The Phillies got their rings yesterday, full of diamonds that will last forever and remind that whatever happens from now on the fact that they were the best in 2008 can never be taken away. 2008 is over, though, and through the first two and a half games of 2009 the Phillies didn’t look like champions. They didn’t look like much of anything as they failed miserably on the mound and at the plate.
And then, all of the sudden, they were back. Down 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh with one out and the bases empty, Chase Utley blooped a single into center field. And then the Phillies just stopped making outs. With their last five outs for the game the Phillies scored nine runs.
It looked and felt exactly like something we had all seen before. A team with fantastic talent that even has something more, some collective outlook that makes them more than the sum of their parts. That makes them sure the game isn’t over when everybody else thinks it is. Knows it should be. Whether it’s here to stay or yesterday was just the final, fitting tribute to what happened in 2008 is too early to say, but there are a lot of reasons to feel good about the 2009 Phillies this morning.
The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves yesterday, winning 12-11. They are 1-2 on the season.
Joe Blanton got the start for the Phils and went four innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits and two walks. Four of the hits went for extra-bases, three doubles and a home run. He struck out six.
Omar Infante led off the first for the Braves and Blanton struck him out swinging 2-2 for the first out. Kelly Johnson was next and Blanton struck him out looking. That’s where the fun ended, though, cause Yunel Escobar was next and he lined a double to left. Brian McCann followed and popped an 0-1 pitch out to right for his second homer of the series. It put Atlanta up 2-0. Casey Kotchman singled into center before Jeff Francoeur flew to center to end the frame.
Three games for the Phillies and in all three they have allowed two runs in the first inning.
Blanton came back with a 1-2-3 second. He got Matt Diaz on a fly ball to center, Jordan Schafer on a ground ball to short and struck the pitcher Javier Vazquez out swinging.
Blanton started the third with the game tied at 2-2. Infante singled to left and Johnson followed with a walk. A single to right by Escobar loaded the bases with nobody out. McCann singled to right and everyone moved up a base. 3-2. Blanton struck out Kotchman for the first out, but Francoeur singled into center and two more runs scored to make it 5-2 with men on first and third and Diaz at the plate. Diaz cleared the bases with a double to left. 7-2. Schafer grounded to second for the second out with Diaz moving to third. Blanton got Vazquez to pop to short to leave him stranded.
Four singles, a double and a walk in the inning for the Braves.
The Phils cut the lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the third. Blanton celebrated by giving up a leadoff double to Infante in the top of the fourth. Optimistically, Manuel left Blanton in to face the lefty Johnson and Blanton struck him out again. Blanton struck Escobar out too, before walking McCann to put men on first and second. If I never see McCann again it will be okay with me, but it seems unlikely. The lefty Kotchman grounded to Utley to end the frame.
Blanton likely stayed in the game after the leadoff double cause he was due to hit second in the bottom of the inning. It gave the Phils the chance to let loose the mighty force that is their bench. In this case the mighty force was embodied in the person of Miguel Cairo.
Despite Cairo’s best efforts, the Phils failed to forge any runs in the fourth. JA Happ came on to pitch the top of the fifth. The impressionable young starter wannabe didn’t take long to succumb to peer pressure. He got Francoeur to pop to first, but Diaz followed with a walk and Schafer lined one out to right. 9-3. Here endeth the 2009 Phillies perfect bullpen. Vazquez and Infante both grounded out to end the frame.
Happ set the Braves down in order in the sixth, getting Johnson on a ground ball to second and striking out Escobar and McCann. He promptly returned to the dugout and delivered a short lecture to stunned teammates, explaining that setting the opposition down in order means that nobody on the other team gets on base. Not sure, but I think at one point a confused Carlos Ruiz wanted to know why he didn’t get to see McCann run around all the bases that inning. Veterans assured him if he would just be patient he wouldn’t have to wait long.
Durbin started the seventh with the Phils down 9-3 and gave up a leadoff double to Kotchman. Francoeur flew to left for the first out. Diaz was next and he smoked a ball to third, but Feliz made a great play to snare the line drive for the second out. Durbin walked Schafer and switch-hitter Greg Norton hit for the pitcher Vazquez. Durbin walked Norton, too, loading the bases. He stayed in to pitch to Infante and walked him as well, forcing in Kotchman to make it 10-3. Condrey came in to pitch to the lefty Johnson and struck him out to leave the bases full.
Nice job by Condrey to bail out Durbin after a miserable appearance. Durbin gave up a double and three walks and got two outs, one of which came on a great play by Feliz. Interesting that the walk parade continued in the bottom of the seventh for the Phils, but a weak showing by Durbin nonetheless.
Madson started the eighth with an 11-10 lead after the Phils scored eight times in the bottom of the eighth. He set Atlanta down in order, getting a great play from Howard to start the frame. Escobar led off and hit a ball hard in-between first and second. Howard dove to his right to field the ball and made a bad toss behind Madson covering first, but Madson handled it to keep the leadoff man off the bases.
Lidge started the ninth with the Phils up 12-10. He struck out Francoeur before Diaz hit a 1-1 pitch out to left to get Atlanta within one at 12-11. Schafer grounded to second for the second out and Garret Anderson hit for the pitcher Jeff Bennett. Lidge struck Anderson out swinging 2-2 to end the game.
The pen can use the off-day today after throwing five innings in the game following Blanton’s early exit. They didn’t pitch especially well, allowing four runs on three hits and four walks. Durbin and Happ were both ineffective, Durbin in particular. Great job by Madson to shut down Atlanta in the eighth. Condrey’s strikeout of the lefty Johnson with the bases loaded to end the top of the seventh looked pretty meaningless at the time but proved to be critical.
The Phillies lineup against right Javier Vazquez went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Werth (6) Ibanez (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Still no starts for Coste or Dobbs. Werth stays in the five-hole, breaking up the lefties against a right-handed pitcher.
Down 2-0 as tradition dictates, the Phils went in order in the bottom of the first. Ground outs for Rollins and Victorino before Utley struck out swinging 1-2.
Howard led off the second and blasted a ball to left-center, where it went off the glove of Schafer for a double. Werth grounded to third for the first out, but Ibanez was next and he socked one out down the right-field line for his first home run as a Phillie. It tied the game at 2-2. Feliz followed with yet another walk and Ruiz walked, too, putting men on first and second with one down for Blanton. Blanton bunted the runners to second and third, but Rollins struck out swinging at a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
Down 7-2 in the third, Victorino led off and drove a ball over Schafer in left-center for a triple. Utley followed with a ground ball to third, but Infante threw the ball away for an error. Victorino scored and Utley wound up at second with nobody out and the Phils down 7-3. Howard flew to center and Werth moved Utley to third with the second out. A walk to Ibanez put two men on for Feliz, but Feliz dribbled to third to end the inning.
Phils can’t bring Utley in from second with nobody out.
Ruiz lined to second to start the fourth. Cairo hit for Blanton and struck swinging for the second out. Rollins hit a soft liner to first for the third.
Down 9-3, Victorino started the bottom of the fifth with a ground ball to first. Kotchman took it and flipped to Vazquez for the first out. Utley doubled off the wall in right. Howard moved him to third with a ground out to first and Werth followed with a walk. It put men on first and third for the Phillies’ one man wrecking crew, Raul Ibanez, who had driven in half the team’s runs for the season. Ibanez hit the ball well to first, but Kotchman made a nice play to retire the side.
Feliz flew out to deep right to start the sixth. Ruiz followed with a single, and with the righty Vazquez still on the mound Dobbs hit for Happ. Dobbs struck out swinging 2-2 for the second out. Rollins went down swinging as well to end the inning.
Victorino grounded to third to start the seventh with the Phils down 10-3. Utley was next and he blooped a ball into center field that fell in front of Schafer. Eric O’Flaherty hit Howard with a pitch to put men on first and second. Righty Peter Moylan came in to pitch to Werth and Werth drew a walk to load the bases. With two righties behind Ibanez, Moylan stayed in to pitch to the lefty and Ibanez singled into center (although the Braves probably didn’t have a choice with O’Flaherty out of the game). Everyone moved up a base with Utley scoring to make it 10-4. The bases were still loaded for Feliz, who followed with a single of his own. Again everyone moved up a base. 10-5. Ruiz was due to hit next and Manuel called on Stairs to hit for him. Mike Gonzalez was the lefty in the Atlanta pen besides O’Flaherty, but he had pitched in each of the first two games of the set and Moylan stayed in to face Stairs. Stairs walked, forcing in another run and it was 10-6 with the bases still loaded. Righty Blaine Boyer came in to pitch for the Braves and Coste hit for the pitcher Condrey. Coste walked. 10-7. Rollins walked 10-8. Righty Jorge Campillo came in to pitch to Victorino and Victorino singled into right. Everyone moved up another base. 10-9. Utley walked. 10-10 with the bases still loaded and one out for Howard. Howard chopped a slow ground ball to first that Kotchman took for the second out, but Rollins scored and the Phillies led for the first time this season, 11-10. Werth flew to right to end the inning.
That’s a rally that couldn’t have happened without the help of some relievers who couldn’t find the strike zone. Moylan and Boyer combined at allow two hits and four walks without getting an out.
The Phillies scored eight runs in the inning without an extra-base hit. They sent 13 hitters to the plate. Five walks, four singles, a hit by pitch and three outs. It was nice to see Stairs hit for Ruiz when he did, thought it was nicely played by Manuel.
Ibanez started the eighth with a walk and moved to third when Feliz followed with a double to left. Bruntlett hit for Madson and flew to center deep enough for Ibanez to tag and score, putting the Phils up 12-10. Coste was next and sent Feliz to third with a single, but the runners were left stranded when Rollins struck out and Victorino grounded to second.
Nice insurance run that the Phillies would need in the top of the ninth manufactured by the leadoff walk by Ibanez and the double by Feliz. A bad strikeout by Rollins with one out and men on first and third kept the Phillies from the second run they should have had.
Rollins was 0-for-5 with a walk, three strikeouts and an RBI in the game. He left five men on base. 1-for-14 with a single and a walk in the series.
Victorino was 2-for-6 with a triple and an RBI in the game. 2-for-13 with a walk in the set.
Utley 2-for-4 with a double and a walk yesterday. 4-for-11 with two walks in the series.
Howard 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the game. 3-for-12 in the set with some fantastic defense.
Werth 0-for-3 with two walks. 1-for-11 with two walks in the series.
Ibanez was 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI. 3-for-11 with two walks in the series.
Feliz 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. 2-for-9 with three walks in the series. He leads the Phils in walks.
Ruiz 1-for-2 with a walk. 3-for-9 with a walk in the series.
The Phillies don’t play today. Rockies tomorrow in Colorado.