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Defense, Not Pitching Costs Phils First Game at CitiField

May 7, 2009, 1:15 AM EDT

DSC00021 Well, look at it this way: If I told you that Johan Santana and Chan Ho Park were pitching against each other, and the final score was 1-0–would you even ask me who the winning team was? I mean, you probably would eventually, but only after you woke up two hours later from fainting out of shock that it was even that close to begin with, no? Yes, the Phillies lost tonight, and any loss to your bitter enemies is going to hurt–especially when barely any of your vaunted lineup of sluggers seemed to bother to show up–but when you consider that the Mets couldn't hang a single run on the guy that probably should be our #7 starter, and that they needed to be spotted a huge error to even get one off our relief corps, it does take a good deal of the sting out of it.

Chan Ho Park…well, I'd say he was turning the clock back to 2000 form tonight, but was he even particularly good back then? It's hard to explain how the guy who had let up 20 runs in 21 innings prior to tonight suddenly turned dominant, one-hitting the Mets through six innings, with five Ks and just a pair of walks. (Perhaps, as reader Bob suggested, Chan Ho was simply "due"–better than anything I got). In fact, the only real mistake that you could say Park made tonight was in the field, as he wasted a true Web Gem from Ryan Howard (RyHo with the glove!!!!) as he whiffed on the catch of Howard's pitch-perfect diving stop and ball flip.

Unfortunately, defensive mishaps was the overall difference in tonight's game in general, as the normally surehanded Pedro Feliz tried to make a near-impossible play on a Fernando Tatis slow-roller to third and ended up throwing the ball away, allowing Carlos Delgado to score from second. I don't wanna get too much on Pete Happy's case for it, since you like to see the guys trying to make plays, and he's got the defensive rep to back up taking chances like that–but c'mon Pedro, there was no way you were getting Fernando on that grounder. It's crazy that in a game involving both Chan Ho Park and the Met Bullpen that one blown play should account for the entire game's scoring, but that is indeed how it turned out, and you wish Feliz had played it a little smarter.

Much as we hate to give the Mets any sort of props, credit must be given where it is due on two fronts. The first is that despite a surprising number of empty seats in the crowd, the fans that showed up tonight really showed up tonight. Can't speak for the whole park, I suppose, but whereas last year Philly supporters would generally only attract stray comments from miscellaneous agitators, in my upper-level section tonight, whenever anyone showed up in Philly gear, they got booed, taunted and hassled by everyone not wearing red and white. Some of it was clever, some wasn't, but it was all at least in the spirit of the thing–and as far as I could tell, no one required hospitalization at the end of it. Respect to the Philly Phaithful as well, though (especially the group pictured above) for showing up in highly respectable numbers and giving Met fans a reason to seethe.

The second is Johan Santana. The rest of their pitching staff may be utterly laughable, but you gotta give it up for the best pitcher in the NL, if not the entire league. The one thing you ask of your pitchers above all else is consistency, and the dude is just a rock. He doesn't start slow. He doesn't wear out as the season goes. He doesn't take nights off. He does't get killed by lefties or righties. He doesn't get a huge benefit from his home park, and he doesn't slow down much on the road. In the 39 games he's pitched for the Mets, all but four of them have been Quality Starts, and he's yet to give up more than five runs in an outing. It's among the greater tragedies in pro sports that he's stuck on a team with an offense than can't be assed to give him more than a couple runs of support on any given night, and with a bullpen that seems intent on blowing any lead that he hands over to them.

Well, almost any. The Mets did squeak away with the victory here, but tomorrow night is a new ballgame, and they can't hide the rest of their pitching staff forever. And with our own (slightly less conventionally dominant) rock taking the hill in Grampy Moyer, I certainly like our odds.