It could have easily been a four-game sweep. Instead, the Phillies will have to settle for three out of four over the New York Mets.
In Game 1 of the day-night doubleheader, memories of Saturday evening were still fresh in the minds of those in attendance. Victory had been snatched out of thin air, as Ryan Madson gave up a two-out, two-run jack to David Wright, allowing the Mets to prevail 10-9.
On Sunday afternoon, the most impressive performance came from spot starter, Kyle Kendrick. Pitching in place of the injured J.A. Happ, Kendrick pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs over seven hits. You couldn’t ask for anything more than the quality start put forth by the long-forgotten righty. His poised outing certainly gave the faithful a sliver of peace following the previous meltdown.
In the midst of Kendrick’s intriguing showing, the offense continued to use the long ball to their advantage. Before the big flies came, Ryan Howard drove in the first run of the game with an RBI double to right field off of Mets starter John Maine.
With two down in the fourth inning, Ben Francisco, starting in place of Jayson Werth, blasted a homer into the left field seats that put the Phils up 2-0. Shane Victorino followed that up an inning later with a two-run home run to push that lead to four.
In the eighth inning, the Mets began to chip away. After Kendrick gave up a one out single to Angel Pagan, shortstop Anderson Hernandez jumped on a 1-1 fastball and nailed it into the bullpen. The moans and groans, and thoughts of “here we go again” no doubt popped up throughout Citizens Bank Park as the Mets cut it to 4-2.
Kendrick departed after the Hernandez blast, giving the ball off to the steady Tyler Walker. Walker did his part in keeping the lead at two, as he got Wright to ground out and Daniel Murphy to pop out to end the half inning.
Then, the palpitations began in sync, as the 45,024 knew exactly what was coming. An insurance run in the eighth paved the way for Brad Lidge. The frustrating closer came on in the ninth inning, eager to alleviate some of the pressure on him and the rest of the bullpen for their late-game inadequacies. He ended up with a save, but in the process did little to win back the confidence of the fan base.
With one on and one out, Josh Thole singled to right field, scoring Jeff Francouer, and instantly the bulls eye was back on Lidge. Luis Castillo struck out, but Jeremy Reed sent Thole home on another single. With the Phils holding a 5-4 lead, and the capacity crowd doing the same with their collective breath, Lidge got Angel Pagan to strikeout swinging.
Lidge finished things off, but again in heart stopping fashion. With the Phillies 5-4 win, they jumped ahead of the Marlins by six games as Washington defeated Florida. However, the anemic relief corps are turning every game into a circus.
Game 2 provided much of what we’ve become accustomed to; little offense, solid starting pitching, but worrisome anticipation leading into the later innings.
The starting pitching match up was reminiscent of two aces going toe to toe. Instead, it was dueling fifth starters Pedro Martinez and Tim Redding firing on all cylinders, foiling the opposition with old school trickery and excellent pitch location.
Redding absolutely owns the Phillies over his career, having won five of his 36 career wins against the homeboys. In 13 career starts against the Fightin’s, the journeyman starter has an ERA of 3.13, nearly two runs lower than his overall total. It was no different on Sunday night, either.
The 31-year old went six innings, allowing one run on a long RBI single to Chase Utley that should have scored more than one, had there not been a base running blunder by Jimmy Rollins. Unfortunately for Redding, Pedro was at his very best, continuing his streak of quality performances in red pinstripes.
Martinez chucked a season-high 130 pitches through eight scoreless frames, finagling his way out of a few jams, all while proving his 37-year old arm still has plenty of ammunition left. His final line: eight innings, six hits, no runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts. Perhaps realizing that a strong final month could pay dividends when it comes to free agency in the winter, Pedro took the ball and performed magic.
On his 130th pitch of the night, with David Murphy at second base, Pedro threw a breaking ball in the dirt that Ruiz blocked beautifully, collected, and gunned down Murphy as he tried to take third. The Bank erupted as Feliz applied the tag, and in the process, put Martinez in the running for a spot in the playoff rotation.
With a 1-0 lead and three outs remaining, Ryan Madson became the anchor and did not finish without incident. After a quick two-pitch ground out by Jeremy Reed (aided by a beautiful play by Ryan Howard), Brian Schneider looped a single into right-centerfield to jack the collective pulse of the second sellout crowd of the day.
But with a runner on, Madson was able to close the door by striking out Francouer and getting Pagan to line out to Feliz, putting a bow on a hard fought series. And although Madson pitched well to seal the deal, uncertainty is still very much present.
Three out of four ain’t bad, especially at this point in the season. With that said, a four game sweep was well within reach, and it was the bullpen that allowed it to slip away. The only thing Charlie Manuel and his crew can do is keep trying to find the hot hand to close it out and hope that it works on that given night.
On this day, it was about the incredible start by our dear, old friend, Kyle Kendrick. On this night, it was about the revival of one of the greatest pitchers of our lifetimes, Pedro Martinez. All in all, it equaled a sweep of the day, and a six-and-a-half game lead over the Marlins in the NL East.