Today the Phillies accomplished what has been eluding them for the past few days – a win in extra innings. The game was billed as a pitcher’s duel and did not disappoint for the first few innings. Roger Clemens, on the mound for Houston, pitched five innings allowing just one hit (to Cole Hamels) and recording six strikeouts. He got himself into trouble in the fourth when he loaded the bases with a walk to Shane Victorino, a Chase Utley HBP, and then another walk to Howard. Pat Burrell helped out the Rocket with one of his signature caught-looking strikeouts in which he sticks his rear out of the batters box trying to fish for an inside ball call. Clemens then plunked Jeff Conine to give the Phils a 1-0 lead, but then Chris Coste promptly grounded into a double play. During his 1-2-3 fifth, Clemens apparently strained his right groin and was pulled in favor of a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth. Charlton Jimerson, the hitter, then launched a bomb into Asburn Alley straight over the 409 feet sign in his first major league at bat. Aubrey Huff added another solo shot in the eighth, but they were Cole Hamels’ only mistakes of the day.
Hamels pitched masterfully, allowing just three hits over eight innings while striking out eight and walking none. Today’s outing was certainly another step towards Hamels becoming a Phillies ace. Pitching in a game with playoff implications, opposite a Hall of Famer, he remained focused and kept balls over the plate while making them unhittable at the same time. He was aided just enough by the Phillies offense, most notably its two future leaders. Ryan Howard, who experienced regular standing ovations throughout the day, hit his 53rd homer of the year in the sixth – a line drive shot to right field. In the eighth with JRoll on second, the Phillies had a chance to take the lead as Utley came to the plate. My prediction at the time was that Utley would strike out and set the stage for Ryan Howard to lead off the ninth with a walk-off homer. Utley struck out, but Howard was intentionally walked in the ninth and the Phillies eventually left the based loaded as Charlie Manuel relieved the bench of inept pinch hitters. Fortunately, Utley atoned for his earlier strikeout and again left Ryan Howard in the on deck circle. His walk-off blast, which gave the Phils the 3-2 victory, was only his fourth home run since July 30th. Hopefully, this return to clutchness will catalyze another one of his hitting streaks to catapult the Phils into the playoffs. The Phillies and fans will also find hope from the scene after the fourth inning, a healthy Tom Gordon trotting out to the bullpen; though it must be said, the Phillies bullpen pitched well today. Click here or on the pictures for a slideshow from the game.
The Phillies win combined with a Padres victory means the Fightins now stand one and a half game out of the Wild Card. Tomorrow’s game will showcase a lefty duel as the undefeated (3-0) Randy Wolf faces the 13-13 Andy Pettitte. The game will be preceded by another one of Phillies Nation’s awesome tailgate parties. If you’re coming to the game, or even if you’re not, head down to the Lincoln Financial Field Parking Lot around 3 o’clock. We will be occupying the cozy concrete median which separates section K and L – refer to this map if you’re not familar. It’s a Phillies’ college night tomorrow, so if you don’t have tickets yet, roll on over to Phillies.com and enter WILD into the promotions box when purchasing tickets to receive a discount. If you plan on coming, you can RSVP here or send us an email and I would suggest contributing snacks and drinks though some will be provided. So clear your schedule for tomorrow and head on down for a fun afternoon outside the park and an exciting night inside. Go Phils!
UPDATE: Phillies game tonight is rained out….the tailgate party is unfortunately postponed. No word yet on the rescheduled date, but I will be at tomorrow’s game if anyone is interested in partying.