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. 34.
THE DATE: July 7, 1993
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pa.
THE STAKES: Reclaim control of some recent losing ways
THE GREAT: The 1993 Phillies were a rare, rare breed. They were bad in 1992 but ran the table in ‘93, never surrendering first place once they seized it in the first week of the season.
They came close. Early July found the Phils in a rare skid, and a division lead that was once at 11.5 games (in May, which is almost impossible) was on July 7 down to six.
To top it off, there was an obvious flaw on the team: shortstop. The pitching staff had five horses capable of tossing frequent quality starts. The bullpen did their job most of the time. And the lineup was vicious, a perfect collection of stars, retreads and role players put in the best position to get on base and score runs. But shortstop was a problem.
Juan Bell, acquired during the 1992 season from Baltimore, just wasn’t the right fit at .200/.268/.323. The Phils waived him in June, leaving a hole at short that was temporarily filled by Kim Batiste and Mariano Duncan. But Duncan hit the disabled list on July 4, stretching the Phils’ infield corps thin. Thus, the Phils brought up 22-year-old triple-A farmhand Kevin Stocker for the July 7 game against the Dodgers.
Stocker was penciled in the eighth-hole for that July 7 game, started by Terry Mulholland. He didn’t do too well, either, going hitless with an error. But he did come in handy.
See, the Phillies were up 5-3 in this one, doing it in typical fashion. Two walks in the second led to a two-run Milt Thompson double. In the fourth, John Kruk socked a two-run home run. Then in the sixth, Lenny Dykstra, on fire at the time, led off with a homer. They battered Dodger starter Ramon Martinez: five runs, eight hits and six walks in seven innings.
Mulholland, meanwhile, wasn’t too bad. Eight hits and a walk in seven innings. But two early Dave Hollins errors hurt the cause. It was a sloppy game. A good game, but a sloppy game.
So, okay, 5-3 game. Ninth inning. Mitch Williams came in and immediately walked Mitch Webster. Then a single by Brett Butler. Then a walk of Jose Offerman. By this point, it was obvious “Wild Thing” didn’t have it.
Then he walked Chris Snyder. 5-4 game.
As the crowd roared disapproval and Williams jawed at the air while walking to the dugout, Larry Andersen was brought in to extinguish the blaze. But Eric Karros singled home the tying run.
This is where Stocker comes in. With nobody out, clear-cut Rookie of the Year front-runner Mike Piazza stepped in with the bases loaded and a tie game. The future hall of famer hit it right to the new guy, and Stocker fired it right back home to get Offerman at the plate. One big out.
Andersen struck out Eric Davis for the second big out, and got Dave Hansen to line out to end the inning. Phew. 5-5.
But oh boy would that score hold up.
Jim Gott got six outs for the Dodgers. David West got six of his own for the Phillies. The Dodgers brought in future hall of famer and future Phillie Pedro Martinez, who walked two in the 11th but squeaked out of danger. The Phils countered with the aging Jose DeLeon, who put two on in the twelfth but wiggled out himself.
Next for Los Angeles came former Phillie Roger McDowell, who went three innings. The Phils opted for rookie Mike Williams, who had a nice outing himself: six innings, six hits, four strikeouts.
Wait, six innings?
When Williams strode out for the 20th inning, it was past 1 a.m. Not the weirdest time for a Phillies game … even that week (more on that later) … but still weird. And Williams finally couldn’t hold it, surrendering two singles before Batiste committed the team’s fourth error of the game, bringing the go-ahead run home at 6-5.
So that was it, right? Twenty innings. The Phils hadn’t scored a run since the sixth. No way they were going to do it now, right?
Again, the 1993 Phillies were a rare, rare breed. They never quit, not once, and certainly not after more than six hours of baseball. So in the 20th, against Dodger rookie Ricky Trlicek, Jim Eisenreich singled and Mickey Morandini singled. Two on, nobody out. And in stepped the rookie. In stepped the new guy, ready for his big moment.
Stocker bunted. He did his job, moving the runners to second and third.
One out later, Dykstra stepped up and smacked a double down the left-field line. The stadium went nuts. Two scored. Game over. Phils win in 20.
As for Stocker? He provided a lift the rest of the way, then became Bobby Abreu. Thanks, Kevin.