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.
7. Game of the year.
August 26, 2008
One-hundred and seventy-six games. Fourteen of them in do-or-die playoff situations. Four incredible wins in the World Series. But one game was more thrilling than all of them.
August 26, 2008. The day the Phillies-Mets rivalry became, proof-positive, the best rivalry in baseball.
It was a long Tuesday night. It started a little after 7 p.m., as Jose Reyes took out his 4-iron and teed off a lining triple against Jamie Moyer. A few singles and some wild pitching later, and the Mets had staked a 2-0 lead in the first. It was typical for the Metropolitians to do this — they were peaking at this point, with Reyes hitting the bags in the first and scoring runs like nothing else mattered. Though Rollins responded in the bottom with a leadoff double, the heavy hitters failed.
The Mets went back to work off Moyer. Damion Easley homered to make it 3-0. And in the third, Carlos Beltran and David Wright set up the rejuvenated Fernando Tatis. One swing later, and the Mets had a 6-0 lead. Goodbye, Jamie; goodbye, game.
danny: The Mets are such a better team than us except for their bullpen. Hell, if their bullpen wasn’t a joke, and ours wasnt having career years all around, we’re down like 5-10 games to them.
Griffin: to be fair, we weren’t winning that game anyway. oh well, Kendrick vs. Johan tomorrow!! ugh.
David, the Mets fan from Queens: Believe it or not, I am still not confident with a six-run lead when our bullpen will pitch AT LEAST three innings tonight. Do you hear me, my fellow Mets fans?
Now down 7-0, the Phils decided to start hitting Martinez. It started slowly — Shane Victorino reached on fielder’s choice, stole second, moved to third on a classic Jayson Werth blooper, then scored on a Pedro Feliz sacrifice fly. 7-1.
With Clay Condrey settling in, the Phils went back to work in the fifth. And it started with Condrey.
The mop-up righty hammered a double to start the fifth. Yes, a double. That brought up Rollins, looking to spark something — and he did. Boom, a shot to right, and it was 7-3. Things were starting to pick up.
Richie Allen: I told you..I told you..we are gonna win today…I guarantee it
Chase Utley walked, as Martinez started to wither. Though Pedro got a slumping Burrell to strike out, Ryan Howard wasn’t going down as easy. He cranked an opposite-field blast — his league-leading 35th — to make it 7-5. Now it was a game, setting up a new matchup: The best bullpen in the National League vs. the most troubled relief corps.
The Phillies turned to new acquisition Scott Eyre, who proved his worth with a stellar 1.2 innings. The Mets went with Brian Stokes, who slung a strong two frames. But in the eighth, Mets manager Jerry Manuel decided to turn to his veterans, men who the Phillies just knew how to hit.
First, Duaner Sanchez. Goggles lasted one out, until a Carlos Ruiz single lifted him. In came Pedro Feliciano, who surrendered a single by pinch-hitting Chris Coste (remember, this is the eighth). A Rollins single (his fifth hit in five tries) brought home Ruiz. 7-6. Joe Smith finally finished it, securing a one-run lead with new closer Luis Ayala coming on board.
But before the Phils could attempt to tie the game, they had to salvage the top of the ninth. One man remained on the bench: Eric Bruntlett. But Charlie Manuel didn’t want to waste Bruntlett’s bat. At the time, we all wondered, “Why? Who cares?” but clearly, Manuel knew better. Instead of bringing in Bruntlett, he kept Coste as catcher and moved Ruiz to third base. A move like that makes it a once-in-a-lifetime game.
The move paid off in spades. Ruiz saw nothing in the ninth, as Brad Lidge recorded a 1-2-3 frame. And in the bottom, finally, Bruntlett got his chance.
It didn’t come easy. A Howard flyout and Burrell groundout put the Phils against the wall. Up stepped Werth, who kept it alive with a single. That brought up the pitcher’s spot, and Manuel made his move to Bruntlett.
“Line drive to right center!”
I didn’t think it. You didn’t think it. Nobody thought it. Sure, I said, “He’d need a double here, but a good double. But Bruntlett?” but I didn’t really think it. How could I? And yet, Bruntlett stroked a perfectly-placed double, Werth got the green light, and Easley’s throw — while very good — was a touch off for Brian Schnieder. Tie game. 7-7.
J-Man: Definitly one of the best games i’ve seen in awhile…Well here comes Madson to blow it.
Then came extra innings. While Ryan Madson extinguished the Mets easily, the Phils threatened against Aaron Heilman, but couldn’t deliver. Rollins had a chance, Howard had a chance, Burrell had a chance. But nothing.
Until the 13th. After Manuel exhausted his bullpen, the Mets had Scott Schoeneweis. And Victorino greeted him with a smoked liner into right field. Landing on third, Vic set up the Phils for a big win. The Mets countered by walking the bases loaded. And with nobody left on the bench to pinch hit, Manuel turned to pitcher Brett Myers.
Call it a precursor to his gigantic at bat against CC Sabathia in the division series, because Myers tapped into his big-game persona, heroically standing in as if he wanted to bash one out of the park. Instead, he took pitch after pitch, almost … almost … working a game-winning walk. While he struck out, it riled the crowd and roughed the Mets.
Evan: That was the worst pitching/at bat I’ve ever seen in major league ball.
Up stepped Coste, who despite entering in the eighth, had three hits in his stat line. Assuredly, Coste locked in and smoked a ball deep into center field. No need to be dramatic — the distance itself secured the winning run. 8-7 final. Phillies win. Exhausting, exhilirating, it was the best win of the season, the best game of the season. It featured big offense, clutch hitting, fine pitching, tense moments, heated fan reactions, great defense, awesome tactical moves, big payoffs. Simply put, it’s why we watch and love the game.
And it’s why this rivarly is the best there is.
The video: Coste ends it