After the euphoria of Roy Halladay‘s playoff no-hitter in Game 1 against the Reds, it was tough to come back two nights later, knowing whatever happened wouldn’t top the first game. When it became clear that Phillies starter Roy Oswalt didn’t have his best stuff, spotting the Reds a 4-0 lead when he left the game in the fifth inning, it looked like the Reds would tie up the series.
But then back-to-back errors by Gold Glove winners Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen in the bottom of the fifth loaded the bases, and Chase Utley‘s two-out, two-run single cut the lead in half. It seemed, at the time, that the Phillies had gotten their big break for the evening, but then, in the bottom of the 6th, Logan Ondrusek walked Shane Victorino with the bases loaded to cut the lead to one.
Attempting to turn the momentum, Reds manager Dusty Baker called on 22-year-old Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman to start the 7th. Chapman, blessed with a 105-mph fastball from the left side, was hailed as the weapon that would shut down Utley, Howard, and Ibanez in the late innings. He started by hitting Utley, but recovered to strike out Howard and get Werth to ground a ball to third, but Utley beat Rolen’s throw to second. With Jimmy Rollins coming up and the winning run on with one out, you could almost feel the excitement building, the seeming inexorability of the Phillies’ comeback.
So, too, could Reds right fielder Jay Bruce, who had homered earlier in the game. The ordinarily sure-handed Bruce misjudged Rollins’ sinking liner, and by the time the explosions had stopped and the wounded had been carried off the field, the Phillies were up 5-4 and Rollins was standing on second.* Rollins scored two batters later, and Utley scored again in the 8th to make the final 7-4.
*A buddy of mine had his smartphone out while we were watching the game, and taped my reaction to Bruce’s muff. Here it is, in case you’re interested.
Even though Cole Hamels came storming in on Sunday night to close the Reds out with a five-hit shutout, it was fairly obvious that Cincinnati was dead the moment Jay Bruce missed that fly ball. Even though Games 1 and 3 featured historic pitching performances, Game 2 was certainly memorable in its own right.