Until March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years. This is 50 of 50.
And this is No. 12.
THE DATE: Oct. 26, 2008
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
THE STAKES: Game 4, World Series
THE GREAT: One look at Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine tossing his opening warm-ups and you knew the Phillies had this.
They HAD this.
Sonnanstine was a wreck – it was obvious the stage was too big for him. He threw about 10 warm-up pitches, and I don’t think any of them were strikes. He sailed two over the head of his catcher. He bounced one other five feet short of the plate. If he kept this up, I remember thinking, this place is going to get NUTS.
The Eagles beat the Falcons across the street four hours earlier, and many of the people in the stands had tailgated for the Eagles game, went to the game, tailgated for another four hours before the Phillies game (like our then-cherub editorial director Tim Malcolm) and then took in Game 4. There was plenty of sauce to go around the stadium that night, and the fans were ready to explode at the first sign of … anything.
Sonnanstine obliged. He gave up a double to Jimmy Rollins to start the game, and after Jayson Werth flied out, Chase Utley walked on four pitches. The crowd smelled blood in the water, and went after Sonnanstine like a pack of great whites.
The starting pitcher couldn’t make a play on a Ryan Howard comebacker, loading the bases, and the crowd noise started shaking the stadium. It got even louder on each of the next five pitches, the last of which ended with Pat Burrell walking and Rollins trotting home.
Phillies fans had Burt Hooten-ed another starting pitcher 31 years later, but this game wouldn’t have to be stuck with a “Black” anything nickname. The Phillies poured it on from there, with the usual suspects doing the damage – Rollins, Werth, Utley and Howard combined to go 8-for-16 with three home runs, three doubles, nine runs and eight RBI.
Much of that damage came from Howard in what may have been his absolute apex game. He destroyed two home runs for five RBI and had the “Howard Mojo” – that feeling when you just KNEW he would do something special – going in full effect.
Just to add to the rout, starting pitcher Joe Blanton connected for a fifth-inning homer that gave the Phillies a 6-2 lead in what would end as a 10-2 laugher and set the stage for a wild Game 5.