Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ibanez Hits Walk-Off, Snaps Losing Streak

The day after the Padres gave Brad Lidge his first blown save as a Phillie, the Phillies exacted some revenge. They entered the bottom of the ninth behind by a run and left the inning winners, thanks to some clutch hitting by Raul Ibanez. Ibanez's walk-off home run snapped a three-game losing streak for the Phils.

Today's game was a showcase of sorts for the Phillies marquee off-season additions, as Chan Ho Park started his first home game for the Phillies. Park fared better than in his first outing, but ran into some trouble in the third, giving up three runs.

Of course two of those runs came courtesy of a triple by Edgar Gonzalez that could arguably have been called an error. Gonzalez hit a liner to left field which Ibanez attempted to play. Ibanez went for a sliding catch, but appeared to misjudge it slightly and the ball landed beneath his glove and past him, rolling to the wall. That drove in a run and then in the next at-bat, Gonzalez scored on a groundout by Brian Giles. Had Ibanez made the catch, the Padres would most likely have only scored one run in that inning. Park gave up a fourth run in the fifth inning on a solo homer from Adrian Gonzalez.

Park only last five innings and was replaced by J.A. Happ. However, in the sixth inning, the Phillies offense woke up. Eric Bruntlett, starting for the struggling Jimmy Rollins, reached on an error with one out and Chase Utley made the most of it with a two-run shot to right. Meanwhile, Happ kept the Phillies in the game, pitching three scoreless innings in relief of Park.

Rollins didn't get the start, but he made his presence felt. Pinch-hitting for Happ in the eighth, Rollins hit a solo home run, his first of the season, making it a one-run game. However, the next three Phillies went down in order. Condrey pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, setting up the bottom of the inning.

Ryan Howard started it with a single to center field; his third hit of the day. Then Ibanez followed with a moonshot to right, giving the Phillies the 5-4 win in dramatic fashion.

Ibanez has been brilliant so far for the Phillies. He currently is batting .386 with 5 HR and 10 RBI. He's slugging an absurd .864, due to his 10 extra-base hits. He's on pace for 74 home runs and, while we know that pace will not hold up for 162 games, it's certainly looking like he is a more than adequate replacement for Pat Burrell. (Burrell, for the record, is batting .225 with 1 HR and 4 RBI.)

The Phillies record now stands at 5-6, so there is still plenty of work to do, but this was the type of come-from-behind win that was typical of last year's team and winning in such a dramatic fashion could light a fire under this ballclub. Let's hope so, anyway.

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