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Top Moment No. 2: “Get Me to the Plate”

http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0coT4Cf5A0bfh/610x.jpgTop Moment No. 2: Ryan Howard Locks Up NLDS Game 4 With a Two-Out Double

Ryan Howard is a dangerous man. At 6’4″ and 230 lbs. with a swooping, left-handed power stroke, it’s easy to see why, but what made Howard that much more fearsome in Colorado last October had nothing to do with a home run or his middle linebacker frame. No, it was what he said that night that should have struck immediate fear into all those in attendance at Coors Field.

“Just get me to the plate, fellas.”

The Phillies had a two games to one lead over Colorado in the NLDS, and had the opportunity to head back to the League Championship Series for the second straight year. The Rockies, however, weren’t exactly rolling over. Heading into the top of the ninth, Colorado held a 4-2 lead with their best reliever, Huston Street, on the mound. The Rockies had taken that lead in the previous half-inning, after Dexter Fowler’s giant leap over Jimmy Rollins led to Cliff Lee’s departure and a three-run surge that sucked the life out of the tri-state area.

“Just get me to the plate, fellas.”

Howard was due up fifth in the top of the ninth, so he’d need a little help from the hitters in front of him. Pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs couldn’t oblige, as he struck out, but Rollins followed up with an infield single to keep hope alive with one out. A ground out from Shane Victorino swapped he and Rollins at first, now with two outs, and things were in the hands of Chase Utley. In a full count, Utley drew a walk, prolonging the inning just far enough for Howard to finally get his shot.

“Just get me to the plate, fellas.”

Pitch one, ball one. A walk would be beneficial, as Jayson Werth stood on deck. Anything but that final out. Pitch two, fouled away. For all his power, Howard’s swing came with a high strikeout price. That certainly wasn’t out of the question, here. Pitch three, ball two. Howard was back in the driver’s seat in a slight hitter’s count. He knew Street didn’t want to be forced to throw a 3-1 fastball, so he’d want to get one over and catch Howard waiting for ball three.

On the twenty-fourth pitch of the inning, Street left a fat, 91 MPH fastball over the plate on the inner half that Howard sent to the wall in right field. Victorino scored on a jog, and Utley, in an act of base running that may forever go unheralded, blazed a path from first to home on a gallop that nearly caught Victorino from behind. It took six seconds from contact to Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez’s throw to the infield, and Utley was already around third, gaining ground on Victorino.

Howard got to the plate once more in that ninth inning, as Jayson Werth followed up with a tie-breaking, bloop single past second base that gave the Phillies the lead. Brad Lidge would close out the ninth, and a new legend was born. The Phils were on their way to defending their National League crown.

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