Baseball is such an unpredictable sport. One team can have all the momentum, but in the blink of an eye, it can switch over to the other side. That’s what makes the game great. Just when it can’t get any worse for the Phillies, Greg Dobbs shines a light of hope. The Phillies pulled off an improbable 9-7 comeback on an evening with a huge turn of events. These are the comeback kids that the fans love. It’s amazing how quickly boos turn to cheers.
There were several misplays on both sides during Thursday’s game. The errors carried over immediately on Friday as Jimmy Rollins botched the very first play of the game. Several batters later, Johnny Gomes sent Joe Blanton’s offering into the left field seats. Blanton never settled in.
Blanton got knocked around in 5.1 innings. He surrendered six runs, five earned, on a whopping twelve hits and two walks. The Reds were hitting shots off him; he never found a groove. Lately, Charlie Manuel has been critizied for leaving his starters in too long. If there was ever a good time to lift Blanton, it was in the bottom of the fifth. Instead, Manuel let Blanton hit for himself. Blanton allowed a few base runners in the top of the sixth before Manuel pulled him. Blanton tipped his cap to an upset crowd, and headed for the showers. Luckily, David Herdon avoided further damage.
In the meantime, Mike Leake cruised. The rookie who skipped the minor leagues looked like a long time veteran retiring batter after batter. At one point, Herdon’s pitch count in a little over an inning matched Leake’s through five. Leake dominated. He even went 3-for-4, having a much better night at the plate than most Phillies.
It looked like the game was over, and the Reds had an easy victory. Not so fast. All the trouble came in the ninth. Leake went out for the complete game, but ran into trouble: the return of the Phillies offense. Shane Victorino led off with a double, and Leake could not finish the game off. Ryan Howard drove in Victorino with a single, but the big momentum shift came off the bat of Dobbs. Since being designated for assignment, Dobbs has had a fire under his belt. He’s starting to hit again, and boy did he get ahold of one. Dobbs smoked a three-run shot off the foul pole, putting the Phillies down 7-5. The damage was far from over.
Leake failed to close out the game, so Dusty Baker brought in closer Francisco Cordero. He didn’t exactly get the job done either. Ben Francisco drew a huge two-out walk, bringing the tying run to the plate. Then, Cody Ransom earned his pinstripes. Cordero threw him an outside fastball, and he hit the ball where it was pitched; he sent it in the first row of the opposite field. The crowd turned electric as the score became even.
The Phillies were unable to score another in the ninth, but the six-run inning was plenty, sending the game into extra innings for the second straight night. Ryan Madson tossed a 1-2-3 tenth, striking out two, with his changeup looking better than ever.
In the bottom of the tenth, a lead-off double once again started a rally. Raul Ibanez greeted Arthur Rhodes with a double, but Howard topped that with an opposite field blast. Another day, another walk-off home run. Arthur Rhodes sure must hate facing the Phillies. He has given up six runs all year; five to the Phillies (revenge for 2006?).
As Howard rounded the bases, all sorts of excitement and emotion were released. This is the team that the fans want to see more of. This is the team that the city fell in love with. Perhaps these are the types of games that can turn a season around for the better.