With the 2009 season in the books, there’s nothing left to do — for a little while — except look back and reflect. I’d like to share my favorite Phillies moment of 2009 and then I’ll open up the dialogue for anyone else who wants to chime in.
On April 27, 2009, the Phillies welcomed in the Washington Nationals for the first game of a three-game series. The Nats to that point were 4-13, so it should have been an easy victory, being WFC’s and all. However, someone must have notified the Nationals that it was Home Run Derby and not an actual game, as they would hit five home runs in the game: three off of starter Joe Blanton and two off of reliever Scott Eyre.
Heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies had only managed two runs off of a very hittable pitcher in Shairon Martis. Reliever Jack Taschner led off the inning and made an out, but saw six pitches from Martis, setting up the rest of the inning. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley each would hit singles to load up the bases for Ryan Howard.
Howard quickly fell behind in the count 0-2, but on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Howard decided to tie the game in one swing. He smoked a grand slam to center field, accounting for one of his 45 home runs and four of his 141 RBI on the season.
The score was knotted at six apiece, but that was not the end of the offense. Neither bullpen did its job at limiting damage, as six of the ten total relievers used in the game would allow at least one run inherited or otherwise. Going into the seventh inning, the score was tied at 7-7 and Charlie Manuel elected to bring in Scott Eyre to pitch to the Nationals’ dangerous left-handed hitters in Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn. Eyre faced five hitters and retired none of them, allowing three walks and two home runs (to Johnson and Dunn).
That Phillies offense would roar back. Garrett Mock was sent in to hold the 11-7 lead for the Nationals in the eighth inning, but he quickly sent two runs back the Phillies’ way on two singles, a double, and a sacrifice fly. With two outs, then-closer Joel Hanrahan was sent in to stop the bleeding. Instead, he created a gash.
His first offering to Ryan Howard was a ball in the dirt that allowed Chase Utley, who had hit an RBI single, to advance to second base. Hanrahan couldn’t find the strike zone after evening the count at 1-1, so the Phillies had runners on first and second for Jayson Werth. Again, Hanrahan couldn’t buy a strike, falling behind 3-0 and walking Werth on five pitches to load the bases.
That brought in the new guy, Pat Burrell’s replacement, Raul Ibanez. He had already made an impact in his first four weeks in Philadelphia, hitting five home runs and driving in 12 runs in his first 17 games.
At that point in the game, down 11-9 with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies were just hoping for a base hit. Despite Hanrahan’s lack of control, Ibanez stepped to the plate looking to swing, likely thinking that the struggling closer would want to get ahead in the count. He was right — he got a belt-high inside fastball that he quickly turned on and sent down the line into the seats in right field for a grand slam, the Phillies’ second of the game.
J.A. Happ got the win, pitching a scoreless eighth inning, and Ryan Madson got the save, pitching a perfect ninth. Aside from that, it was an ugly game for pitchers. The two teams’ staffs combined to allow 26 hits, 16 walks, and 24 earned runs in 17 combined innings (12.71 ERA, 2.47 WHIP).
The Ibanez grand slam was one of my favorite moments of 2009. What were yours?