Game of the year. And what a win.
Chris Coste deposited a Scott Schoeneweis pitch into deep center field, securing a Shane Victorino run and a wild, ridiculous 8-7 win over the Mets in 13 innings.
The build to the winning moment is first-rate material. First there’s Jamie Moyer’s collapse — coming off a four-game sweep of the Dodgers, with all the hype surrounding the series, a Moyer breakdown seemed in the cards from the onset. And the deck was stacked tenfold once Jose Reyes smoked one of his pitches for a triple to open the game. Moyer never solved the Mets, going only three innings and giving up six runs.
The Mets would score once more. As they’ve done all season, the Phillies bullpen shut down an offense, this time for nine scoreless frames. And it was the whole bullpen — Clay Condrey for 2.1, Scott Eyre for 1.2, Chad Durbin for one, Brad Lidge for one, Ryan Madson for two, JC Romero for one, Rudy Seanez for one. The full line: 10 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Sparkling.
The bullpen allowed a Phillies comeback. They started off Pedro Martinez, who pitched well, but is no longer reliable to win games. Pedro Feliz knocked home Shane Victorino with a sacrifice fly. An inning later, unlikely hero Clay Condrey led off with a double, and Jimmy Rollins smoked a two-run home run into right field. 7-3. Then Chase Utley walked, and two batters later, Ryan Howard launched a left-field homer. 7-5. We had a game.
Brian Stokes held the Phillies during the middle innings, but the Phils met a few of their best friends starting in the eighth. First: Duaner Sanchez. A Carlos Ruiz single and change to lefties took him out for Pedro Feliciano. Lefty Greg Dobbs was pulled for Chris Coste, who promptly singled (he went 4-for-4 after his entrance), leading to a Rollins single to make it 7-6. Rollins had five straight hits to open the game, finishing 5-for-7 with 3 RBI and a run. Welcome back, Young James.
The Phillies were erased in the eighth (thanks Pat Burrell, 0-for-7), and it was Luis Ayala’s turn to stop the Phils and end the game. It seemed certain with two quick outs, but Jayson Werth kept it alive with a single. In came Eric Bruntlett, the most unlikely candidate to bring home a run from first base. But he did — double in the gap, scoring Werth (with thanks to a bad reception by Brian Schneider). 7-7.
To recap everything else would be too time-consuming, and anyway, you all remember what happened. The Phils had multiple chances to win the game. Tenth inning: Burrell and Ryan Howard couldn’t score a leadoff double by Chris Coste. Eleventh inning: Rollins popped up with the bases loaded and two outs. Twelfth inning: The heart of the order went down easily to Aaron Heilman, who played Houdini throughout his three-inning ride.
On the other side, the Phils came up big when the Mets threatened. In the eleventh, Werth gunned David Wright, who was trying to stretch a single into a double with two outs. In the twelfth, Howard robbed Ryan Church of a hit.
All of it set up the 13th, led off by the burgeoning leader, Victorino. His hustle triple forced the Mets to load the bases with no outs. Brett Myers, the eager pinch hitter, played dummy and almost won the game by walking in a genius call by Charlie Manuel. With one down, up stepped Coste, and the game finally ended.
This game had everything — great pitching, great offense, great defense, controversial calls, big plays, big numbers. When Cole Hamels and Myers pinch hit, you have something great on your hands. Manuel played Carlos Ruiz at third base in the ninth inning because he didn’t want to waste Bruntlett’s bat — what a call. He also kept the infield back, letting Damion Easley score in the fourth off a David Wright groundout. That worked too. While Moyer put the Phils out of the game at first, great managing, clutch pitching and timely hitting saved the day.
It was 2007 all over again at the Bank — the clear-cut game of the year, and a huge, huge win to start off this final run toward the pennant. Too much to write, and more to write later, but for now, relish this one.
Associated Press photo