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Phils lose despite Park's stellar effort

Phils lose despite Park's stellar effort

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NEW YORK -- Chan Ho Park might have saved his job in the Phillies' rotation Wednesday night at Citi Field.

He also might have proved to himself that aggressiveness and confidence go a long way.

Park allowed just one hit in six scoreless innings, but Mets left-hander Johan Santana allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory over the Phillies.

"He pitched a heck of a game," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Park. "He was aggressive. He threw strikes. When he got behind, he came back and went right at the hitters. He had a good tempo and rhythm going. Santana was definitely just as good. He did a tremendous job."

"That was probably the best I've seen [Santana]," said Jayson Werth, who struck out three times against New York's ace.

Park's spot in the rotation appeared tenuous at best entering the game. He was 0-1 with an 8.54 ERA in five appearances and a 9.00 ERA in four starts.

His struggles might not have been such an issue so early in the season, except the entire Phillies rotation has struggled, with a Major League-worst 6.54 ERA.

Brett Myers, for example, leads Phils starters with a 5.35 ERA.

But because Park narrowly won a spot in the rotation in Spring Training, he also figured to be the first man out should his struggles continue.

Did Park feel pressure to pitch well to keep his job?

"No," he said flatly.

And maybe he didn't. But he sure looked like a different pitcher Wednesday.

"That's what I'm supposed to do, right?" he said.

Park had a no-hitter going with two outs in the fifth inning when Daniel Murphy hit a double into left-center field.

But as well as Park pitched, Manuel pinch-hit for him in the seventh with a runner on second and two outs. Eric Bruntlett struck out swinging. Manuel said with Santana pitching so well, he felt he needed to go for the victory. And with left-handed hitters Carlos Delgado and Murphy due up in the seventh, he figured left-hander Scott Eyre could get the job done.

Eyre walked Delgado, but retired the next two batters.

Chad Durbin replaced Eyre to face pinch-hitter Fernando Tatis, who hit a broken-bat roller up the third-base line. Third baseman Pedro Feliz, who Manuel said has as accurate an arm as any third baseman in baseball, barehanded the ball and threw wildly to first base. First baseman Ryan Howard had no chance to make the play as the ball scooted down the right-field line.

Werth picked up the ball and had a chance to get Delgado at the plate, but he double-clutched his throw. The throw arrived just a split-second late as Delgado scored the game's only run.

"I didn't pick up on the plate right away," Werth said. "Pedro and Jimmy [Rollins] and Delgado and the third-base coach [Razor Shines] were all halfway down the line. I just didn't pick up on the plate, and by the time I did, I threw the ball home. I got called for traveling."

Feliz, who wasn't available to comment, could have held onto the ball with two outs. Regardless, it was a rare moment this season when the Phillies' defense came up short. Philadelphia set a franchise record with 12 consecutive errorless games April 17-29. It also entered the game leading the Majors with a .994 fielding percentage, committing just five errors.

"We've played defense great all year long," said center fielder Shane Victorino, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games with a bloop double in the eighth inning. "I thought [Feliz] had a chance, too. It's a split-second decision that you've got to make. Unfortunately, it didn't turn our way."

But if there is any consolation for the Phillies, it is that Park pitched well against a team that knocked him around last week at Citizens Bank Park. Park allowed eight hits, seven runs and six walks in just 4 2/3 innings Friday.

Park hopes Wednesday was something to build upon.

"Oh, yeah," the veteran righty said. "Definitely. It will help. When you have a good outing, there's a lot of good memories."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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