Saturday, July 26, 2008

Phils Rally For Much-Needed Win

After three straight games of frustration that saw them fall out of first place, the Phillies' bats finally showed up. Behind 9-3 in the fourth inning, the Phillies put up seven runs in the fifth inning, chasing Mike Hampton and hanging on for a 10-9 win. This, coupled with the Mets 14-inning loss, brought the Phillies back within a game of the division lead.

Early on, it looked like Cole Hamels would play his role as a stopper admirably, shutting down the Braves over the first three innings. Of course, Hamels had done his job over his last few starts as well, but had received hardly any run support. Today, the Phillies were more inclined to help him. Chris Coste delivered a pair of RBIs in the second inning and Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly in the third, giving Hamels a 3-0 lead. The way he's pitched lately, that could have been more than enough.

But not today. When the fourth inning rolled around. Hamels quickly loaded the bases, on a single and two walks, then Omar Infante doubled in two runs. Jeff Francoeur recorded the first out of the inning with a fly out to left, but Brian McCann tagged up and scored to tie the game. That was when things got ugly. Martin Prado reached base on an Utley error, then Mark Kotsay singled to give the Braves a 4-3 lead. Hampton reached on a Hamels error and another run scored. Gerry Blanco would also drive in a run, before Hamels got the second out of the inning, as Yunel Escobar flied out. That brought Mark Teixiera up for his second at-bat of the inning, and he made it count, blasting a three-run home run to left center and chasing Hamels. Rudy Seanez entered and got McCann to pop out, ending a disastrous nine-run inning. With their ace on the hill and a three-run lead at home, the Phillies had fallen behind, 9-3.

That score held for one inning, highlighted by Adam Eaton's first relief appearance since August 4th, 2005. Eaton threw a scoreless inning, but it seemed inconsequential at the time. However, the Phillies offense begged to differ.

The Phillies recorded three straight singles to start the bottom of the fifth and chased Hampton in the process. Royce Ring replaced him and gave up a two-run single to Ryan Howard. That would be all for Ring, as Blaine Boyer replaced him. Pat Burrell greeted him with a fly out that scored Utley. Then, after a Jayson Werth single and an Eric Bruntlett fly out, Coste came through again, scoring Howard on a single. Greg Dobbs then came in to pinch hit, needing one more pinch hit to tie Doc Miller for the Phillies' franchise record for pinch hits in a season. He did so in a big day, launching a three-run homer to right that gave the Phillies a 10-9 lead. Jimmy Rollins ended the inning, getting out on a bunt attempt, but the Phillies had retaken the lead with a seven-run inning.

From there, the Phillies bullpen held on, despite some shaky innings from Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin, and it came down to Brad Lidge in the ninth. No one had scored since the Phillies' seven-run outburst and the Phillies were still clinging to a one-run lead. With their All-Star closer in the game, who has yet to blow a save in the Phillies uniform, on paper this seemed like a sure thing. Of course, anyone who saw last night's game knows better. In that game, Lidge entered with the Phillies trailing 1-0 and gave up five runs without recording a single out. Considering Lidge's history, Phillies fans had every reason to be concerned today. However, Lidge displayed no lingering effects of last night's meltdown. Instead, he delivered a 1-2-3 inning, putting the Braves away and sealing the 10-9 win.

Ironically, on a day when the Phillies' ace had his worst outing of the year, the Phillies worst (former) starter got the win, as it was Eaton who was awarded the victory. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

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