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.
2. Matt Stairs!
Date: October 13, 2008
With one mighty swing, everything changed.
Forty years old. Endless experience in major league baseball. Good teams that didn’t go far enough: The Expos of 1992 and ’93, the Athletics of the late 1990s. Bad teams that did nothing: The Royals of the 2000s. Never a moment that approached the pinch hit he’d be handed against the Dodgers in game four of the National League Championship Series.
The Phillies and Dodgers were tied. While the Phillies creeped out to an early lead, Los Angeles responded late. They got a few runs off Joe Blanton, then Casey Blake popped a mammoth shot that put the Dodgers ahead 4-3. A sacrifice added a run. The Phils were down two, close to a series tie, needing something to wake them up.
The Dodgers bullpen did their job until the eighth, with Hong-Chih Kuo in his second inning to pitch against lefties. Ryan Howard led off, and in a big spot, singled to center field. That brought in righty Corey Wade, but it wouldn’t matter. Pat Burrell popped out, but Shane Victorino found the groove, lasering a ball into the right field corner. It looked like a double, felt like a double, but somehow, kept going, and cleared the fence for a tie game. That woke ’em up.
Though Pedro Feliz lined out, Carlos Ruiz — a playoff MVP if there ever was — kept the inning alive with a single. That proved absolutely key. It turned the Phillies lineup and gave Charlie Manuel a chance to look into his bench, ready to make a giant contribution. Would it be Greg Dobbs? Sure, he was the best pinch hitter in baseball, but he had to be saved. Eric Bruntlett? Well now at a tie, it may be better to hold onto Bruntlett for a potential defensive replacement. Chris Coste? Can’t use the backup catcher. Maybe Geoff Jenkins? Or maybe Matt Stairs?
The decision came down to those two, and as Joe Torre elected hard- and high-throwing Jonathan Broxton as his next pitcher, Manuel knew what he had to do — point to the hard- and high-hitting Stairs.
He took a pitch. Then another. Then a strike. Then a close ball. Then, down three and one with Jimmy Rollins on deck, Broxton thought he could get Stairs with a fastball inside.
Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad move.
Stairs bit his lip, flinched, then locked in on the pitch. He began his swing, quick as the night, and connected with the ball at the most perfect spot — the absolute most perfect home run swing you have ever seen. The ball flew in majestic fashion, reaching its highest point on par with the “76” sign above the scoreboard. It landed in the back rows of the Dodger Stadium grandstand, some 420 feet away from home plate. It was Stairs’ first postseason homer, his 255th of his career, and the biggest one he’d ever hit.
The mighty swing gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead, and they wouldn’t let it go. JC Romero started the eighth and Brad Lidge finished it, then worked a scoreless ninth for one of the most tense wins in Phillies history. For Stairs, nothing would top it. Nothing would top getting his ass hammered that way. No, for that moment, Matt Stairs wrote his name into Phillies history. And we’ll never forget him for that.
The video: Stairs kills it
From the comments:
Jeffrey: Base hit! Baby steps, boys. Baby steps.
Dave: And now Vic will perform the GIDP….
Matty: Can Victorino put one in the right field bleachers? Please?
Manny: I like Stairs right now… let’s see
Matty: Broxton in a non-save situation? This is too good…..
Lou: the phillies have just won this series.