What a game.
Jayson Werth's dramatic three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning propelled the Phillies to their tenth straight win on Tuesday.
Werth reached base in five of his six plate appearances, collecting two hits and three walks, but the heroes of the game were the five Phillies pitchers who combined to throw 13 stellar innings.
Blanton started the game, pitching seven strong innings, allowing just one run on five hits and no walks while striking out five. He lowered his ERA on the season from 4.44 to 4.24.
The bullpen was absolutely phenomenal, pitching six scoreless innings. Without allowing a hit.
Madson pitched a perfect eighth inning, taking over for Blanton. Lidge got a lucky double play to get out of the ninth. Chan Ho Park—the exiled former starter—pitched three hitless innings in relief, striking out five batters. And Clay Condrey topped it off with a perfect 13th inning.
It's a good thing the pitching staff was so effective, especially because the heart of the lineup—Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Raul Ibanez—combined to go 0-for-14 with six strikeouts, topped off by Howard's 0-for-4 night with four strikeouts.
It's a testament to the Phillies as a team, though, that this bunch can win despite subpar performances from its top hitters.
And both Howard and Ibanez came through in the 13th inning with clutch walks to set up Jayson Werth's dramatic game-ending home run.
Werth's home run broke a streak of 36 consecutive batters for both teams combined without a hit. In fact, no one had gotten a hit since Victorino singled with one out in the eighth inning.
The home run gave the Phillies their tenth consecutive win—the franchise's longest winning streak in nearly 20 years. It also made the Phillies the first team defending a world title to win ten straight games since the 1971 Baltimore Orioles.
Coupled with the Mets' 4-0 loss to the Nationals—seriously—the Phillies now have a ten game lead over the team many people thought would be the toughest competition in the already-tough NL East division.
The Phillies trail only the Dodgers in the NL and appear to be prime contenders to repeat as World Champions.
This team is good right now. Really good.
The Phillies can hit better than just about any team in baseball. Tonight's one-run output in 12 and 2/3 innings was the exception, not the rule.
This team leads the National League in runs scored, home runs, slugging percentage, and OPS. Five of the eight hitters in the lineup are All-Stars and another is a former MVP who is hitting .388 over his last 16 games.
The pitching staff is looking better and better every day.
Joe Blanton is arguably the team's top starting pitcher right now. Over his last ten starts, Blanton has a 4-1 record with just a 2.32 ERA. He has pitched at least seven innings in seven of the starts, and has recorded a quality start in all but one of his last ten.
J.A. Happ is making a solid case for himself as National League Rookie of the Year. He is undefeated on the season, at 7-0 with a 2.68 ERA.
Cole Hamels has struggled at times this season, but he is still the reigning World Series hero and arguably the game's best big-game pitcher when it counts.
The bullpen is deep. Lights Out Lidge has struggled for sure this season, but the rest of the guys around him have stepped it up.
Ryan Madson has been brilliant as the team's set-up man, compiling a 3.26 ERA, 16 holds, and nearly a strikeout per inning for the season. Chad Durbin (4.07), Clay Condrey (3.60), and Scott Eyre (1.96) have been terrific, especially as of late.
Even Park, who lost his starting job earlier in the season, was the unsung hero of today, with three hitless innings and five strikeouts.
The team can hit, pitch, and field.
The bottom line is that this team knows how to win. And they have proven it over and over again.
And they finally proved to the world last October they are capable of winning a World Championship.
This year is the ultimate test, as the Phillies look to defend their world title and become the first team since the '99-'00 Yankees to repeat as champions.