Kratz, Mayberry lift Phillies over Braves

Posted: September 01, 2012

ATLANTA - He could stand to tell the latest chapter of this storybook season, and that was worth a smile for Erik Kratz. A future Hall of Famer had launched his shoulder into Kratz's neck just as a throw from center field popped into his mitt.

"If it was up the line at all," Kratz said, "I might be dead."

Kratz laughed because that was not even his finest accomplishment in a dramatic 8-5 Phillies victory over the Braves in 10 innings. This could ultimately be remembered as the night Kratz secured a major-league job for 2013 by drilling a game-tying home run and withstanding a bone-crushing crash. Just weeks ago, that was a ludicrous idea.

Now, a big-league manager is saying things like: "Do I see him on our roster? Yeah. What catcher does as much as Kratz?"

Charlie Manuel beamed as he discussed his newfound power threat in the form of a 32-year-old journeyman rookie catcher. John Mayberry Jr. won it in the 10th with a three-run blast, but what Kratz did against Craig Kimbrel was as shocking as any event in baseball this season.

Kimbrel threw a slider for strike two to Kratz, and that should have been that. A batter had faced an 0-2 count against Kimbrel 98 times in three seasons. He allowed a mere eight hits (all singles) and struck out 75.

Then he threw Kratz a 99 m.p.h. fastball, and good luck trying to explain what happened next.

"I faced him in the minor leagues before and obviously he's a guy with two great pitches," Kratz said. "I was trying to sit on one of them. I was able to get one a little elevated."

Kratz has homered eight times in only 92 at-bats.

Even as Roy Halladay was humbled yet again, Kratz allowed Phillies fans to smile. Halladay, who pitched Friday while sick, grinned when discussing Kratz.

"He's shown he deserves and can play at this level," Halladay said.

The team was unaware of Halladay's illness until the third inning, when the pitcher revealed it to Rich Dubee. The pitching coach asked Halladay if he could keep pitching. The answer twice was yes.

The results said no.

"I was just kind of zapped when I got out there," Halladay said.

Halladay seethed in the fifth inning when Martin Prado slammed an 0-2 fastball that floated. Prado stepped on second base as Halladay retrieved a new ball from the umpire. Halladay spiked the rosin bag when Prado reached third. Before Prado touched home, Halladay slapped his glove with his right hand.

When the scene repeated three batters later - a two-run shot by Freddy Freeman - the red-faced Halladay's game was over. It was the third time in 85 Phillies starts he failed to complete five innings.

Before he rocked Kimbrel, Kratz helped Halladay dodge trouble only because he's built like a tight end.

With two outs in the fifth, Mayberry charged a Paul Janish single up the middle and fired a strike home. At that very moment, Jones launched his shoulder into Kratz's neck, which propelled a mass of humanity to the dirt.

"He hit me kind of hard," Kratz said.

Kratz stood up, grabbed his helmet, and flipped over his catcher's mitt to reveal the white pearl. Home-plate umpire Mark Carlson signaled out as Halladay slapped Kratz on the back.

"He's Thor," Kevin Frandsen would later say.

While so much has soured for these Phillies, Kratz's magical season continues.


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

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