Whoever coined the phrase “You can’t script October” was dead on.
None of the 46,511 could have imagined Game 2 playing out the way it did. But after sloppy play, countless errors, a rally inning, and a certain lefty deemed useless, the Phillies somehow pulled out an incredible 7-4 win.
Cincinnati, known for it’s splendid defense with guys like Phillips, Votto, Bruce, and Rolen, completely unraveled in the bottom of the seventh inning. During the regular season, the Reds were tied with San Diego for the best defensive team in the NL with only 72 errors.
The start of the seventh inning was fascinating, as lefty Aroldis Chapman made his way to the mound with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth up in the order. Chapman, and his 100-plus m.p.h. pitches, were render useless almost instantly as Utley was hit by a pitch on the hand. Or was he?
Utley dropped his bat as the ball sailed above catcher Ryan Hanigan’s glove and to the backstop. Afterward, he acted as if he wasn’t sure. “It was pretty close. At first I thought it was going to hit me in the head,” said the second baseman. When asked if it hit him again, he said, “I’m not sure.”
Ryan Howard then struck out on straight heat from Chapman – three straight fastballs, three straight swings and misses. Jayson Werth followed him up and strange times ensued.
Werth reached on a bang-bang play at second base as Scott Rolen attempted to nail Utley on a fielder’s choice. Utley was called safe, and replays showed it to be very, very close. More weirdness followed.
The normally sure handed Jay Bruce (just three errors in 1199 innings) lost a Jimmy Rollins liner in the lights, allowing Utley to somehow scatter home, with Werth on his heels as Brandon Phillips fumbled the relay throw. But did Utley touch third base? It certainly appeared to be yet another close play, however, the Cincinnati bench, along with the players on the field, did not realize that Utley may have whiffed rounding the base. In any case, the two runs scored on consecutive errors and just like the a 4-0 Reds lead was a 5-4 Phillies advantage.
Rollins touched home to put the Phils up two following a Raul Ibanez single and a Carlos Ruiz force out to second base.
A wild three-run inning sent the crowd into a frenzy and transformed Utley from goat to hero.
In the second inning, the normally sure-handed second baseman committed two throwing errors – one on a simple throw ranging to his left, the other on a surefire double-play ball that skipped over the outstretched arm of Ryan Howard. Nightmares of the 2009 NLCS began to play out. In the end, Utley let his bat make up for it.
The errors were costly, but the offense was able to fix the obvious shortcomings of Roy Oswalt and the defense behind him. The Phillies starter came into the game having gone 7-1 with a sub-two era since joining the team prior to the trade deadline. October baseball rendered his regular season meaningless just four pitches into the game.
Brandon Phillips blasted an 85 m.p.h slider from Oswalt into the seats in left field to lead off the game, quickly axing the thought of back-to-back no-no’s. The Other Roy would then allow single runs in the second, fourth, and fifth before finishing what was surely an evening to forget.
His first playoff start in five seasons was a bit of a dud, although he kept the Phillies close enough to strike late. All told, Oswalt went five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) with a walk and five strikeouts. Commanding his pitches was his downfall as his inability to throw strikes haunted him throughout the night.
With a 2-0 series lead now, Oswalt may get an opportunity to fix whatever went wrong on this night.
It wasn’t the prettiest sight; hell let’s just call it downright ugly – the six combined errors is an LDS record – but a win is a win. And with this victory, the Phillies have jumped into a position they’ve become used to lately – clinching position.
They’ll get their chance behind the arm of Cole Hamels on Sunday night in Cincinnati.