The start of the new baseball season is still several weeks away, but I have to admit I am getting pumped up for my Phillies to defend their 2008 World Championship.
I can't wait for Chase Utley vs. K-Rod with the game on the line and Lidge to continue his streak of perfection.
To get all of us Phillies fans excited for 2009, here is a list of the 10 best games from the Phillies' 2008 World Championship regular season, and the five best from the 2008 postseason, plus two from 2007 that I couldn't resist including.
The two bonus games from 2007...
Bonus: August 30, 2007—Phillies 11, NY Mets 10
I was fortunate enough to be at this game.
The Phillies rallied in the ninth off of the highly overrated Billy Wagner.
Speedy Jayson Werth stole second and third without so much as a throw, and Chase Utley smashed a walk-off single to right field to cap off a four-game sweep over the division rival Mets.
For the game, the Phillies blew leads of both 5-0 and 8-5 before winning in the ninth. Howard and Rowand each homered, and Burrell hit career home runs No. 40 and No. 41 against the Mets.
A month later, the division was ours...
Bonus Two: September 30, 2007—Phillies 6, Washington 1: Our first division title in 14 seasons came courtesy of ageless hometown hero Jamie Moyer and converted closer Brett Myers, who struck out the final batter to complete an improbable comeback against the Mets.
And Most Valuable Player Jimmy Rollins, the first league MVP we've had in Philly since Mike Schmidt in 1986, tripled in his final at-bat in the eighth inning, topping off a 20-20-20-20 season in dramatic fashion.
Now onto the top 10 of the 2008 regular season...
10. July 29, 2008—Phillies 2, Washington 1: After a month in Triple-A to get his form back, Brett Myers' second start back in the majors was a gem.
He threw seven innings, allowing just four hits and one unearned run.
Chase Utley provided the Phillies' lone offense with a two-out, two-run home run in the third inning to give Myers the win.
9. April 12, 2008—Phillies 7, Chicago Cubs 1: Probably the greatest game of Hamels' season—until the postseason.
For seven innings, Hamels dazzled the Cubs' hitters, allowing no runs and just one hit. He walked two and struck out five, lowering his season ERA to 0.82.
With home runs by Howard and Feliz, the Phillies coasted to a 7-1 win.
8. August 15, 2008—Phillies 1, San Diego 0: What a pitching duel this was, in a battle of the oldest pitchers in the major leagues since July of 2007.
It featured the 44-year old Jamie Moyer vs. 42-year old Greg Maddux in what turned out to be a classic matchup.
Moyer came out victorious, holding the Padres to three hits and two walks, without allowing a single run.
Maddux wasn't much worse, but Pat Burrell's solo home run in the seventh inning provided all the scoring the Phillies needed to break a four-game losing streak.
7. May 16, 2008—Phillies 10, Toronto 2: This game showed the world just how good Jayson Werth is in the clutch. We in Philly knew about his talents—he's an underrated blend of power and speed who has an outside shot at a 30-30 season.
In this game, Werth slammed three home runs, including a grand slam, for a total of eight RBI.
His first two long balls accounted for seven of the his eight RBI came by the third inning, and all three were hit by the fifth inning.
The Phillies, as a team, batted .714 (5-for-7) with runners in scoring position— a far cry from the 2-for-33 performance in the Fall Classic— and Jamie Moyer threw six and two-thirds quality innings for the win.
6. May 9, 2008—Phillies 7, Giants 4: Welcome back, Jimmy Rollins.
In his first game back from a month-long injury, the reigning National League MVP singled, doubled, and homered, driving in three runs and turning a nifty six-four-three double play.
With his performance, Rollins raised his batting average 33 points, up to an incredible .341.
Down 4-1 through four innings, Rollins' solo home run in the fifth narrowed the deficit to two runs, and his RBI double in the eighth put the game away for good.
5. June 13, 2008—Phillies 20, St. Louis 2: This was a sweet victory.
The Phillies pounded Todd Wellemeyer, the N.L. Pitcher of the Month for May.
Utley, Howard, and Burrell hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the first inning.
Ruiz collected four hits and four runs batted in, Howard hit two home runs and drove in five runs, and Kendrick held the Cards to one earned run in seven strong innings pitched.
This game was such a blowout that by the fourth inning, the Phillies had a 13-1 lead and coasted to 20 runs for the second time in less than a month.
4. May 26, 2008—Phillies 20, Colorado 5: Scoring 20 runs against the defending NL champions is pretty impressive.
What made it even more impressive was that the Phillies had just scored 15 the day before, giving the team 35 runs in two games.
Jamie Moyer threw seven innings for the win, which made him just the sixth pitcher ever to record a win against all 30 teams.
Utley drove in six runs and the team's six, seven, and eight hitters (Feliz, Coste, Taguchi) combined for 10 hits and nine RBIs.
3. September 27, 2008—Phillies 4, Washington 3: In incredible late-game fashion, the Phillies captured their second straight NL East crown behind reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins and his Gold Glove at shortstop.
With the bases loaded and a one-run lead in the ninth, Rollins turned a double play on a tough ground ball up the middle to help Brad Lidge finish the regular season a perfect 41-for-41 on save attempts.
Rollins also made a spectacular catch with two on and no outs in the eighth to help preserve the Phillies' lead.
2. July 22, 2008—Phillies 8, NY Mets 6: Those never-say-die Phillies scored six runs in the ninth inning against a Mets' bullpen without Billy Wagner.
Down 5-2 entering the top of the ninth, Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs, and Shane Victorino started the rally with singles to load the bases. Ruiz then bounced a grounder to shortstop Jose Reyes, who missed touching second base for the force out.
So Taguchi doubled to deep right to tie the game and reigning National League MVP Jimmy Rollins followed with a two-run double of his own to give the Phillies a 7-5 lead with no outs still.
Another run scored on a Howard groundout, setting up "Lights Out" Lidge for his 22 consecutive save as a member of the Phillies.
1. August 26, 2008—Phillies 8, NY Mets 7 (13 innings): This was one of the greatest games I've ever watched.
Without Billy Wagner, the Mets' bullpen was ineffective, to say the least.
The Phillies came back from a seven-run deficit to take over the NL East crown in dramatic fashion.
Down 7-0 in the middle of the fourth, the Phillies scored one in the fourth, four in the fifth, one in the eighth, and one more in the ninth on a dramatic two-out RBI double by pinch-hitter Eric Bruntlett to tie the game and force extra innings.
Victorino's tripled to lead off the bottom of the 13th inning, forcing Mets' reliever Scott Schoenweiss to intentionally walk Jayson Werth and Eric Bruntlett to load the bases.
I still remember Brett Myers' pinch-hitting appearance, as he was instructed not to swing, but did a pretty good job of selling the fake.
With one out and the bases juiced, Coste lofted a fly ball to center field that fell in for a game-winning single.
Coste went 4-for-4 at the plate—all after the eighth inning.
Rollins contributed with five hits of his own, and the Phillies' bullpen threw 10 innings, giving up just five hits and one run in perhaps its most spectacular outing of the year.
And the best of those glorious playoff games...
5. October 25, 2008—Phillies 5, Tampa Bay 4 (Game 3 World Series): This game had everything you'd ever want to see in a baseball game.
A strong outing by the oldest pitcher in baseball making his first career World Series start (Jamie Moyer), consecutive home runs by the two best hitters on the team (Utley and Howard), a four-hour game that ended at nearly two in the morning due to a rain delay, and a 30-foot game-winning single (Carlos Ruiz) in the bottom of the ninth against a five-man infield.
Ruiz became just the fourth NL player ever hit a bases-loaded walkoff hit in the World Series, improving the Phillies to 2-for-33 with runners in scoring position.
4. October 15, 2008—Phillies 5, LA Dodgers 1 (Game 5 NLCS): Just once in my life had I seen either the Phillies or Eagles advance to the championship. (I can't remember the '93 Phillies). Now make it twice.
NLCS MVP Cole Hamels pitched a gem in the biggest game of his life, throwing seven strong innings, allowing just five hits and one run, before "The Bridge to Lidge" and "Lights Out" gave the Phillies their first World Series appearance in 15 years.
The Phillies held off Manny Ramirez, who reached base in three of his four plate appearances, including the Dodgers' only offense on a solo home run, and Ryan Howard chipped in with three hits and a home run for the Phils.
3. October 2, 2008—Phillies 5, Milwaukee 2 (Game 2 NLDS): C.C. Sabathia, meet The Flyin' Hawaiian.
Shane Victorino took the best pitcher in the major leagues yard for a dramatic grand slam.
With shades of Burt Hooton, Sabathia lost control in the second inning, giving up two hits, before walking Brett Myers on 10 pitches and Jimmy Rollins on four to load the bases for Victorino.
Victorino became the first player in postseason history with a double, home run, and two stolen bases in the same game, including the first grand slam in Phillies' postseason history.
2. October 13, 2008—Phillies 7, LA Dodgers 5 (Game 4 NLCS): Anyone ever hear of Matt Stairs before this game?
The aging Philly slugger hit the biggest home run of his career—a game-winning two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead in the NLCS.
Victorino's two-run blast tied the game earlier in the eighth, before Stairs put the game away for good.
The Phillies managed to limit Manny Ramirez to just two hits and three walks in five plate appearances, raising his batting average for the series to a respectable .500.
With a 3-1 lead in the NLCS, there wasn't any chance the Dodgers were winning another game against the hottest team in the major leagues.
1. October 27, 2008—Phillies 3, Tampa Bay 2 (Game 5 World Series): How could I not put this game at No. 1 on my list?
This city has waited 25 years for a game like this from ANY of its four sports teams.
When Lidge struck out Hinske and fell to the ground with his arms in the air, an entire city exploded in cheers.
It took over 48 hours for the Phillies to win that final game, but in the end, Hamels' changeup, Lidge's slider, and a game-winning double by Pat Burrell in his last at-bat in a Phillies uniform gave the Philly an improbable World Series Championship.