Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rocky Mountain High for the Phillies

Phillies vs. Rockies

A 7 1/2 inning pitchers duel ended in wild fashion with the Phillies showing tremendous resiliency to ultimately prevail in Game 4 of the NLDS . After leading the entire game behind another masterpiece by Cliff Lee, the Phillies found themselves suddenly behind heading into the ninth inning. The reigning World Series Champions were not about to let this game get away, though, and dug deep to counter the Rockies with an exciting rally to win the game and the series.

Lee and Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez battled on the mound for most of the game and the Phillies held a slim 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the 8th inning.The Rockies used a little luck and a fluke play to get something going off of Cliff Lee. They followed through with a couple jubilant hits off reliever Ryan Madson to rally for 3 runs and jump to a 4-2 lead.

The Phillies responded with some dramatic hitting in the 9th off of all-star closer Huston Street to themselves rally for 3 runs with two outs to forge ahead 5-4. And, Brad Lidge came on to secure the win by striking out Rockies clean-up hitter Troy Tulowitzki and gain his second save in two days.

Game Four-NLDS-Colorado Rockies Host Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies 9th inning rally was one for the ages, and reminiscent of the 1980 NL Championship Series clincher in terms of drama. Ryan Howard crushed a dramatic double to deep right to drive in the tying runs with two outs, and then Jayson Werth lined a single to right-center to plate Howard. Moments earlier, it had looked like the Phillies would suffer a disappointing defeat and be forced to return home for a Game 5, but this is a team of tenacious players that always believe they can get it done.

Before the late game offensive explosion and excitement, Lee and Jimenez mostly took turns putting zero's on the scoreboard. Lee followed up his brilliant effort in Game 1 with a similar performance in Game 4, keeping the Rockies off balance and off the board with an array of pitches on the edges of the strike zone. Once again, he mixed his 92-93 mph fastball with a biting cutter, diving change-up and sharp slider.

On the other side, Jimenez was firing 96-99 mph fastballs along with a big hook and a nasty splitter to make things difficult for Phillies hitters. He kept them at bay except for two solo homers over 7 innings and 126 pitches. In the first inning, Shane Victorino turned on a 99 mph fastball and hit a line shot into the forrest behind the right-centerfield fence to make it 1-0. In the sixth inning, Jayson Werth put a picture perfect swing on a slider out over the plate and drove it 400 feet into Phillies bullpen in right-center.

The Rockies scratched out a run in the bottom of the 6th inning. Lee appeared to be squeezed a little by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa in walking Todd Helton. Tulowitzki followed with a double to left-center and Helton slid into home head first just ahead of the tag.

With the Phillies still holding a 2-1 lead and Lee still throwing well, the real drama began in the home 8th. Red hot Carlos Gonzalez flied out to left, but Dexter Fowler worked a walk. Lee jammed Helton and he muscled a bouncer to Chase Utley. Fowler arrived about the same time as the ball, hurdled over Utley and got into the line of sight of Jimmy Rollins on Utley's flip. The ball ticked off of Rollins glove for an error and what looked to be a possible inning ending double play turned into both runners being safe.

With Lee having thrown 117 pitches and righty Tulowitzki coming up, Charlie Manuel opted to bring in Madson on a double switch, with Ben Francisco replacing Ibanez in left. Tulowitzki, of course, then hit a sinking liner towards Francisco, who made a spectacular diving catch to momentarily save the day. But, pinch hitter Jason Giambi dumped a soft flare into shallow left off the trademark sending home Fowler with the tying run. Playoff nemesis Yorvit Torrealba followed with a double to deep center and the Rockies found themselves suddenly leading 4-2 accompanied by the roar of the raucous crowd.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who made so many trips to the field over the series he could have been mistaken for a tenth player, tapped Street to close out the come from behind victory. He quickly struck out pinch hitter Greg Dobbs and jumped ahead of Rollins. J Roll showed great discipline staying off outside sinkers and grounded a single up the middle. After Victorino bounced into a force out, Utley came to the plate and worked a walk by staying off some tough pitches that tailed off the plate.

Street was now forced to face MVP candidate Howard with the tying runs on base. On a 2-1 count, Howard reached across the plate to get a sinker tailing down and away and cranked a ball to the right field fence. Watching the ball, Victorino missed third base, but went back to tag and scored just in front of a sliding Utley to knot the game at 4-4. With Howard on second, Werth served a 2-2 pitch to right center to send home the go ahead run.

Manuel brought in Scott Eyre, who injured his ankle a day earlier, to pitch the 9th knowing that tough lefties Gonzalez and Helton were coming up. After quick out, Gonzalez flared his 10th hit of the series to left. Fowler hit a soft liner to Rollins, before Helton lofted a single to center. At this point, Manuel came out of the dugout and motioned in Brad Lidge, who earned the save in Game 3. Lidge fed a steady diet of sliders to clean-up hitter Tulowitzki, and got him to wave weakly at a 2008 vintage hard diving pitch to strike him out to end the threat. Wow! What a game- an "Instant Classic" as coined by Eyre after the game!

The Phillies flowed onto the field to joyously celebrate a terrific, series clinching victory. The team moves onto to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, a rematch from a year ago. They do so with the confidence of knowing they are never out of a game and might just have the 2008 version Lidge back in the fold. And, importantly, the Phillies once again showed the tremendous heart and mental toughness that can fuel a championship run.

Phillies vs. Rockies

No comments:

Post a Comment