Victorino leads Phils past Mets in ninth

Posted: July 05, 2008

Fourth of July fireworks exploded in the distance as Shane Victorino stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning last night.

With one swing of the bat, Victorino brought the pyrotechnics into Citizens Bank Park.

Victorino's RBI single to right scored Pedro Feliz with the winning run as the Phillies opened a 10-game homestand and a key four-game series against the New York Mets with a 3-2 win.

It was as big a win as a team can have with half a season remaining.

The Mets came to town ready to make a move on the first-place Phils. They had their ace, Johan Santana, on the mound. The Phillies countered with rookie J.A. Happ in his second big-league start.

Happ kept his team in the game, and the bullpen trio of Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge was extraordinary as the Phils won their fourth consecutive game, all against National League East competition.

"I don't know if you could say it was a must-win, but it was definitely big," Victorino said. "They're trying to come after us and close the gap. They had their No. 1 guy on the mound, but you have to tip your cap to the guy who pitched for us. He went right after their hitters."

Happ was sharp through four innings but lost command in the fifth. He allowed two hits and walked three in the inning as the Mets broke a scoreless tie with two runs.

Happ left with the bases loaded, and Durbin came on and struck out Carlos Beltran to put out the fire.

The bullpen, which entered with the lowest ERA in the majors (2.66), pitched 41/3 scoreless innings.

Durbin was masterful, striking out six of the seven batters he faced and lowering his ERA to 1.50.

The Phillies managed only a pair of singles against Santana over the first five innings.

Trailing by 2-0, they finally broke through against the lefthander in the sixth. Jayson Werth and Chase Utley hit one-out singles, and Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell drove them in with two-out singles.

"To come back against their ace was huge," Victorino said. "We're an exciting team. We're fun. We battle."

Santana, who hasn't won in more than a month despite pitching well, handed off to reliever Duaner Sanchez in the ninth. Sanchez struck out Howard and Burrell for the first two outs.

But Feliz kept the inning alive with a two-out double, and the crowd of 44,922 held its breath, then exploded in delight as Victorino stroked a 1-2 fastball to right field for the win.

Victorino pumped his fists in jubilation as he rounded first, then was mobbed by his teammates, who gave him an old-fashioned beat-down.

Victorino reported no bruising but warned that teammate Kyle Kendrick should keep his head up. Apparently, Kendrick delivered a few good shots to the ribs.

"It was a good way to get out of the gate," manager Charlie Manuel said of the victory. "We had a big crowd, and they were into it. They were loud. The guys in the dugout were really sold on winning this game."

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Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or

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