It could have been their ninth straight win over the Braves. It could have been their first three-game winning streak of the season. It could have been Roy Halladay’s 108th win without a loss when pitching with a four-run lead.
It could have been a victory that put the Phillies over .500 for the first time since the first game of the season, and it could have moved them to within one game of the Braves for second place in the NL East.
But instead, the Phillies blew a six-run lead with Halladay on the mound, came back on Carlos Ruiz’s indescribably satisfying bat-flip three-run homer, melted down behind Jose Contreras and Michael Schwimer, tied the game in the ninth off Craig Kimbrel, but eventually lost on Chipper Jones’ walkoff two-run bomb in the eleventh. (See Ian Riccaboni’s full recap below.)
It was a hard loss to take, sure. But I don’t know… for some reason this didn’t hurt as bad as it should have.
Maybe because it felt kind of historic. Ruiz set the single-game franchise record for RBI by a catcher. Halladay was yanked in the middle of an inning for only the second time since June 2008. It sucked to blow numerous opportunities, for a team built on pitching to blow two leads of four or more runs. It sucked to watch a usually anemic offense score 13 runs and lose.
But really, if you’re a fan of baseball, you loved this game. Chipper narrowly missing a walkoff homer and then coming back a few pitches later to seal the deal. It wasn’t a walkoff, but I remember when Jimmy Rollins did the same thing in 2007. It’s cool, and you had to expect it with Brian Sanches in his third inning on the mound.
There are certainly things for fans to be upset over. Bullpen usage was not one of them. Chad Qualls was unavailable after pitching three times in four days. If you bring Jonathan Papelbon in for Sanches in one of those innings, you’re down to just Kyle Kendrick.
Sure, Papelbon gives you a better chance of prolonging the game, but pitching Kendrick or even Joe Blanton there changes the next few days. And as much as I hate when people say, “It’s only [insert month],” it really makes little sense to redirect the course of the next few games when it could or could just as easily not mean an extra-inning win on May 2.
I’m a die-hard Phillies fan who refuses to hide that fact even as I attempt to make a professional career out of this. But I’m a die-harder baseball fan, if that makes any sense, and Wednesday night’s game was tremendous theater for anyone who loves this game.
Twenty-eight runs on 36 hits in a game billed as a pitcher’s duel? Eight half-innings of multiple runs? A game-tying grand slam off the era’s most dominant pitcher? A game-tying infield single off one of the game’s most dominant closers? Perhaps the last walkoff home run of Chipper Jones’ career?
If I told you that you could watch all of that on a Wednesday night in exchange for a Phillies loss, I think you’d take it.
Or maybe you’re a bigger fan of the team and the city than the sport. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I’d personally just give up one game in the standings for 11 innings I’ll always remember.