Phillies rally to beat Cubs

Posted: July 20, 2011

CHICAGO - The ball floated in the thick air toward the Phillies bullpen tucked in the small foul territory that is Wrigley Field. Brian Schneider was crouching there Tuesday night, catching Ryan Madson, and had the best view of it.

The backup catcher looked up, waved his right arm to will the ball fair in the ninth inning. When Michael Martinez's game-winning hit plopped on the outfield grass, Schneider's hand turned into a fist pump.

"Right away," Schneider said, "I knew."

This was a game that for seven innings looked like a sure Phillies loss, only to become a 4-2 comeback victory fueled by two clutch hits that marked win No. 60 in this fruitful season. The Phillies avoided losing two in a row for the first time in 45 days, plus the unthinkable: dropping two straight to the hapless Chicago Cubs with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee on the mound.

Instead, Martinez and Chase Utley doubled home all four runs in the final two innings and the Phillies stole another win.

"It's a game of luck," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Our offense, we definitely got some breaks."

The decisive hit was by Martinez, the seldom-used Rule 5 pick turned starting third baseman in the absence of Placido Polanco. Before July, Martinez had four RBIs. In 11 games this month, he has 11 RBIs. He said he is more relaxed at the plate since entering the lineup.

The go-ahead runs reached base ahead of him only because Ben Francisco outlasted a six-pitch, pinch-hit at-bat to single. And Jimmy Rollins, who also scored a run in the eighth, singled as well. Before Martinez's ball dropped in right field, they were more than halfway to their next base. Both scored easily.

"He hit it in a great place," Manuel said.

"The more I play," Martinez said through a translator, "the more comfortable I am."

There were obvious heroes such as Martinez and Utley, but the pitching of Lee and Michael Stutes should be remembered, too. Lee corrected an unsightly first two innings to finish six. Stutes threw 37 pitches in two innings of relief and carried the game to the ninth inning unscathed.

When Utley stepped to the plate in the eighth, he was hitless in his previous 15 at-bats and without an RBI since July 2. One low 88-m.p.h. Sean Marshall fastball erupted into a two-run double and a tie game. (Rollins and Martinez had singled to start the rally.)

The Phillies had a chance to take the lead once Utley stole third on a Howard strikeout, but a stonewall block of home plate by Cubs catcher Geovany Soto prevented the go-ahead run from scoring on Utley's legs. Victorino bounced one to a drawn-in Starlin Castro at shortstop. He fired a strike to Soto, who stuck his left leg over the plate. Utley's knees flew over the plate and Soto applied the tag.

The game was tied on that one hit only because Lee kept it close. His night began ominously. He needed 19 pitches to record just one out, and by then Chicago had a 2-0 lead. Reed Johnson led off with a double. Starlin Castro dunked the ball just beyond the left-field fence for a two-run homer on a first-pitch cutter.

The first two innings were laborious, requiring 48 Lee pitches. ("I was a little erratic," Lee said.) Unlike Halladay, he was spared by decreased humidity and a slight breeze blowing in. The game-time temperature was 11 degrees cooler than it had been 24 hours earlier, when the oppressive air forced Halladay's departure due to heat exhaustion.

That was crucial, because Lee rebounded and kept the Cubs from expanding the early advantage. He tossed only 41 pitches (or seven fewer than the first two innings) to navigate the final four frames. Only two innings later, once Lee was gone, did the runs arrive.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.

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