Sunday, August 23, 2009

Brad and Brunt's EXCELLENT Adventure

Phillies vs. Mets
The bottom of the ninth inning of the Phillies game started out like Nightmare on Elm Street, but ended up as Brad and Brunt's EXCELLENT Adventure. As a result, the Phillies hung onto the big lead that they built in the first inning to defeat the Mets 9-7 in the third game of their 4-game series.

For the second day in a row, Brad Lidge took the mound for the Phillies in the last half of ninth inning holding a 3-run lead. On Saturday, he breezed through a 1-2-3 inning to record his 24th save. Today, he was looking to build upon that success and nail his third consecutive save. Unfortunately, he was greeted with some bad luck and found himself suddenly in a stressful situation.

Ryan Howard failed to field Angel Pagan's ground ball, which rattled into the right field corner allowing the runner to advance to third. Luis Casillo then sent a grounder to Bruntlett (who was playing for the resting Chase Utley), but he bobbled it and threw late to first for another error. Daniel Murphy bounced a ball up the middle that Bruntlett reached, but again bobbled, eliminating the possibility of cutting down Castillo at second base and putting the tying runners on base with no outs. The official scorer, somewhat charitably, ruled it a hit.

At this point, it must have felt like deja vu from last Saturday's game against the Braves for Lidge. After working the count full, with both runners moving on the pitch, Francouer lined a ball towards center. Because Bruntlett was moving towards the bag to cover, he easily snagged the ball, stepped on second to double up Castillo, then tagged a juking Murphy to record a triple play. It was the only the second game ending, unassisted triple play in major league history.

Oddly enough, the top half of the ninth involved Bruntlett and Francouer in another unusual situation as well. Francouer dove to catch his liner to right-centerfield, flipping over with the ball in his glove thinking that he had made the catch. Bruntlett continued to run to third, though, for an apparent triple when the 2nd base umpire ruled that the ball was trapped. An argument ensued, a replay was run on the big screen and the umpires reversed the call after a brief conference. Charlie Manuel rushed onto the field to argue the call, but found himself heading to the club house early after getting ejected for expressing his displeasure.

The Phillies had jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first inning on a pair of 3-run homers by the red hot Jayson Werth and the rebounding Carlos Ruiz. Pedro Martinez, who was making his first trip back to face his former team since signing with the Phillies, was a little shaky at the outset, yielding 4 runs on 6 hits over the first 3 frames. He eventually settled down, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, and improved his record to 2-0.

The entire game, from the Phillies big 1st inning through the wild finish, had a less than normal feel to it. Ultimately, Bruntlett (who also had 3 hits) stepped up to make one of the plays of the year and atone for the shaky start in the ninth. Also, Lidge was able to emerge on the winning side after some tough luck, breaking from the previous patterns of this season. Perhaps this will be another key turning point in getting his season back on track.

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