Phillies Complete Comeback, Avoid Opening Series Sweep

C KSenior Analyst IApril 8, 2009

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Two outs in the first inning, and the game began just as it had on Sunday and Monday. The Braves jumped to a 2-0 lead, and for the third game in a row, they led by that same score after the top of the first inning.

Raul Ibanez came through with his first home run as a Phillie in the bottom of the second as he crushed a two-run blast to tie the game.

The tie didn't last long as the Braves came back with five runs in the top of the third, putting them up by a score of 5-2.

A run in the bottom of the third for the Phillies cut the deficit back to two, but the Braves came back an inning later in the top of the fifth with another two runs to stretch the lead to 9-3.

Things were not going the Phillies' way for the third game in a row, especially when the Braves tacked on another run in the top of the seventh to reach double digits in runs, making the score 10-3.

Then came the bottom of the seventh, possibly one of the oddest innings I have ever seen.

It was not because of the eight runs the Phillies scored, but the five walks, four with the bases loaded, was the selling part for me.

After a Jayson Werth walk with one out to load the bases, Raul Ibanez, who finished the day 2-for-3 with 3 RBI and 3 runs, singled to make the score 10-4. Pedro Feliz did the same, cutting the deficit to five.

Then came the base on balls parade.

Matt Stairs, who pinch-hit for Carlos Ruiz, walked to force in Werth to make the score 10-6. Pinch-hitting for Clay Condrey, who got the win on the day, Chris Coste walked to force in another run, cutting the score to 10-7.

Jimmy Rollins was the next batter, yet the result was no different, as he walked to force in yet another run.

Shane Victorino was next, and his single to right field shrank Braves' lead to one run. What had been a comfortable 10-3 lead had almost completely evaporated in less than one inning.

Chase Utley followed Victorino with a walk with the bases loaded, forcing in the tying run. Ryan Howard finished the run production in the inning with a dribbler between first and second, which led to Jimmy Rollins crossing the plate to give the Phillies the lead. Ryan Howard was thrown out, but the run was worth it.

Jayson Werth flied out to end the inning, yet after coming into the half inning down seven, the eight runs was much more than expected.

The 11-10 lead was the first of the season for the Phillies, who had been having trouble with the Braves all series long.

After a 4-1 loss on Opening Night and a 4-0 loss the following night, it was crucial to see the Phillies get some production, especially the eight runs in just one inning.

In the bottom of the eight, after Ryan Madson handled the Braves easily in the top half, the Phillies tacked on another run to give Brad Lidge a two-run cushion.

When Lidge came into the game, he retired Jeff Francoeur with ease, catching him swinging on that nasty slider of his.

Yet, Matt Diaz stepped up to the plate with one out and blasted a solo home run to cut the lead in half.

The home run gave all Phillies fans alike quite the scare, yet all was well once Lidge was able to get Jordan Shafer and Garrett Anderson to ground out and strikeout, respectively, to end the game.

The Phillies, who had lacked any signs of spirit or even a pulse for the first 24 innings of the 2009 season, made the last three of the Opening Series count. Five walks in one inning, four of which forced runs to score with the bases loaded, certainly helped, yet, a win is a win.

The distractions of winning the World Series aren't over yet, as the Phillies will be visiting the White House on Tuesday. Once that day passes, the 2008 Championship celebration will officially be over.

Hopefully, all the focus will be able to be centered into winning ballgames and playing a full nine innings every night after Tuesday.

If so, more wins like today's should start to rack up.

The first two games of the season do not determine anything when you play 162 games, and neither does the third.

That's why it takes almost a month to be able to estimate how well a team can play night in and night out. Yet, with this Phillies team, there is no reason to believe that when all of the focus is on baseball, another championship will be within reach.


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