As we reach the end of 2007, I thought it would be nice to look back at the year that was, and what made me, you, and everyone in Phillies Nation … well … love the Phillies.
Let’s put it simply: There were a slew of amazing moments. From the NL East clincher to every late-inning rally and last-at-bat win, the Phillies were maybe the most exciting team in baseball in 2007. Hopefully, you’ll have as much fun and enjoyment looking back, reading these snippets, as I did writing them.
Here’s my list of the top-20 moments in Phillie Phandom (2007 version). First, the five that just missed out:
25. May 23: Despite losing Myers, Phils beat Marlins in extras.
24. April 23: Rollins’ league leading seventh homer helps Phils pound Astros.
23. June 6: Rollins’ homer ties game; Phils win 4-2 over Mets.
22. April 21: Hamels strikes out 15 and goes complete against Reds.
21. May 15: Carlos Ruiz slams home a win for Phillies.
20. June 19: Welcome to the show, “3 in 6.”
Kyle Kendrick started 2007 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in AA Reading. You know, a pretty good campaign, nothing outstanding, nothing to think he’d be a Top-10 prospect kind of guy.
But a funny thing happened: The Phils prized acquisition of the offseason, Freddy Garcia, mercifully went on the DL for good. The rotation was depleted, with Brett Myers in the bullpen and Jon Lieber on the DL, Kendrick became a necessary option. Nothing about him said he’d be anything more than a 6 IP, 3 ER guy on a good day. But guess what? Kendrick had a good day almost every time out there.
It started against – of all teams – the Cleveland Indians. Kendrick wasn’t pretty, but he got the job done without damage in a 9-6 win. The offense provided enough backing to win the game for young KK, all 22 years of him. And Kendrick was on his way to a solid 10-4 rookie season – one with a slew of good starts (75 percent of the time he went 6 IP with only one game of 5 ER). Welcome aboard, “3 in 6.”
19. May 12: Rain, rain, go away, Greg Dobbs, make ’em pay.
A soggy day at Citizens Bank Park made a Phillies/Cubs tilt proceed with doubt. But behind a strong start by Garcia (surprise), the Phils held a 5-1 lead going into the seventh inning. (Note: Garcia even had an RBI double in the contest.) Then, the real Freddy Garcia showed up, and began unraveling. Meanwhile, the rain pounded hard from the sky, making fans uncomfortable and players antsy. It showed. The Cubs began slaughtering Garcia and reliever Geoff Geary, putting six on the board to take the lead, 7-5, as the umpires called action and started the rain delay.
With the delay and the blown lead taking a toll on fans, many left.
Once the delay ended, the Phils picked up their whoopin’ sticks. Spotting Chicago two outs, Aaron Rowand singled. Then Chase Utley doubled, scoring Rowand on an error. Then Pat Burrell walked. Then the Great Greg Dobbs struck a triple, scoring two and grabbing the Phils the lead. Then Abraham Nunez singled home Dobbs. Then, finally, came Carlos Ruiz, who slammed a homer, scoring two and putting the Phils way out in front.
When the dust – or condensation – settled, Dobbs was 4-for-4, Ruiz was 3-for-3 and Nunez was 2-for-4. And the rain couldn’t stop the Phils from winning.
18. July 22: “The Real Deal” lives up to his moniker.
For JD Durbin, 2007 wasn’t looking peachy. The journey-boy righthander was Minnesota property until March, when he was placed on waivers. Then Arizona grabbed him. They didn’t like him, so they dropped him back onto waivers, where, a week later, Boston grabbed him. They didn’t like him as well, so they dropped him. Luckily for Durbin, the Phillies don’t have great pitching. A few days later: Welcome aboard, “The Real Deal.”
Durbin was part of the revolving door of No. 5 starters, and for a while, he didn’t seem to hold up well. One day was a solid outing of Kendrick-like proportions; the next start was an atrocious, Eaton-like outing. Who knew what to get with “The Real Deal.”
The Padres certainly didn’t know.
Durbin strode to the mound July 22 and took complete advantage of cavernous PETCO Park. He threw 71 strikes out of 109 pitches, but threw a good amount of fly balls. Luckily, PETCO pushed the flies to harmless pops, and Durbin cruised. The punchless Pads had no answer for JD, and the youngster found himself on the brink of a complete game, shutout.
In the ninth, he allowed a leadoff single to Adrian Gonzalez. A grounder by Mike Cameron looked like a double play, but a rare Utley error made it one out, runner on second. So Durbin did what any good pitcher would do â€” go with his strengths. He made the next two batters fly balls into the deep outfield, securing his first ever great game. Durbin went crazy on the mound, and why not? Drink it up, “Real Deal,” it may be the best you ever do.
17. April 29: The grizzled veteran has the last laugh.
April wasn’t a great month for the Phillies. At 10-13, the Phils were in fourth place in the NL East and mirroring their great lost Aprils of the past. From the ashes, however, came a guiding light, in the form of a 44-year-old grizzled vet throwing slopballs and turtle-quick changeups.
The Florida Marlins were in town, finishing up a three-game set, and the kiddies were looking to put the Phils away. But they weren’t ready for the grizzled vet, Mr. Jamie Moyer.
With teeth clenched and eyes cast wearily, Old Moyer tossed sloppy fastball after sloppy fastball and crawling changeup after crawling changeup, baffling the Fish into weak fly balls and horrid strikeouts. All the while, the fans grew more excited. Somehow, some way, the grizzled vet was doing something special. With each out, he was getting closer to a no hitter. Could it be? Could it be?
It wasn’t to be. All World Super Hitter Miguel Cabrera ended the charade with a double in the top of the seventh. You’d be crazy if you didn’t think the fans went crazy for Old Moyer at that point. Well, Old Moyer had them all fooled. Leading off the bottom of the seventh, the grizzled vet dug in and grounded a sharp one through the hole in left field. Busting down the line like a man 20 years his junior (how about Cabrera?), Moyer came in with a double. Hey, forget the no hitter, this guy’s a gamer. One hell of a gamer. It was only appropriate he gave the last teeth-clenching performance of the Phils great season, a six-inning maneuver to beat the Nats and win the crown.
Go ahead, Old Moyer, go on and go ahead.
16. August 29: Sorry, Marlon, but you’re out.
Game three of that Great Late-August Series had everything – big plays, great defense, huge hits, runner’s interference …
The Mets took an early lead off Moyer with a David Wright home run. But the Phils came right back, thanks to MVP Rollins and Burrell, each knocking a homer to make it 2-1 Pinstripes. Though the Mets would tie the game at 2, Moyer would pitch well to go six strong.
In the bottom of the fifth, Moyer led off with a key walk. Rollins singled him to second, and Tadahito Iguchi singled him to third. With the bases jammed, Burrell knocked a fly ball to left field – just deep enough to score Moyer and give the Phillies the lead. They’d turn to the bullpen in the seventh.
JC Romero and Tom Gordon did their jobs, and Myers came in for the ninth. After striking out Carlos Delgado, Paul LoDuca rips a single to right field. Marlon Anderson comes into the game with Endy Chavez, the former pinch hitting, the latter pinch running. The latter singles to right, and Werth holds the quick Chavez at third.
That sets up the moment:
Shawn Green dribbles one to shortstop. Myers leaps, thinking, maybe, the game might end here. Rollins has to charge to grab it. He takes it and wings one to Iguchi. There’s no way Green’s getting called out. As Chavez steps on the plate, Iguchi takes Rollins’ throw and is taken out by a suspect slide by Anderson. Iguchi’s throw bounces about after he’s upended, and umpire CB Bucknor wastes no time.
“That’s interference,” notes Chris Wheeler.
He points at Anderson, calls interference, then motions to first, calling Green out.
The game is over.
Anderson is furious, as are the Met players, but it doesn’t matter. The Phillies celebrate the win, another step closer to the Mets. It sets up one of the greatest games of the sports year.
Part two coming tomorrow.