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. 11.
THE DATE: October 13, 2008
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
THE STAKES: Game 4, National League Championship Series.
THE GREAT: Recollections of great baseball games become, in my mind, more like a series of still frames than a continuous flow of related events. Each moment is discrete and independent of the others, standing alone as one image, one pitch or one swing.
With Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS, despite being a thrilling game, I remember only two frames.
The events that set up what I actually remember have been lost to me in the sands of time: how the Phillies put two runs on the board in the first inning but were trailing after five; how they tied it up in the sixth but fell behind again in the bottom of the inning; how, with the bases loaded in the sixth, Chase Utley made a diving catch and unassisted double play to keep the game close; how the eighth began with Ryan Howard singling up the middle for his only hit of the night.
Then, things come into focus for me. Shane Victorino tied the game after he hit a rope that scraped over the right field fence. It suddenly felt, with one swing of the bat, that the Phillies’ trip to the World Series was all but destined even if it was still, for the moment at least, two wins away.
Ruiz reached base as the go-ahead run, and there was a feeling that something big was about to happen. Sometimes, a tie score can feel like your team is ahead, and that was the sense when Matt Stairs stepped to the plate. Stairs ran the count to 3-1, making Jonathan Broxton challenge him with a fastball that he’d send well out of the yard, creating one of the most memorable moments of that postseason and Phillies history. If Victorino’s shot scraped the right field fence, Stairs’ scraped the moon, giving the team a 7-5 lead that would stand for the victory.
It was recently pointed out to me that, including postseason games, Stairs had only 27 hits as a Phillie – fewer than Pete Orr, Abraham Nunez, Michael Martinez, Mike Fontenot, and countless other Phillies you’ve forgotten or wish you could forget – but it only took one to make him a Philadelphia legend.