David Murphy: Phillies catch a late break

Ty Wiggington gets mobbed by teammates after his game-winning sacrifice fly in the ninth gave the Phillies a 7-6 win over the Brewers. STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Ty Wiggington gets mobbed by teammates after his game-winning sacrifice fly in the ninth gave the Phillies a 7-6 win over the Brewers. STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 25, 2012

FOR EIGHT INNINGS, the Phillies appeared to be continuing their voyage on the long and uncertain road toward 2013.

In the ninth, they took a detour.

Sparked by a revamped heart-of-the-order, the Phillies rallied from three runs down to beat the Brewers, 7-6, for the second dramatic victory in as many days.

"That's what we need," said Ryan Howard, who contributed to the rally with a two-run single off Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who had just allowed three straight one-out baserunners. "We definitely needed it. It's been that kind of year where that game, it's usually over."

For eight innings, the Phillies looked a lot like the team that fans at Citizens Bank Park have watched for most of the season. Roy Halladay, whose return from the disabled list was one of the reasons for optimism about a second-half surge, allowed six runs in six innings in his second start since a 7-week layoff for a lat strain. The veteran ace recorded just three strikeouts and surrendered a three-run home run to Carlos Gomez that gave Milwaukee a 6-2 lead in the fourth inning.

By that point, the Phillies were already playing two men down. Third baseman Placido Polanco was unavailable with a sore back, while centerfielder Shane Victorino left the game after being hit on the elbow in the bottom of the first (home plate umpire Tom Hallion ruled he swung at the pitch). The injury did not appear serious: Victorino finished his at-bat; manager Charlie Manuel said later Victorino was struck "on the crazy bone."

The Phillies entered the ninth trailing, 6-3, and were two outs from their 55th loss of the season when Rodriguez lost his command. Jimmy Rollins drew a walk, which was followed by a Juan Pierre single, then a walk to Chase Utley. That left the bases loaded for Howard, who in the the seventh inning had struck out looking in the same situation (although he and Utley did hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning). This time, Howard connected on a two-run single up the middle. Utley went first-to-third on the play, leaving runners at the corners and one out for Carlos Ruiz.

In the seventh, Ruiz had followed Howard's strikeout with a strikeout of his own to end the inning with the bases loaded. This time, he singled Utley home to tie the game.

After Rodriguez walked Hunter Pence to load the bases again, Manuel called on his only remaining bench player, Erik Kratz, to pinch-run for Howard at third. Ty Wigginton hit a line drive to leftfield, sending the backup catcher scrambling back to the base to tag up and sprint for home.

"Get in there any way I could," Kratz said. "That was the game plan."

He ended up diving head first, well ahead of an off-line throw.

The run touched off a rare celebration at Citizens Bank Park, following up on the victory Sunday, when the Phillies beat the Giants in the 12th inning on a walkoff single by Rollins. The Phils are only 19-29 at home this season, and 43-54 overall.

"It's good to see we can rally and come back," Manuel said. "I think that's a good sign. I think we've shown over the last couple days that we can still come from behind and win a game."

Ten games out of the last wild-card spot, they'll need to win plenty more. To do so will require a much more effective Halladay, who insisted after the game that his performance should not be cause for concern about his physical health.

"I feel good," said Halladay, who struck out three in his six innings. "The results aren't what I wanted, the execution wasn't what I wanted, but mechanically I feel good. I felt like my cutter wasn't where I want it and consistently wasn't as good, so obviously I have some work to do. But I feel 100 times better. It's one of those things where you don't want to overthink it. You want to take the small steps and correct those and not get overwhelmed."

Contact David Murphy at dmurphy@phillynews.com or on Twitter @HighCheese.

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