I’m back for year three of this feature, as I dig through my bin of old Philadelphia Phillies scorecards to take you on a trip down memory lane by discussing a game that I got to witness in person, on the anniversary of the game. Over the last two years, I’ve looked back on both wins and losses, as I pull scorebooks out with an eye for the date of the game, not the result. It’s a cross-section of being a Phils fan.
Today, we’ll go back to an April 7, 2001 matchup with the Chicago Cubs, the Phillies’ second home game under new skipper Larry Bowa. It was a season filled with great optimism, and one that turned out pretty well ultimately, with the club winning 86 games and finishing just shy of a wild card berth as they provided us some excitement all summer long. But let’s talk about that April 7th game.
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The Philadelphia Phillies have started the 2001 season by sweeping the Marlins in Florida, but dropped their home opener to the Cubs on April 6. The following day, I settle in on a cool and windy afternoon to watch the Phils and Cubs go at it again. The announced attendance is 16,847, already a steep dropoff from the opener’s attendance of 36,380. There’s a lot of elbow room at the Vet on this day.
Twenty years ago today, the Philadelphia Phillies took on the Chicago Cubs at Veterans Stadium.
Omar Daal, fresh off a 19-loss season, takes the hill for the Phils and keeps the Cubs off the board in the first. In the bottom half, the Phillies strike courtesy of an RBI double by Bobby Abreu off of Cubs starter Jason Bere. The Phils continue their picket fence in the second inning, with two-time All-Star Mike Lieberthal doubling to plate Travis Lee. Meanwhile, Daal keeps cruising, and the Phils lead 2-0 after three innings.
Daal hits his first bump in the fourth, as non-Hall of Famer Sammy Sosa leads off with a home run to get the Cubs on the board. But Daal recovers to retire the next three Chicago hitters, collect an RBI single in the bottom of the inning, and then again send the Cubs down in order in the fifth. After a Bobby Abreu homer puts the Phillies up 4-1, things are looking great.
But you can probably guess what happens next.
Daal allows a leadoff single and then serves up a 2-run homer to Phillie Killer Bill Mueller (pronounced “Miller”, in case you forgot), and that’s it for his day. He’s only thrown 67 pitches, but Larry Bowa has seen enough and summons Vicente Padilla from the ‘pen. Padilla proves immediately ineffective, surrendering a two-run double later in the inning to Julio Zuleta, and the Phils are now down 5-4.
Zuleta does even more damage in the following inning, tagging Eddie Oropesa for a two-run single to put the Cubs up 7-4. The Phillies bats, meanwhile, can’t do anything against the Cubs’ five relievers on the day, who combine to throw four scoreless innings. Zuleta goes on to finish off a career day with a sac fly off of Chris Brock in the ninth inning. He ends up with five RBIs in the game, pretty good for a guy who had a total of 31 RBIs in the other 78 career MLB games in which he appeared.
The Philadelphia Phillies drop this one by an 8-4 final to fall to 3-2 on the year. On the bright side, they start a three-game winning streak the next day, and they remain over .500 for the entirety of the 2001 season. It was the first sign of good things that were to come later in the decade for this franchise, although this particular game 20 years ago today didn’t hint that such a turnaround was coming.