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.
15. Houston, we have a comeback!
Date: April 15, 2008
Early season victories are normally overlooked in the scope of a season. Especially in the scope of a championship season. When the most recent victories came in the heat of battle, in a crucial do-or-die setting, fans won’t quite remember the rigors of April and May, those months when teams are still stepping lightly, testing rosters, configuring lineups. But sometimes, the early victories tell even more than the very last ones.
Take April 15, at home, against the Houston Astros, for instance. For eight innings, the game was purely lost for the Phillies. It was actually one of Adam Eaton’s better starts, but he was hit early. Miguel Tejada capped off a two-out rally with a run-scoring single to make it 1-0 Astros. Meanwhile, the bats were cold against Houston starter Shawn Chacon, poking only four hits off the converted reliever. It seemed ridiculous, but that’s baseball.
A 1-0 deficit turned into a 3-0 deficit with another turn through the heart of the Houston order. Geoff Blum singled home Lance Berkman, and Hunter Pence brought Carlos Lee home with a sacrifice fly. Meanwhile, Chacon continued to dazzle, baffling Phillie hitters into every kind of out possible. The game seemed all but finished. It was painfully obvious the Phils would drop a game to Shawn Chacon. Ridiculous.
The Astros turned to closer Jose Valverde to protect a 3-0 lead, with Chacon having thrown 109 pitches. And Valverde had the 2-3-4 hitters to face. But they had slumped all night, so it couldn’t be that difficult, right?
Pinch hitting for Carlos Ruiz (Yes, Ruiz hit second behind Jayson Werth) was Chris Snelling. The scarcely used outfielder found his way on the roster when Shane Victorino fell to injury, and made the absolute most of his time in Philadelphia. Valverde’s first pitch was a fastball inside. Snelling unloaded. The ball sailed into the right field seats, with Harry Kalas almost baffled by the whole moment: “Long drive!? Did he do it? It’s outta here!” He seriously couldn’t believe it — in his first pitch of the second at bat of his season, Snelling gave the Phils a slight of hope. 3-1.
Then the setup. Chase Utley — the gamer he is — fell victim to a Valverde pitch, taking first on the bruise. Was Valverde rattled? Nobody knew, but it brought Ryan Howard to the dish. However, the climax didn’t come — Howard struck out and Valverde resolidified his position.
That brought Pat Burrell up to the plate. He saw one strike, then Valverde delivered a fastball over the heart of the plate. Burrell jumped on it.
“Long drive! Could it be? Could it be?! Outta here!!!”
Now tied, the game was all Phillies. The momentum was all Phillies. It seemed completely evitable that now the Phillies were going to take it. And somehow, Valverde was still on the mound. So while Geoff Jenkins, mighty as he may be, took a bad hack, a passed ball put him on first. The winning run, ready to run 270 feet.
And that he would. Pedro Feliz was next, and with a 1-0 count, ripped the ball down the left field line.
“Here comes Jenkins … being waved around … the throw to the plate … he’s safe at home plate! Phillies win four to three with a four-run ninth inning!”
Jenkins was mauled at the plate, a gift for barreling 270 feet around the diamond and sliding a couple milliseconds earlier than the glove’s reach. The crowd, erupting, was rewarded for their dedication, staying even through the fact that Chris Snelling would be relied upon. Yes, improbable as hell, the Phils won it.
The 2007 Phillies made a living off these wins. The 2008 team had a couple — they were all amazing; but there was just a couple, because they found the formula for victory so easily. Still, these comeback wins are the wins that mean a lot early on. They’re the ones that set tones, that establish characters, that get a fan really pumped.
The video: Geoff Jenkins makes like the roadrunner
From the comments:
Mike T: I’m done watching this game – we look terrible.
Mike W: what a sick sick sick game. i stuck through it!