Victorino delivers in Phils’ victory

Posted: June 24, 2007

ST. LOUIS - The road has not been kind to the Phillies this season.

They have lost five pitchers to injuries while away from Citizens Bank Park: Tom Gordon in Atlanta on May 1, Ryan Madson in San Francisco on May 3, Brett Myers in Florida on May 23, Freddy Garcia in Kansas City on June 8, and Jon Lieber in Cleveland on Wednesday.

But a makeshift bullpen that ranked second to last in the National League in ERA and a clutch pinch hit from Shane Victorino helped them close a road trip today with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

The Phillies won two of three against St. Louis and returned to Philadelphia with a split on the six-game trip, which started in Cleveland. They also remained three games behind the New York Mets in the National League East, with the Mets coming to town Friday for a four-game series.

"It's tough losing veterans because of their experience," said Victorino, referring to Saturday's news that Lieber could miss the rest of the season because of a ruptured tendon in his right foot. "But the people who have been called up have done the job."

At least they did today.

But it's not a recipe the Phillies prefer to follow in the future. Lefthander Cole Hamels lasted just three innings because of a 1-hour, 36-minute rain delay in the middle of the fourth inning.

But Madson and Brian Sanches, who replaced injured reliever Francisco Rosario on June 17, each threw two scoreless innings to take a 1-1 tie into the eighth inning. The Phillies loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth when manager Charlie Manuel sent Victorino to the plate to pinch-hit for Greg Dobbs.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa countered and called in lefthander Randy Flores from the bullpen.

Victorino, a switch-hitter, liked that. He entered the afternoon hitting .264 against lefthanders and .273 against righthanders, but he is a natural righthander.

"I definitely feel better from the right side," he said. "I'm not saying I feel that much greater. They probably thought that looking at my numbers I'm not hitting as well righthanded as lefthanded, so they made that decision. I guess it kind of worked out."

Flores threw Victorino a 3-2 breaking ball, which surprised him. But he also had enough time to foul it off to keep the at-bat alive. Flores followed with a fastball, and Victorino ripped a double to left-center field to clear the bases and hand the Phillies a 4-1 lead.

The Phils added an insurance run in the ninth.

But not until Clay Condrey, who replaced Lieber on the roster, threw a scoreless eighth.

The Phillies have used 15 relief pitchers this season, which speaks volumes about how many injuries they have suffered and how ineffective the pitching staff has been as a whole. The Phils continue to lead the league in runs scored, but ineffective pitching has prevented them from surpassing the struggling Mets.

Two unlikely candidates came up big in big situations today.

Sanches (1-0) picked up his first big-league victory. In two innings, he allowed no hits and just one walk. Condrey, who already has been designated for assignment and outrighted this season, needed just five pitches to get through the eighth.

"I think I was due for one of those," he said. "I'll take it."

Sanches said he got a game ball and the lineup card as souvenirs.

The actual ball that Antonio Alfonseca used to record the game's final out? No, he tossed that one into the stands. So Sanches got one of the balls that home-plate umpire Randy Marsh kept in the pouch around his waist.

"I knew what was at stake when the bases were loaded and Victorino was up," Sanches said with a smile.

Sanches could celebrate on the flight back to Philadelphia.

So could the Phillies.


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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