This might be, without exaggeration, the single most dramatic day of regular-season baseball I’ve ever seen. I’d just like to put that out there and express how glad I was that the Phillies took part in the drama.
The Phillies get a franchise-record 102nd win. Charlie Manuel becomes the Phillies’ all-time winningest manager. Justin De Fratus gets his first major league win, and David Herndon grabs his first major league save. But most importantly, Atlanta completes a collapse so improbable it could propel the spaceship Heart of Gold. The Phillies sent the Braves to a 4-3 loss in 13 innings that, combined with the Cardinals’ win in Houston, will end the season for a certain collection of foam rubber tomahawk enthusiasts from Georgia.
The Phillies, having run out of games for pitchers to start, ran out not one but three starters this evening, with Joe Blanton allowing a run in two innings, Cole Hamels allowing two in three innings, and Vance Worley pitched around two walks and a hit in a scoreless inning.
Ryan Howard‘s RBI double off Tim Hudson in the first staked the Phillies to a 1-0 lead in the first, but Chipper Jones drove Michael Bourn in to draw level in the bottom half of the frame before Dan Uggla‘s two-run homer off of Hamels in the third put the Braves up 3-1. The Phillies, however, did not go easily. In the top of the seventh, with runners at the corners and one out, Jack Wilson booted a sure double play ball to allow Raul Ibanez to score. Fredi Gonzalez then pulled Hudson in favor of Eric O’Flaherty to face pinch hitter Shane Victorino. Rather than make Gonzalez pay for bringing in a lefty to face a batter with a .444 wOBA against lefties, Victorino hit into to a double play to end the inning.
In the eighth, an uncharacteristically wild Jonny Venters loaded the bases with two outs for Raul Ibanez, but rather than pinch-hit for a guy with a .256 wOBA against lefties, Uncle Cholly let Ibanez hit, and he collected one of each type of strike (called strike, foul ball, swing-and-miss) to end the inning.
But in the ninth, the levee finally gave way. Craig Kimbrel, one of the best relief pitchers in the game this season, let up a hard single to Placido Polanco, struck out Carlos Ruiz (and would have walked him if Dale Scott’s strike zone didn’t stretch halfway to Stone Mountain), then walked Ben Francisco and Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. Then, in an instant, the Braves’ cakewalk to a one-game playoff ended with a Chase Utley sacrifice fly.
THEN Kimbrel walked Hunter Pence to load the bases again, and Fredi Gonzalez went out to retrieve his best reliever. Kris Medlen, just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, retired Michael Martinez to end the inning. Michael Stutes and Medlen traded clean frames, then with two out and Michael Bourn on first in the bottom of the 10th, Michael Schwimer, Anthony Varvaro, and Cristhian Martinez combined to keep it relatively quiet until the bottom of the 13th, when Justin De Fratus allowed a leadoff single to Jason Heyward, recorded two quick outs, and intentionally walked Michael Bourn to get to Martin Prado. With runners on first and second, a wild pitch allowed Heyward to advance, and only an outstanding play by Wilson Valdez prevented him from scoring on Prado’s grounder.
In the top of the 13th, the Phillies scratched across the killer blow. With two outs and Brian Schneider on first, Scott Linebrink allowed back-to-back singles to Chase Utley and Hunter Pence, the second of which was an opposite-field dribbler that barely rolled to the outfield grass. Linebrink got Mini Mart to kill the rally, but the damage was done.
David Herndon closed down the Braves for the game, and the season, without incident in the bottom of the 13th. Bring on the Cardinals.