Wrong Myers shows up as Phillies fall

Wrong Myers shows up as Phillies fall

PHILADELPHIA -- The Brett Myers of July and August was the one the Phillies needed on the mound Wednesday night.

That was the pitcher who seemed unhittable at times and was almost always determined to pitch a complete game.

However, the Myers on the mound for the Phillies' 10-4 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park looked more like the pitcher who struggled through the season's early months and wound up in the Minor Leagues.

And this is not a time that the Phillies can afford to see anyone struggle. Their grasp on the National League East has looked increasingly tenuous in recent days.

The Phillies began this week with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Mets. With six games to go, it looked to be Philadelphia's perfect opportunity to deal a knockout punch to any hope New York had of winning the division. Philly was playing in front of a frenzied, towel-waving home crowd against the Braves, a team it had dominated in 2008, winning 13 of their first 15 contests.

But things haven't worked out quite as easily as they might have.

"It wouldn't be the Philly way," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "It doesn't matter what sport -- we don't make things easy."

Three days later, the Phillies are still pushing the gas pedal to the floor with the car in neutral. They dropped two of three to the Braves, but were fortunate enough to preserve their 1 1/2-game lead over New York when the Mets fell to the Cubs on Wednesday night.

Still, manager Charlie Manuel knows a missed opportunity when he sees one.

"This time of year, with the position we're in, you can't afford to lose two or three games in a row," Manuel said.

There's plenty of scoreboard watching to do at Citizens Bank Park these days. In addition to the Mets, the Phils also will be keeping an eye on the Brewers, who are in the hunt for the NL Wild Card. Milwaukee won Wednesday to pull even with New York.

Publicly, the Phillies are professing the no-panic, one-game-at-a-time philosophy. If they are worried about the Mets, they aren't showing it to the outside world. Philadelphia's game Wednesday ended about 40 minutes before New York's, but the four big plasma TVs mounted to the ceiling of the Phillies' clubhouse remained blank and quiet in the aftermath of the loss.

"We just have to win," Myers said. "We said that from the beginning. I was a huge part of why we lost and I take full responsibility."

To be fair, though, maybe all the responsibility for Wednesday's loss shouldn't fall on Myers' shoulders.

True, he fell into his old early-season ways of allowing early runs. A leadoff single in the first inning by Josh Anderson, followed by a single by Kelly Johnson, turned into a 2-0 Braves lead. After the Phillies tied it up at 3 on home runs by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Myers walked Martin Prado in the fifth and allowed him to score on a Brian McCann double.

After Myers was relieved, a close game turned into a rout when Chipper Jones blasted a three-run homer off Scott Eyre later in the inning.

"It seemed like we couldn't get out of the fifth," Manuel said. "That pretty much put the game out of reach."

But the Phillies' bats, which looked so full of life when they won 10 of 11 earlier in the month, were mostly held silent for the second night in a row. After Utley's and Howard's home runs, the Phillies added only one more run when Pat Burrell scored on a passed ball in the eighth.

Still, Myers' struggles on the hill came into especially sharp focus because, after such a strong second-half resurgence, he has now been hit hard in his past two starts, posting a 15.12 ERA (14 earned runs allowed in 8 1/3 innings of work).

"I feel fine," Myers said. "Before I went down to the Minors, I had no idea what I was doing wrong. This start, I didn't have my fastball downhill. If I can't pitch with my fastball, it's tough to stay out there for a while.

"We're fine. It's going to come down to the last games like it did last year. We're enjoying every bit of it. We'll keep pounding and going out there and winning ballgames."

Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.