Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.
For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.
Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.
Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.
19. Playoff baseball!
Date: August 3, 2008
During a regular season, playoff teams play games that, naturally, feel like playoff games. Two teams take sides, exercise clutch hitting, superb defense, gutsy putching, even solid managerial skills. It happens very rarely — there are about a dozen or so of these games each season in the entire league. The Phils happened to play two of these games. One we’ll get to later. But this one, now.
ESPN was in Saint Louis for its Sunday Night Baseball telecast, as the Phils readied against the Cardinals under the Gateway Arch. Brett Myers was set for his biggest test since returning from the minor leagues. The Cards boasted a fine offense, and Myers was coming off a solid start against Washington. Previously in the series, the Cards bashed Cole Hamels, but Joe Blanton tied the set with a solid game-two performance. Game three had all the potential to be a great game.
The Cardinals skated to an early lead off Myers, as Troy Glaus singled home Ryan Ludwick, on a tear at the time. Need proof? He homered in the fourth, making it 2-0 Cards. Other than those hiccups, Myers pitched well, throwing 46 of his 64 pitches for strikes in a six-inning, no-walk performance. He’d need some help, however.
And he got it, thanks to the team’s best player. Chase Utley knocked his 28th home run off St. Louis starter Todd Wellemyer (remember him?) in the sixth inning. But the Cards would keep the Phils at bay.
That’s when it got hot. Between the seventh and ninth innings, Tony LaRussa used six pitchers. Once Wellemyer walked Pat Burrell, Ron Villone came in and got Shane Victorino to fly out. But he walked Greg Dobbs. In came Kyle McClellan, who struck out Chris Coste and induced a groundout by So Taguchi to end the seventh.
After Chad Durbin worked a scoreless seventh, the Phils started the eighth with a sembelance of a rally. With one out, Jayson Werth singled. LaRussa went back to the phone, bringing in Jaime Garcia. He got Utley to ground into a fielder’s choice, but couldn’t’ retire Ryan Howard, who singled to keep the inning alive. With Pat Burrell on deck, LaRussa went to righty Russ Springer.
Bad move. Burrell singled to tie the game.
Next came Shane Victorino. And he made LaRussa pay even more for bringing in Springer, bashing a homer to right field for the 5-2 lead. Suddenly, the Phils were a Romero-Lidge six-inning parlay away from a big Sunday night victory.
But Charlie Manuel elected to stick with Durbin, who let up a leadoff single. Then came Romero, who this time, couldn’t fulfill his role. He balked, moving the runner to second. After a groundout to move the runner to third, Nick Stavinoha grounded one to Howard. What do you think happened? Run in. 5-3. After Romero hit John Mather with a pitch, he was finished, bringing in Ryan Madson. After walking Albert Pujols, the bases were sacked for the dangerous Ryan Ludwick.
And in one of the biggest plays of the year, Madson induced the 5-4-3 double play from Ludwick, ending the inning and eighth-inning threat.
But that wasn’t the end. With nobody out in the ninth, Brad Lidge faced Troy Glaus, and Glaus beat him. Home run to deep left. 5-4.
With one out, Lidge started to unravel. Aaron Miles singled. Rick Ankiel singled. Cezar Izturis hit by a pitch. Bases jacked. One out. One run down.
But in the highest-tension save of the regular season, Lidge buckled down, centered his chi, found his groove, and sat down a green Stavinoha, then made Mather look silly to end the game. When we finally recovered, we saw the Phils had won, 5-4, in one of the best games of the year. Truly a playoff-type game.
The video: Shane Victorino takes it out
From the comments:
Greg V.: This game is crap! The Phils must be on their way to a record when it comes to leaving runners in scoring position!
NEPA: I hate LaRussa’s over management bullshit.
keith: fucking victorino, who thought it would be good to trade him, he has been awesome the last month or two
Greg V.: I need a shot! Jack Daniels all around!