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Don’t underestimate Shane Victorino’s impact in the 2008 NLCS

Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series will forever be remembered as the night Matt Stairs hit arguably the most beautiful home run in Phillies history. It’s easy to forget that the Phillies were down by two runs heading into that half inning.

Shane Victorino’s game-tying home run in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS is sometimes overlooked. (Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire)

With one out and Ryan Howard on first, Shane Victorino reached for a hanger down in the zone and pulled it just over the fence and into the Phillies bullpen for a game-tying two-run home run off Corey Wade. Unlike the Stairs home run, the Victorino shot got out as quickly as it left the bat. The hang time wasn’t impressive, but Victorino’s little guy home run saved the Phillies from a series tie in Los Angeles.

Three batters later, Stairs “ripped one into the night.”

Victornio’s numbers from a box score perspective don’t stand out — he was 4-for-18 in the series. The hits he did have were quite impactful. Victorino drove in four runs with two outs in Game 2 on a single in the second and a triple in the third.

The Flyin’ Hawaiian also came up big in center field in the seventh inning of Game 2. With the Phillies up 8-5, Ryan Madson had runners at the corners with two out. Casey Blake, who represented the tying run, hit a deep fly ball to center field. Victorino reached up and made a leaping catch at the State Farm sign for the final out. It wasn’t as memorable as Aaron Rowand breaking his nose to save an extra-base hit, but the catch wasn’t routine. If Victorino failed to make the play, the Phillies would have been on the verge of coughing up a six-run lead at home.

The Dodgers took care of business rather easily against the Phillies in Game 3, but the first game in LA wasn’t free of drama. Back in Game 2, Phillies starter Brett Myers came close to hitting star slugger Manny Ramirez in the back on a pitch that Myers said slipped out of his hand.

The Phillies knew retaliation was coming. In the third inning of Game 3, Victorino ducked out of the way of a high fastball from Hiroki Kuroda. The Phillies center fielder was furious. You didn’t need a lip reader to know what Victorino’s message was to Kuroda and catcher Russell Martin. He pointed at his ribs and then his head. A clean shot to the ribs is OK with him, throwing at the head isn’t.

Victorino grounded out to end the inning, but he needed to make sure that the entire Dodgers team got the message. He continued to yell towards the home dugout and the benches cleared. “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by WAR played as four men, including then Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa, held back an incensed Ramirez.

It seemed fitting that Victorino, a Dodger reject who left the organization via the Rule 5 draft twice, played a major role in getting the Phillies to the ’08 World Series. His timely heroics, especially his game-tying home run in Game 4, are sometimes overlooked when discussing the Phillies’ magical run.


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