Before the bottom of the sixth inning in the third game of the season, the Phillies were pathetically averaging as many errors as runs: 7 in two and a half games.
The Phillies’ strengths last season — offense and defense — seemed to be their 2008 Achilles’ Heel. Nothing was going right and all of the bounces favored their opponents. Suddenly, in the bottom of the sixth inning, batted balls that were being caught previously were finding holes and dropping in front of fielders. They scored six runs in an impressive rally that consisted of no extra-base hits; rather, eight singles, a hit batter, and a wild pitch. Nine straight Phillies batters reached base before Chase Utley hit into a 3-2-3 double play to end the inning. A recap of the carnage:
- C. Utley singled to right
- R. Howard singled to right, C. Utley to second
- P. Burrell singled to left, C. Utley scored, R. Howard to third
- G. Jenkins singled to right, R. Howard scored, P. Burrell to second
- P. Burrell to third, G. Jenkins to second on wild pitch
- P. Feliz singled to center, G. Jenkins and P. Burrell scored
- C. Coste singled to right, P. Feliz to second
- G. Dobbs singled to left, P. Feliz scored, C. Coste to second
- J. Rollins hit by pitch, C. Coste to third, G. Dobbs to second
- S. Victorino singled to right center, C. Coste scored, G. Dobbs to third, J. Rollins to second
Heading into the top of the seventh with their first lead since the bottom of the fourth inning on Monday’s Opening Day game, the Phillies asked their bullpen to be efficient. Ryan Madson responded, quickly retiring all three Washington Nationals hitters he faced.
They had a chance to pad their newfound lead when Ryan Howard singled and Pat Burrell doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but the offense went back into hiding as Geoff Jenkins struck out, and Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste grounded out. Unfortunately, the Phillies had to ask their bullpen to hold onto a one-run lead, and as expected, they couldn’t do that.
Ryan Madson returned to the mound to start the eighth inning and promptly walked lead-off hitter Ronnie Belliard on four pitches. He got Felipe Lopez to lazily fly out to center fielder Shane Victorino, and Jesus Flores almost did as well, but the ball fell in the proverbial Bermuda’s Triangle between Jimmy Rollins, Burrell’s replacement in left field Jayson Werth, and Victorino.
With Rob Mackowiak, a left-handed pinch-hitter, announced, Charlie Manuel replaced Madson with J.C. Romero. Nationals’ manager Manny Acta countered by pinch-hitting Paul Lo Duca for Mackowiak. Romero appeared wild, not having thrown a true strike for the first five pitches, but Lo Duca helped him out by swinging 3-1 at what would have been ball four. Following suit as the previous two hitters, Lo Duca also lazily flied out to center, and the Phillies looked like they’d actually escape with the lead. Not so.
Cristian Guzman sharply hit a grounder just out of the reach of third baseman Pedro Feliz. Jimmy Rollins slid to try and keep the ball near the infield to prevent the tying run from scoring, but the ball instead deflected off of his glove towards foul territory, and that did allow Belliard to touch home plate. Lastings Milledge followed with another infield single to load the bases for the dreaded Ryan Zimmerman, already with two game-winning HR to his name. Luckily, the Phillies continued his oh-fer day, as he grounded out to Jimmy Rollins to end the inning at 7 runs apiece.
The Phillies loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the eighth but couldn’t push in the go-ahead run. Manuel elected to use Opening Day victim Tom Gordon to hold the game in a tie in the top of the ninth inning, and boy, does Gordon make it interesting. He started off well, striking out Austin Kearns, but Nick Johnson, after a great at-bat in which he started 0-2 and worked it to 3-2, reached base via a line drive that was just barely out of the reach of Utley’s glove. The next three at-bats went walk, fly out, walk, so the bases were loaded with two outs. Pinch-hitter Willie Harris came out to bat for reliever Luis Ayala, and everyone in the stadium held their breath as Ryan Howard cleanly fielded a grounder and flipped it to Gordon to end the inning, the game still tied at 7-all. Gordon had a scoreless inning! His ERA went down more than 100 points, from 135.00 to 33.75!
To mimic Seinfeld, yada yada yada, Phillies waste a Jenkins lead-off double in the bottom of the ninth, yada yada yada, game goes to extra innings, yada yada yada, Jimmy Rollins starts off the bottom of the tenth with a lead-off infield single. Victorino sacrifice bunts Rollins to second and Rollins, noticing that only shortstop Cristian Guzman would be able to cover third, raced him to the bag and did so safely, giving the Phillies a runner on third base with one out, and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard due up. Acta, for the second time in the game, ordered both of them to be walked, putting the pressure on Jayson Werth. Reliever Jesus Colome couldn’t find the plate and walked in the winning run on four pitches, giving the Phillies their first win of the season.
Kyle Kendrick will face Josh Fogg tomorrow night when the Phillies visit the Cincinnati Reds for a 7:10 start.
Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.