Phillies: Philadelphia Pulls Off Season Changing Win
One of the best, old baseball adages is you see something new every day. Sometimes that new thing can end a season, have no impact on the standings, or in this case potentially turn a floundering team around.
The Mets' moment came not on the field, but as sugarplums danced in New Yorkers' heads. A new manager turned New York back into a contender with his relaxed policies and handling of slumping players Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes while also turning the much-forgotten Fernado Tatis back into an offensive force.
But the Mets return to first place may now once again be in jeopardy after only a few days.
The team that spent more than sixty days hanging out alone in first may have their sea legs back after one of the most embarrassing runs the Phillies have had since 2001.
Since reaching a season high 13 games over .500 with a 20-2 trouncing of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies are just 12-19.
Philadelphia's staple of the 2000s? Their offense. Year after year, they finished in the top two or three in league while scoring over five runs per game almost every year.
The last 31 games have probably been the worst 31 game stretch, the Phillies have had since 2001. They don't score runs. Period. 16 times out of 31 they've been held to three runs or fewer.
Clutch hitting just hasn't existed in this offense. Ryan Howard has been the only one teeing off with runners in scoring position this year. Everyone else crawls up into the fetal position and hits weak ground-balls to third base or strikes out. (No seriously go back through the games and it seems as if at least half the Phillies at-bats with runners in scoring position end in a weak ground-ball to third or a strike out.)
But things finally might be changing. Just might be. Possibly. Maybe. Ok it was just one win. But seasons quite often turn around in just one game.
And Saturday's game was that game.
The Phillies haven't supported Cole Hamels much all year. Thirteen times he's allowed two or fewer runs but he's come away with just seven wins in those games. And Cole Hamels's body language has shown at times he's frustrated with the offense.
He's had to pitch with the notion in the back of his mind that one solo home run could mean a loss.
So what do the Phillies do against the Braves, a team the Cole Train has run down in 2008? They actually come up with a clutch hit. Catcher Chris Coste brought two home with a one out single and the pitcher on deck. His single came with the bases loaded after Jayson Werth grounded out to third.
The Phillies had staked Hamels to a three run lead by the fourth inning when the proverbial wheels of the bus fell off a cliff to their untimely death.
The southpaw allowed nine runs in the fourth. The last time he allowed nine runs was August of his rookie year. He hadn't even allowed eight runs in a game since then.
Things are bad when your Cy Young candidate can't even hold a three run advantage against a team he completely and utterly owns.
But the spotlight of this game was the opposing pitcher. Mike Hampton toed Major League rubber for the first time since 2005 and oh boy was he a bit rusty. After already giving up three runs entering the fifth, Hampton lost his way.
The Phillies did to him exactly what the Braves did to the Fightin's. They banged out single after single after single after single, then ended it with a titanic blast. Atlanta's came from super-star Mark Teixeira, Philadelphia's came from little known pinch-hitting extraordinaire Greg Dobbs. His homer was his 20th pinch-hit of the year, tying Doc Miller's 1913 team record.
Philadelphia's body language entering the fifth inning was bad. The look on Cole Hamels' face was very discouraging. This game could have been the game that ended any positive chemistry this team had. A player's only meeting may have been imminent should the Phillies not come back.
But the comeback spirit that this team lived on in 2007 came back alive on one July afternoon.
The offense's explosion is only half the story.
The Phils' bullpen has recently been slipping a bit. Suddenly overworked from poor starting pitching and an All-Star game that had closer Brad Lidge throw approximately 100 pitches in the pen, a 10-9 lead didn't seem too safe.
But Adam Eaton shut the Braves down. Ryan Madson shut the Braves down, as did Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, and Brad Lidge. Eaton picked up the win in just his third career relief appearance.
This a day after the Bravos exploded for seven ninth inning runs against the same pen.
It was a complete effort to win Saturday's game and to win back many Philadelphians who were losing faith in a team that couldn't do anything right for over a month.
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