Cardinals' ugly eighth inning a beautiful thing for Phillies

Phillies' Placido Polanco lets out a yell after being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning last night.
Phillies' Placido Polanco lets out a yell after being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning last night. (Associated Press)
Posted: June 22, 2011

ST. LOUIS - Glaciers have melted, nations have fallen, Middle Eastern conflicts have been resolved in less time than it took the Cardinals' bullpen to finish the eighth inning last night.

But all Charlie Manuel really cares about is the result.

"We kind of waited a long time," the Phillies manager said after his team scored nine runs in a 45-minute eighth inning for one of the more unusual 10-2 victories you will see. "Anytime you can score runs, that's encouraging. That's kind of the way I look at it."

History will record the result as a much-needed victory for the Phillies, who were swept by the Cardinals in a two-game series in May and had just arrived from dropping two out of three in Seattle.

As for any further evidence of last night's events, the world will probably be a better place if it is promptly destroyed.

The Cardinals had just taken a 2-1 lead on a sacrifice fly by Skip Schumaker when the eighth inning began. Up to that point, the Phillies' offense had produced only five hits. In fact, in 25 innings against the Cardinals in 2011, they had managed only two runs and 15 hits, only two of them for extra bases. With a runner in scoring position in the seventh, Manuel decided it might be his last chance to score, so he removed starter Roy Halladay and watched Ross Gload tie the game at 1-1 with a pinch-hit single.

The righthander had thrown only 97 pitches, allowing one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts. But the Phillies had a runner in scoring position, and Gload came through.

It was the first time since Opening Day that Halladay did not pitch into the seventh. But the Cardinals retook the lead in the bottom of the seventh, getting a one-out walk, single and sacrifice fly against rookie righthander Michael Stutes.

Then came the eighth, and 64 pitches of sheer brutality.

In a performance that defied any known synonym for the word "ugly," the Phillies essentially stood at home plate and watched as a litany of St. Louis relievers pitched themselves out of a victory.

Nearly 45 minutes and five pitching changes later, the Phillies had scored nine runs, despite managing only five hits, all of them singles.

The Cardinals walked four, and hit two batters with pitches, including one that struck Placido Polanco on the left hand and knocked him out of the game. The veteran third baseman downplayed the injury, saying that he was just a little sore and that he could probably play today. X-Rays on his pinkie were negative.

In addition to the pitch that hit Polanco, Ryan Howard was hit by a fastball (after Tony La Russa replaced lefty Trever Miller with righty Jason Motte), and Carlos Ruiz and Michael Martinez drew bases-loaded walks to drive runs home. Ben Francisco, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Howard all contributed run-scoring singles.

The official time of the inning: 43 minutes, 26 seconds.

"I've never seen an inning with that many pitching changes," said Francisco, whose single to left gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead. "It was kind of crazy. They brought the righty in to face Howard, and then he hit Howard, and then we had some good at-bats."

It was only the second time in the integration era that the Phillies scored 10 runs without an extra-base hit. The result was a victory that moved them to 46-28, 4 1/2 games ahead of the Braves in the NL East.

The Phillies are hoping that everything is as it seems and that Polanco will not miss any time because of Motte's errant pitch. Polanco has had problems with his left elbow since April of last season, when Tim Hudson hit him with a pitch in a game in Atlanta. Polanco had offseason surgery to remove bone spurs, leaving him feeling healthy in spring training. But he hyperextended the joint during a Grapefruit League game, and Manuel said yesterday he has had soreness in the arm and in other parts of his body throughout the season.

Manuel also said Polanco has had some back and hip soreness, although nothing too serious.

"Just aches and pains," he said.

Phillers

Righthander Vance Worley will start Saturday's game against the Athletics, sending righthander Kyle Kendrick back to the bullpen. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said he likes Worley in a starting role, and wants to see him get a regular turn . . . Charlie Manuel held a pregame chat in his office with legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight, a frequent visitor to Busch Stadium.

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.

Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HighCheese.

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