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. 17.
THE DATE: Aug. 30, 2007
THE GAME: Phillies vs. New York Mets, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
THE STAKES: Finishing a four-game sweep and getting themselves to within striking distance of the first-place Mets heading into September
THE GREAT: To say this is the game that propelled the Phillies into the thick of the National League East race in 2007 isn’t true. Sure, five days earlier they were seven games back of the Mets, and this game gave them a chance to get to two back. But even though the Phillies completed a four-game sweep in winning this one – likely the best regular season game in Citizens Bank Park history – they went on to lose five of their next six, erasing the ground they picked up on the Mets and falling six back again.
But what this improbable, 11-10, walk-off win proved was that they knew they could stand toe-to-toe with the Mets and take their best shots. They could win off their former teammate Billy Wagner. They could come back from the sting of blowing a five-run, third-inning lead and a three-run, eighth-inning lead. They could flex the muscles of an offense that never, ever thought it was out of a game.
Whether that came by sheer force (Pat Burrell’s eighth-inning home run off Wagner), cunning baseball acumen (Jayson Werth knowing Wagner couldn’t hold his grandmother on the bases and stealing second and third off him on consecutive pitches to set up the tying run) or fundamentals (Chase Utley choking up to stay short against Wagner just to make sure he got the winning hit in play), that era of the Phillies could beat you in a dozen different ways.
All of those methods were on display through that series and especially that afternoon, as workplace efficiency slowly died with each pitch across the late afternoon Delaware Valley.
The Phillies grew up on this day. Most of all, this game caught the attention of the Mets, and it showed they heard the footsteps of a brash, young team it never previously acknowledged as a legitimate challenger to its National League East throne.
Whenever I need a little pick-me-up during the day, I’ll sit back and think of the quote Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca gave after this game: “They’re dancing around the field now, but we’ll see what happens when the time comes.”
We sure will, Paul. We sure will.