Phightin' Phillies Pick Up First Win of 2009 Season in Dramatic Comeback Fashion
One of the best qualities of a major league baseball season is its length.
162 games, spanning across six months. That's twice as many games as an NHL or NBA season. It's 10 times the length of a football season.
Baseball is not like football, in which every single loss could be the difference between making the playoffs or missing it and watching at home another year. That's not to say division races don't come down to the wire. They do, and just see the 2007 National League East race for proof.
However, with so many more games in a baseball season, there's less reason to overreact if a team starts its season poorly. A team can essentially get swept in a series and still rebound to make the playoffs.
Look at the Phillies every year. This is a team known for starting off slow. Last season, the Phillies dropped four of their first six games and finished April barely above .500, before a June hot streak led the way for a second straight NL East title.
So there really wasn't too much cause for concern after the Phillies dropped their first two games of this season and went down 10-3 in the seventh inning in the final game of a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves.
The never-say-die Phillies wouldn't quit just yet.
The offense bailed out starting pitcher Joe Blanton, who yielded seven runs in just four innings. This huge rally in the seventh inning was classic Philadelphia, in the sense that every single member of the lineup had a role. By the time the dust settled, the Phillies led, 11-10, and it was time for The Bridge to Lidge and Lights Out.
After Victorino grounded out to lead off the seventh, Utley kickstarted the rally with a base hit to center field. Howard was hit by the pitch and Werth walked to load the bases for Raul Ibanez.
Ibanez singled to left, driving in a run, and Feliz singled to center, to cut the deficit to five runs. Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, a town hero for his game-winning home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 of last season's National League Championship Series, walked in a run to make it 10-6.
The Braves pulled Peter Moylan for Blaine Boyer, who walked Chris Coste and Jimmy Rollins on a total of nine pitches to cut the lead to two runs. In came Jorge Campillo, the fourth Atlanta pitcher of the inning.
Campillo gave up an RBI single to Shane Victorino before walking Chase Utley to force in the tying run. Ryan Howard followed with a groundout to first, forcing in a run to give the Phillies their first lead of the season, and Werth flied out to right to end the damage.
In all, four Braves pitchers combined to give up five hits and six walks for a total of eight runs. For a Phillies fan who has seen his team pull of many rallies similar to this over the last several years, this comeback was especially exciting for a team that nearly got swept by the division rival Braves in the season-opening series.
Madson retired the side in the eighth and the Phillies tacked on another run in the bottom half of the inning on Pedro Feliz's sacrifice fly to right field.
Lidge made it interesting in the ninth, as always. He gave up a solo home run to Matt Diaz with one out, cutting the lead to one run, and putting himself in danger of blowing his first save as a Phillie.
Lidge got three-time All-Star left fielder Garrett Anderson swinging to end the game, extending Lidge's streak to 55 consecutive saves, second-most in major league history.
In a way, this game had a little bit of everything I've been accustomed to as a Phillies fan. Drama, a big comeback, and a nail-biting save by Lidge—but most importantly, a big, much-needed win.
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