Monday, April 27, 2009

Ibanez, Howard Make a Grand Statement

Coming off a sweep of the division-leading Florida Marlins, one would've thought that the Phillies would handle the hapless Nationals with relative ease. Instead they'd find themselves trailing early and late, due to poor pitching. However it wouldn't matter, thanks to an outstanding offensive performance that included grand slams from Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. Ibanez's two-out slam in the eighth inning put the Phillies ahead for good and Ryan Madson closed out a 13-11 win.

The Phillies suffered from another poor outing from Joe Blanton. Blanton lasted just 4 1/3 innings, and gave up six runs, four of the runs coming on homers. Ryan Zimmerman's home run in the fifth inning, his second of the day, put Washington up 6-2, but the Phillies fought back in the bottom of the inning. Philadelphia loaded the bases on three straight singles, then Ryan Howard brought them all home with a grand slam to center field.

The Nats took the lead back in the sixth, with a bases loaded walk, then the Phillies countered with Jimmy Rollins' RBI double. Then in the eighth inning, Charlie Manuel turned to left-specialist Scott Eyre, presumably to handle lefties Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn. However, this plan backfired. Johnson and Dunn would each hit two-run homers and Eyre would leave the game without recording a single out. J.A. Happ replaced him and got through the inning without further harm.

Philadelphia entered the bottom of the eighth inning trailing 11-7, but with their offense the game proved to be far from over. The Phillies quickly cut the lead to two runs on a Shane Victorino sac fly and a Chase Utley single. With two outs and Howard coming up representing the tying run, the Nationals turned to Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan's season stats were not overwhelming, but Howard came into the game 0 for 7 against him with 6 Ks. However, the past success did not hold up and Howard reached on a walk. Hanrahan's control problems continued and he walked Jayson Werth as well.

That loaded the bases for, you guessed it, Raul Ibanez. Ibanez has become a fan favorite in a hurry, especially with his walk-off home run against San Diego last Sunday. He has been excellent this season, so it was too much to ask for him to deliver here, right?

Wrong. Ibanez crushed a fastball just fair over the right field wall and sent the Phillies phaithful into pandemonium with the team's second grand slam of the day. The grand slam gave the Phillies a 13-11 lead, putting them ahead for good. Madson got through the ninth with relative ease, striking out Justin Maxwell (who was brought in to replace Dunn when the Nationals felt they had a comfortable lead) to end the game. It was a weird sort of poetic justice to have the Phillies new left fielder take the lead and then have the Nationals defensive replacement in left field make the last out.

What an end to a thrilling game.

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