Monday, April 21, 2008

Phils Beat Rockies in NLDS Rematch

At the start, this looked awfully similar to the last time the Phillies and Rockies met. Kyle Kendrick, the Game 2 starter of that series, got off to a rough start, giving up a three-run home run to Yorvit Torrealba in the second inning. He'd later surrender a two run shot before leaving after five innings. Yet despite his poor outing, the Phillies rallied in the late innings and came away with a 9-5 win.

Early on it looked like the offense was going to be a problem yet again, as the Phillies were held to one hit in the first three innings. They finally struck in the fourth, as Pat Burrell hit a two run homer, his seventh of the year. That made the score 3-2, in favor of Colorado, but it looked like the Phillies were on their way to a lead. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Garrett Atkins homered to make it a 5-2 game. That inning was the end for Kendrick, but the rest of the Phillies weren't done yet.

Jayson Werth led off the sixth inning with an inside-the-park home run and Chase Utley followed with a more conventional homer, bringing the Phillies back to within one run. Clay Condrey entered and nearly made the lead insurmountable once again, as he puts runners on first and third with one out. Troy Tulowitzki hit a sharp grounder up the middle that looked like a sure RBI single, but Utley made a spectacular diving stop and tossed to Eric Bruntlett, who tagged and fired to first to complete the inning ending, and perhaps game-saving, double play.

With both starters lasting only five innings, the game turned into a battle of the bullpens. Despite Condrey's struggles, this gave the Phillies the edge. Rudy Seanez pitched a scoreless seventh inning, bringing the Phillies up in the eighth trailing 4-5. One-time Phillies farmhand Taylor Buchholz stayed on the mound for his second inning of work, after pitching a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Buchholtz handled the first two batters of the eighth as well, striking out Utley for the second out. This brought up Ryan Howard, whose early season struggles have been well-documented. Howard came through this time, with a two out single, then Burrell followed with another single. After T.J. Bohn was brought in to pinch run for Burrell, Pedro Feliz drew a walk (rare for him), loading the bases for Carlos Ruiz.

This prompted the Rockies to bring in former closer Brian Fuentes to get the final out. Ruiz had other ideas, as he singled to right field, driving in Howard and Bohn and giving Philadelphia a 6-5 lead, its first of the day. Bruntlett grounded out to end the inning, but the damage had been done.

Tom Gordon struck out two in the bottom of the eighth and only allowed one baserunner, as Brad Hawpe reached on an error by Bohn. (It's ironic that yet again Burrell's defensive replacement committed an error, but in fairness to Bohn and Charlie Manuel, Bohn had to run a long way just to make a play for the ball and it's unlikely that Burrell would have reached it at all.) Gordon held the lead for the Phillies, but after Brad Lidge nearly blew a two run lead last night against the Mets, Phillies fans had to be concerned about such a small lead.

The Phillies must have felt the same way and they responded by making it easy for Lidge in the ninth. Geoff Jenkins singled and Chris Coste was hit by a pitch, bringing up Werth with two on and no outs. Werth sent a double to deep right center, scoring Jenkins and sending Coste to third. This made the score 7-5 and brought up the heart of the Phillies' order. However, Rockies pitcher Micah Bowie induced an Utley ground-out and then struck out Howard, bringing up Bohn with two outs and runners on second and third. The rookie, in only his second game with the team, did his best Pat Burrell impression, drilling a double down the left field line for two RBIs and saying "Bohn Voyage" to a realistic chance for a Rockies comeback. With a nice four run cushion, Lidge struck out Matt Holliday to end the game.

While this start has to bring up concerns about Kendrick, who faired poorly tonight after a great start against Houston last week, both the offense and the bullpen stepped up once again. Utley is just absurdly hot right now, with six home runs in the last five games. He has nine on the season, which leads the National League. Burrell hasn't been too bad himself, going 3-4 tonight with his seventh home run. Howard had two hits, both singles, which may be a good sign considering the way he has been swinging for the fences and usually missing of late.

The bullpen deserves praise as well, providing four scoreless innings against a very tough Rockies lineup. Also notable is the fact that they were able to get the job done while Chad Durbin and J.C. Romero got much-needed days off. But let's not forget tonight's heroes, Carlos Ruiz and T.J. Bohn. Ruiz's clutch single gave the Phillies the lead and Bohn's double assured that they would keep it.

Last week it was Chris Snelling making a bid for a fan group, but now Bohn has moved to the forefront in our quest to honor seldom-used Phillies. We'll be taking suggestions for T.J. Bohn fan group names. And don't forget recent call-up Brad Harmon, who could also be in the running. For now, however, Bohn has the upper hand until Harmon can prove his worth.

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