Monday, October 5, 2009

Phillies End the Regular Season on a High Note


Yesterday's regular season finale ended on a high note for the Phillies. Back-up catcher and September call-up Paul Hoover lined a ball down the third base line that ticked off the glove of Wes Helms for a single, plating John Mayberry to give the Phils a 7-6, 10th inning victory over the Florida Marlins. Teammates bounded onto the field and happily peppered him after he rounded first base and sent the team into post season in style.

On a day that Charlie Manuel chose to rest all his regulars, except for Jayson Werth and starting pitcher J.A. Happ, the Phillies fought from behind all day. Manuel pulled Happ after two innings and used an array of relievers who may have been auditioning for a playoff roster spot. Although the game had little relevance and the regulars mostly remained on the bench, heading to the post season fresh off a walk-off victory provided somewhat of a psychological lift for the team.

Werth was in the line-up as a gesture of appreciation for his excellent season. He came into the game with a career high 99 RBI, but unfortunately was not able to push the total to the milestone century mark. He missed his last opportunity when he was intentionally walked (to a jeering crowd) with Mayberry on second base to get to Hoover in the tenth.

Despite the mild disappointment, Werth was a large contributor throughout the 2009 season, providing critical right handed pop amongst the team's left handed power hitters. He built upon last year's break out season as he became the full-time right fielder, clubbing 36 home runs to finish 7th in the National League. Werth finished with a .268 batting average, but more indicative of his contribution was his lofty .373 On Base Percentage, which was second highest on the team.

Happ yielded a couple runs in the first, before tossing a scoreless second inning. He also has played a large role in the Phillies NL East title, emerging as a highly dependable and effective starter. Happ ends the season with a 12-4 record, the league's 8th best ERA at 2.93, and consideration for a playoff start against the Colorado Rockies. He remains a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, but may have been passed as the favorite by Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan, who turned in a huge second half to finish 6th in the NL batting race with a .321 average.

Sunday's victory pushed the Phillies overall record to 93-69, one win better than a season ago. This also secured the second best record in the National League behind the Dodgers. Attention now turns to preparing for Wednesday's National League Division Series against the Rockies at Citizen Bank Park, including important decisions about their playoff roster and starting rotation. Overall, the Phillies enjoyed another excellent regular season, but now the excitement rises to another level as they launch into the next phase of their World Series Championship defense.

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