Could the Curse of Billy Penn finally be coming to an end?
It sure looks like it.
Today, the Philadelphia Phillies clinched their second consecutive NL East division title, thanks to a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in Citizens Bank Park.
It is the first time since 1981 that the Phillies were able to earn consecutive postseason berths.
Once again, their division clinching game was a little more exciting than fans would have liked.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Phils got the offense started with back to back singles by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to start off the inning. With Utley at third and Howard at first, Pat Burrell lofted a fly ball to right field to plate Utley.
The Flyin' Hawaiian Shane Victorino then singled, moving Howard to second with one out. John Lannan then walked Pedro Feliz to load the bases for Carlos Ruiz.
Ruiz then hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Howard to make it 2-0.
The Nationals retaliated in the top of the fifth, after Roger Bernadina hit a one out single, before being moved to second by John Lannan's sacrifice bunt, leading to a double by Anderson Hernandez.
That was all that the Nationals could muster off of ageless wonder Jamie Moyer, who pitched 6 solid innings, surrendering 6 hits, 1 run, while walking 1 and striking out 1.
The Phils answered right back in the bottom of the fifth, as Jayson Werth hit a lead-off home run off of John Lannan, making it 3-1 Phillies.
The scoring would halt until the the top of the eighth, when the Nationals got a single from Christian Guzman and a double by Ryan Zimmerman to set up a 2nd and 3rd, no out situation. Lastings Milledge hit a sacrifice fly off of Ryan Madson, scoring Guzman to make it 3-2.
Once again though, the Phillies responded in the bottom of the eighth, with a two out rally led by Shane Victorino's infield single, and he then scored on Pedro Feliz' double to left-center field, creating a 4-2 Phillies lead.
In the ninth, Brad Lidge came out to go for his 41st save of the season.
It was anything but automatic for Lidge.
Despite getting pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio to strikeout, Lidge ran into trouble soon after.
He surrendered a hit to Roger Bernadina, followed by a pinch-hit walk to Ryan Langerhans. Anderson Hernandez followed up with a single, scoring Bernadina from second base, making it 4-3.
That would not be all, as Christian Guzman singled to center, moving Langerhans to third and loading the bases for star Ryan Zimmerman, with just one out.
It seemed as if Lidge's perfect season was about to fall apart with just one more game to go.
But Lidge got help from his defense, as Zimmerman tattooed a grounder up the middle which was stopped by a diving Jimmy Rollins, who utilized a glove flip to Chase Utley, who finished off the game-ending double play.
The double play gave Lidge his 41st save of the season, and also gave Jamie Moyer his team-leading 16th win.
The three keys to the game were:
- Shane Victorino's infield single, keeping the 8th inning alive
- Pedro Feliz' two out double in the 8th
- Jamie Moyer pitched 6 solid innings, keeping the Nats' bats silent
The win gives the Phils another division title, and gives them home field in the first round against either the Milwaukee Brewers or Los Angeles Dodgers.
J.A. Happ will be starting the regular season finale tomorrow at 1:35 against Odalis Perez.
At least it all didn't come down to the final day...