Mesa preserves Phils’ win over Indians

Posted: June 20, 2007

CLEVELAND - It's a bizarre world.

The Phillies found themselves in a serious jam tonight in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 9-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field, and Charlie Manuel needed help because Ryan Madson went from two outs and nobody on with a three-run lead to two outs, bases loaded, and a one-run lead.

On a night when Ryan Howard homered and knocked in four runs, it was up to Jose Mesa to salvage a win.

Is it possible that fans in Philadelphia had the same reaction as fans in Cleveland, who watched Mesa step through the bullpen door in right field? Indians fans loudly booed Mesa, who blew a 2-1 lead against the Florida Marlins in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

Phillies fans weren't psyched on June 9 when the Phils announced that Mesa had rejoined the bullpen. They remember his struggles as their closer in 2003, although he is the franchise's all-time leader with 111 saves.

But Mesa, who has a 3.86 ERA in four appearances with the Phillies, picked up a huge out to end the inning and preserve the victory.

"I think Jose's popularity is fine with me as long as he's getting people out, so he shouldn't even worry about the fans," Manuel joked. "Jose did a hell of a job."

"I've been booed so many times, one more time is no big deal," Mesa said with a proud smile on his face. "I don't care. It's good to be in a big spot and do your job."

He worked pinch-hitter Casey Blake into an 0-2 count, and Blake hit the third-pitch curveball to second baseman Chase Utley.

Utley made a nice play on a soft line drive that took an unexpectedly wicked hop.

"It hopped up on me big time," Utley said. "A lot more than I thought it would. I put my hands up to try to catch it and I didn't think I caught it. I didn't feel it go in my glove, so I started looking around and then I felt my glove was a little heavier than normal. I was a little surprised I caught it."

Utley stepped on second to end the inning.

That was a big moment in a game with other big moments. Rookie righthander Kyle Kendrick (1-0) picked up his first big-league victory. In six innings, he allowed five hits, three runs and one walk. He struck out one.

"It's here and now I want to make something of it," Kendrick said of his big-league chance.

Manuel said after Monday's 10-1 loss that the Indians jumped on his team early while the Phillies looked flat.

So Jimmy Rollins turned the tables.

Grady Sizemore knocked Cole Hamels off his stride Monday when he bunted the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning for a leadoff single. Hamels allowed five runs in the first two innings. Inspired by Sizemore, Rollins bunted the first pitch from lefthander Jason Stanford toward third for a single that sparked a three-run inning.

Utley was hit by a pitch with one out, and Howard smashed a ball past first baseman Ryan Garko for a single that scored Rollins and moved Utley to third. Pat Burrell, back in the lineup for the first time since Saturday, then hit a two-out double to center to clear the bases, making it 3-0.

"I was saying last night to C.C. [Sabathia], 'Man, I haven't bunted in so long,' " Rollins said. "I don't even know how to bunt, but I'm going to try."

Howard crushed a solo homer into the second deck in right field in the third inning to make it 4-1.

He is hitting .295 with 10 home runs and 25 RBIs in 24 games since he returned from the disabled list last month.

Much has been made of the Phillies' 10-17 record against lefthanders this season and how much Burrell and Howard have struggled against them in particular. But they did fine tonight.

"It's a matter of getting to see them, and once you see them in a row, you get comfortable," said Howard, who hit .279 with 16 homers and 45 RBIs against lefthanders last season.


Contact staff writer Todd Zolecki at 215-854-4874 or tzolecki@phillynews.com.

Read his blog at http://go.philly.com/zozone.

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