems more normal, more routine.”
Evan Meek(notes) (4-2), a former Rule 5 pick selected earlier in the day as the Pirates’ lone All-Star representative, won it by retiring the Phillies in the seventh following Dane Sardinha’s(notes) homer off Jeff Karstens(notes). Octavio Dotel(notes) secured it in the ninth with his 19th save in 22 tries.
“I made the All-Star team. I got the win,” Meek said. “Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket.”
The Phillies, finishing off an unproductive 2-5 road trip to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, lost despite being supported by thousands of fans who occasionally drowned out the Pirates’ own rooters in the holiday crowd of 28,698. A week before, they took two of three from Toronto in a series that was moved to Philadelphia because of the G-20 summit.
“Even if they’re in our ballpark, having a lot of people in the ballpark makes it more fun to play,” Karstens said.
The Phillies built their lead behind a three-run third against Karstens that Blanton started with a single. Shane Victorino(notes), who had three hits Saturday in a 12-4 Phillies romp, doubled ahead of Raul Ibanez’s(notes) RBI single, All-Star Ryan Howard’s(notes) sacrifice fly and Greg Dobbs’(notes) double.
Notes: Meek is the first Pirates reliever who wasn’t a closer chosen for the All-Star game since Mace Brown in 1938, before the closer’s role emerged. … Blanton gave up five runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings. He lasted 7 2-3 innings in each of his previous two starts. … Pittsburgh won the season series 4-2.