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. 29.
THE DATE: Oct. 2, 2008
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Milwaukee Brewers, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
THE STAKES: Game 2, National League Division Series
THE GREAT: I left work sometime after noon that Thursday, then drove down to South Philadelphia for Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
I worked, and lived, in Eastern Connecticut.
It was my first postseason game since Game 3 of the 1993 World Series, but I barely remember anything from that night. It rained. There was bunting out there. The Phillies got hammered. And it was my birthday. But I was nine – the memories were slight.
I remember much more from that Thursday in 2008. I arrived at Citizens Bank Park sometime around 4:30. Rain had threatened the area, and wicked cloud cover resembled a surrealist painting on this chilly October evening. As the sun began its long descent, the sky looked orange, then pink, then maroon. It was a sign. Everything was a sign.
We were pessimistic that evening. The Phils had won Game 1 of the series thanks to Cole Hamels, but now they faced CC Sabathia, who only started 9-0 with the Brewers after a July trade. In 17 starts in Milwaukee blue, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, striking out 128 and walking 25. So we figured we may get a run or two. Just get something. Get it to the bullpen. Work the heck out of Sabathia. Just get something.
The Phillies had Brett Myers on the hill, and he instantly made it dificult for the Phils to beat Sabathia by loading the bases in the first. He walked J.J. Hardy with one out. In the upper deck I groaned. We all groaned. We figured it wouldn’t be our night, but Myers wasn’t even letting us have an inning of faith.
But then Corey Hart smashed the ball back to Myers. Throw to home. Throw to first. Double play. Inning over. Only 1-0. Not insurmountable. Close. But not quite.
Then Shane Victorino stepped up in the first and smacked a double. Hope. We stood, we cheered, we bounced up and down. Victorino stole third. More bouncing. More optimism. Then Chase Utley struck out. Ryan Howard struck out. Damned lefties. Why couldn’t Charlie Manuel stick Pat Burrell in between those two today?
We were this perfect combination of hopeful, tipsy, cold and nervous. All 45,000 of us. So every baserunner was a chance to stand back up and bounce. We hadn’t been through this much before. A 1-0 lead in a division series? That was a first.
So, in the second, Jayson Werth lined a shot into deep center. Two bases. We stood. We cheered. We bounced. And we realized Sabathia wasn’t infallible today. There was a real chance. We could be optimistic. We could smile.
And we could razz the guy.
After Pedro Feliz doubled into left, scoring Werth, we started up our juvenile chant:
“CC SUCKS! CC SUCKS!”
It barely fazed him as he induced a Carlos Ruiz groundout. Myers came to the plate. Hey, at least we got a run.
And then it happened. Myers channeled every one of us, sensing our wacky combination of hopeful, tipsy, cold and nervous. He took a strike, he took a ball, he fouled one off, he took a ball, another foul, another foul, a ball. With each foul we cheered a bit louder, our force strengthening under this maroon sky. And with each ball we … we laughed.
“This guy can’t get BRETT MYERS out?!”
“CC SUCKS! CC SUCKS!”
Louder and louder it grew. And finally a lame ball, and Myers threw his bat, chuckled and made his way to first. We were hopping mad, hopping happy, screaming until hoarse in the second inning.
“CC SUCKS! CC SUCKS!”
Jimmy Rollins was next. Sabathia had nothing. Four straight balls, a laughable plate appearance. This was our Burt Hooton moment. Sabathia would take off his hat, wipe his brow, walk the mound, get the visit. Oh my God, we got him! We’re under his skin!
Bases loaded. Victorino back at the plate. But Sabathia found that extra bit and threw some strikes; Victorino obliged by swinging and missing, swinging and fouling.
Then on the 1-2 pitch, another strike that Victorino got.
Our voices raised as high as could be. The ball landed in the seats near the left-field foul pole.
I don’t remember anything after that.
What happened was Myers pitched well and kept the Brewers from doing major damage, while Milwaukee kept the score close enough. But 5-2 was insurmountable on this October day in Philadelphia, around this crowd of crazy people about to witness a major postseason win. That was the day I realized something great was happening in South Philadelphia. It’s the day I learned to embrace the madness. We all did.
Oct. 2, 2008, was the Phils’ greatest grand slam. And it was the loudest I ever remember South Philadelphia.
I want to get back there, to remember that thrill, to live in that wacky combination of emotions.