For eight innings, things were mostly uneventful on August 5. The Phillies were trailing the Marlins, 4-2, in South Florida, and the Phillies’ three-game winning streak was in some hot water. Roy Oswalt had a middling start turned into a deficit by J.C. Romero, while Chris Volstad and a pair of Marlins relievers held the Phils at bay.
The, the ninth inning rolled around, and things began to get interesting. Placido Polanco led off by reaching on a Hanley Ramirez error. Ross Gload followed with a single off Marlins reliever Leo Nunez, and Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth chipped in with their own RBI hits to tie the game.
So, with runners on first and third with no one out, the Phillies looked primed to take the lead. A series of baserunning gaffes, however, curiously ended the threat. If you don’t want to subject yourself to the highlight video, the blow-by-blow was as follows:
- Raul Ibanez is caught between third and home on a grounder to first, one out.
- Jayson Werth is picked off second, two out.
- Domonic Brown, who reached on Ibanez’s fielder’s choice, is caught stealing second with Chooch up, three out.
So, with a combination of two mental errors and a suspect strategic decision, the Phillies had squandered a chance to take the lead in the ninth. The Marlins, looking to capitalize, had Hanley Ramirez leading off against Ryan Madson. Madson plunks Hanley, strikes out Logan Morrison as Hanley steals second, and settles in to face Marlins rookie first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Then, on a 1-1 pitch, Madson threw a fastball that Sanchez appeared to pull a should-have-been game-winning hit down the third base line.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The “hit” was deemed foul, Sanchez proceeded to strike out, and Madson escaped trouble. Fittingly, Ruiz, still at-bat after being at the plate when Brown was caught stealing, led off the tenth with a laser home run, a solo shot that proved to be the deciding margin in a wacky late-inning affair. Some saw it as karmic payback (albeit a month-and-a-half late) for a Braves win against the Tigers in June that had its own curious circumstances.
Whatever the case, with a little help, the Phils had stretched out a four-game winning streak, and remained hot on Atlanta’s heels.