This was a wild one. There’s really no better way to put it.
It started out innocently enough, with the pesky Astros coming to town to pit Bud Norris against Cole Hamels. Cole entered the game looking to bounce back from a subpar start against the Giants in his last outing, and the Phillies were just hoping to keep pace with Atlanta in the East.
As has been common throughout his career – at least, it seems – Cole had a great outing with no run support, throwing seven innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts, but left the game trailing 2-1. The Phils had opportunities in the eighth and ninth to tie the game, but a bad caught stealing by Jimmy Rollins and a RISP flyout from Carlos Ruiz ended those chances. Things looked bleakly frustrating as the Phillies entered the bottom of the ninth, still down 2-1 with Ruiz, a pinch-hitter and Jimmy Rollins due up. Chooch and PH Mike Sweeney both grounded out to short, leaving J-Roll as the last hope.
Jimmy made up for his baserunning error by delivering a game-tying homer to right field on a 3-1 count, tying the game and kicking off what would become an epic string of extra innings.
Jose Contreras escaped a jam in the eleventh by getting a pop fly double play with two on and one out. Madson escaped similar trouble in the twelfth, retiring Michael Bourn with two on and two out. Ryan Howard struck out with the winning run on third in the fourteenth.
Well, there’s a little more to the story than that.
Howard was called out on the swing by third base umpire Scott Barry – remember him? – and was ejected right after that for tossing his bat, sending the Big Man into a frenzy. It was difficult to blame Howard for this. Sure, he probably could have stood to not toss his bat away, but Barry was obviously on a short fuse for whatever reason, mimicking Howard’s hands-on-hips initial reaction, then wasting no time in ejecting him despite the situation.
With Howard gone and the bench empty, Charlie Manuel had to get creative. He moved Raul Ibanez in from left field to play first, a position he hadn’t played since 2005, and brought in Roy Oswalt to play left field. It was pretty obvious where the balls in play were going that inning, wasn’t it? Oswalt made the most celebrated, routine fly catch in history. Ibanez made a great play at first on a Bourn bunt, and the train kept on rolling.
Unfortunately, with the bullpen and bench exhausted, Oswalt was pressed into duty with the bat in the sixteenth, after the Astros took a two-run lead in the top half. The Cinderella story ends with a weak grounder to third, but the legend lives on, as this game goes down as one of the strangest in recent memory.