Phillies' Adams has been been better than expected

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mike Adams has been strong out of the bullpen this season.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mike Adams has been strong out of the bullpen this season.
Posted: May 30, 2014

A HALF-HOUR later, Mike Adams was still quivering. Want a double dose of adrenaline? Try facing the hottest hitter in the National League in the seventh inning of a tie game with runners on second and third. That was Adams last night. He had the option to walk Troy Tulowitzki with a base open. No chance.

"I'm not going to back down from nobody," Adams said. "I'm not scared."

He busted Tulowitzki inside, then stayed away, fooling him into an awkward swing on an 0-2 curveball to escape a jam he had inherited from Antonio Bastardo with the bases loaded and nobody out. After the game, he fumbled with his shoelaces, then stood up to accept a man-hug from Ryan Howard.

"Great job," said the slugger, who did a pretty nice job of his own, knocking a walkoff home run off Boone Logan after Chase Utley tied the game with single with two outs in the ninth.

The heroics might not have happened if not for Adams. When manager Ryne Sandberg went to the mound to fetch Bastardo and signaled for his trusted righty, he knew it was for the game.

"That was a closer situation right there," Sandberg said after the Phillies' dramatic victory. "Our backs were up against the wall."

Flashback . . .

It was the middle of March when Adams stood at the edge of a practice field in Clearwater, Fla., and made it clear the he did not want to be That Guy. You know the one. Chances are, you've booed him, or cursed him on the television screen. This city has seen plenty of athletes sign big-money contracts and then fade into oblivion. Heck, Adams has seen them.

"I don't want to be one of those guys who stole money," Adams said.

At the time, there was plenty of reason to be skeptical. Not of the veteran reliever's intentions - you could hear the sense of duty in the inflection of his voice - but of his wherewithal. This was a high-mileage, 35-year-old reliever attempting to return from shoulder surgery. In the early stages of his recovery, even Adams wondered whether it was possible.

Yet there he was, last night, jogging through centerfield en route from the bullpen, the bases loaded and nobody out and three of the hottest hitters in the land waiting for their chance to bust a tie game open. First came Carlos Gonzalez, who took a fastball for a ball, then shot a slider back to the pitcher's mound, where Adams gloved it and threw home, starting a 1-2-3 doubleplay. With runners on second and third, Tulowitzki checked into the game as a pinch-hitter. The pivotal sequence: 91-mph fastball for a called strike, cutter fouled off, and then a 78-mph curveball that prompted an awkward swing and miss.

Adams pumped his fist.

"That was fun," he said. "That was the most fun I've had in a while."

His fellow pitcher almost spoiled it. Bastardo walked the bases full and left it to Adams. Then, in the eighth, lefty Jake Diekman threw a 3-2 slider to D.J. LeMahieu that resulted in a go-ahead, solo home run. Some would argue the situation crystalized the Phillies' need for a second righthanded strikeout arm to supplement Adams. While Diekman has earned Sandberg's trust, he is still something of a liability against righthanded hitters. Heading into last night, righties were hitting .271/.366/.458 against him, with two home runs, three doubles, a triple, 10 walks and 22 strikeouts in 59 at-bats. Lefties: .118/.118/.206, one extra-base hit (a home run), 13 strikeouts, no walks.

Sandberg brushed off that angle, chalking the outcome up to poor pitch selection.

For once, it did not matter. Utley singled, Howard homered, the Phillies won the series. Adams, meanwhile, continued to surpass even the most reasonable of expectations for his return. In 15 1/3 innings, he has 18 strikeouts and four walks with only four earned runs allowed. Including last night's clutch performance, Adams has stranded all eight of the runners that he has inherited this season.

"He's on a roll," Sandberg said. "He's used to that."

Give Adams credit. If he's stealing money, the Phillies need a few more thieves on their staff.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy


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