Phillies score two in ninth to win

Posted: June 22, 2012

By the time Hunter Pence crushed a fastball to left in the ninth inning Wednesday, much of the smallest announced crowd of the season at Citizens Bank Park - 43,729 - had departed. So there was a noticeable hush as the ball hung in the hazy air. Once it thudded off the green wall, there was a hint of magic again.

Then Carlos Ruiz drew an intentional walk, Shane Victorino hustled for an infield single, and Placido Polanco ran so hard after tapping a bouncer that a discombobulated Todd Helton could not step on first base before the 36-year-old Dominican.

It was a 7-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies, and finally, the Phillies had a comeback victory.

"Hopefully, that's a good omen," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Maybe that's what we needed to do."

They did it in dramatic fashion while down to their final out in the ninth after Jonathan Papelbon turned a tie game into a what looked like a sure defeat.

Afterward, there was relief, but also confidence from a team beaten so many ways a mere 70 games into 2012. This time, the Phillies found a new way to win. They are 2-9 when tied after eight innings.

Polanco raised both arms in the air and jumped twice when first-base umpire Alfonso Marquez signaled safe. Papelbon was the first teammate to reach him, and good vibes spilled onto the field from the home dugout.

"I thought I was out all the way," Polanco said, "then when I was close to the bag I saw that he was off the bag and I had a chance."

Helton should have made the play and was charged with a decisive error. At first, Helton said, he believed Polanco's ball had skipped to the outfield. Then he realized shortstop Marco Scutaro had it and figured he would flip to second. There wasn't enough time for Helton to catch the ball and find first base.

"It was a bad situation," Helton said. "I should have been on the bag and it should have been an out. It was my fault."

With two outs in the ninth, it looked dead - just as many Phillies games have during this charmless season. Ty Wigginton poked a single to left and easily scored the tying run on Pence's drive to left off Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt.

Ruiz was intentionally walked before Victorino's speed loaded the bases for Polanco. Manuel's team is scoring more than any National League club since May 1, but the manager saw plenty of room for improvement before Wednesday's win.

"It's been hard for us to play late in the game," he said.

His wish was granted. It helps when the opponent is the morose Rockies, likely relegated to a summer of irrelevancy.

"We gave them five outs in the ninth inning," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. "That's pretty much what it boils down to."

Joe Blanton gave the Rockies three home runs, marking the eighth consecutive start he surrendered a long ball. Only Randy Wolf, Bruce Chen, Dennis Cook, and Don Carman have endured longer streaks in Phillies history. In Blanton's first six starts, opposing hitters managed only one home run. They have belted 16 in his previous eight outings.

"I felt in control the whole game," Blanton said after his ERA ballooned to 5.04.

It was a night for offense. The ingredients in addition to Blanton were a stifling heat (temperature at first pitch was 95 degrees) and a dreadful Rockies pitching staff. Without five competent starters, Tracy is experimenting with a four-man rotation. His starters are capped at 75 pitches, and once Alex White hit that mark Wednesday, his night was done. He recorded 11 outs.

That's when Colorado started posting zeroes. Jeremy Guthrie, so bad in 2012 he forced Tracy to reinvent the modern game, tossed three scoreless innings. It made a rally look impossible until the Phillies conjured spirits of old.

"We were that team," Victorino said. "We can do that. We have the capability of doing that. It's just a matter of us sticking it out."

For one night, they could say they did.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @magelb.

|
|
|
|
|