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Top 25 Moments of 2009

Top Moment No. 1: J-Roll’s NLCS Walk-off

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, January 25, 2010 10:46 AM Comments: 33

Top Moment #1: Rollins Wins Game 4 with Improbable Walkoff

JRoll wins it.After eight innings, it appeared to be just out of reach.  The Phillies started strong, putting up two quick runs in the opening inning, then sputtered and received little offense until late – very late.  The Dodgers, on the other hand, made Joe Blanton work through his six frames, and led the game 4-3 going into the ninth inning.

Jonathan Broxton would take the ball with that one run lead, something he had done countless times in 2009. His fastball was as potent as ever, hitting at least 98 with every push of his right arm.  The Phils, however, seemed to realize the urgency at exactly the right moment.  For the past few seasons, this core group of guys have given us plenty of pulse-pumping moments late in games.  NLCS Game 4 would be no different.

As I sat in Section 330, fortunate enough to score a ticket just prior to game time, the faithful became increasingly ornery as the game passed and the Phillies looked as chilly as the October air. We witnessed countless at-bats go by with nary an opportunity, which added insult to injury as our section became a wind tunnel, sending us into a bone-chilled coma for the middle innings.  But that’s how legends – and legendary games – work.  A savior comes out of nowhere to lift up the followers who are seemingly down and out, puts them on his back and magically transforms “what could have been” into “what was.”

This happened to be Jimmy Rollins’ night. His trials and tribulations at the dish have been well documented during the last two seasons.  He just hasn’t been the same guy who took home the 2007 MVP Award.  Didn’t matter, because during Game 4, he had one more improbable, heart-stopping moment left in him.

http://www.pe.com/imagesdaily/2009/10-20/blog_nlcsdodgers20tlpr.jpgWith runners on first and second (Eric Bruntlett running for Matt Stairs, who walked, and Carlos Ruiz who was hit by a pitch), J-Roll stepped into the box as confident as ever, even if his batting average read .212 before the first pitch of the contest was thrown. During this at-bat against Broxton, as he attempted to save the Phillies from a tied series, he fouled off the first offering, then took the second pitch, a 99 m.p.h fastball, for a ball. The fans were starting to get amped, but with cautious optimism. “This would be too outrageous,” many of us asked each other.  With a 1-1 count, Jimmy Rollins would send the 46,000-plus into a frenzy.

Rollins nailed a fastball right down the heart of the plate into the right-center field gap, plating both Bruntlett and Ruiz, and in the process nearly causing a structure failure as CBP exploded from every angle.  Fans embraced, people screamed and cheered, and Jimmy Rollins, who’d been long-forgotten as a clutch hitter, saved the Phillies. After his rocket shot allowed both men to touch home plate, he became responsible for one of the greatest games in Philadelphia Phillies history.

Phillies 5, Dodgers 4

-That concludes our Top 25 Moments of the 2009 season.  Although it didn’t end quite the way Phillies fans had hoped, it still goes down as one of the best in franchise history. Ninety-three wins, another World Series appearance, and some great games along the way all made for a spectacular 2009.

To view the entire list, click here and enjoy all 25 moments.

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Top Moment No. 2: “Get Me to the Plate”

Posted by Paul Boye, Thu, January 21, 2010 03:30 PM Comments: 18

http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0coT4Cf5A0bfh/610x.jpgTop Moment No. 2: Ryan Howard Locks Up NLDS Game 4 With a Two-Out Double

Ryan Howard is a dangerous man. At 6’4″ and 230 lbs. with a swooping, left-handed power stroke, it’s easy to see why, but what made Howard that much more fearsome in Colorado last October had nothing to do with a home run or his middle linebacker frame. No, it was what he said that night that should have struck immediate fear into all those in attendance at Coors Field.

“Just get me to the plate, fellas.”

The Phillies had a two games to one lead over Colorado in the NLDS, and had the opportunity to head back to the League Championship Series for the second straight year. The Rockies, however, weren’t exactly rolling over. Heading into the top of the ninth, Colorado held a 4-2 lead with their best reliever, Huston Street, on the mound. The Rockies had taken that lead in the previous half-inning, after Dexter Fowler’s giant leap over Jimmy Rollins led to Cliff Lee’s departure and a three-run surge that sucked the life out of the tri-state area.

“Just get me to the plate, fellas.”

Howard was due up fifth in the top of the ninth, so he’d need a little help from the hitters in front of him. Pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs couldn’t oblige, as he struck out, but Rollins followed up with an infield single to keep hope alive with one out. A ground out from Shane Victorino swapped he and Rollins at first, now with two outs, and things were in the hands of Chase Utley. In a full count, Utley drew a walk, prolonging the inning just far enough for Howard to finally get his shot.

“Just get me to the plate, fellas.”

Pitch one, ball one. A walk would be beneficial, as Jayson Werth stood on deck. Anything but that final out. Pitch two, fouled away. For all his power, Howard’s swing came with a high strikeout price. That certainly wasn’t out of the question, here. Pitch three, ball two. Howard was back in the driver’s seat in a slight hitter’s count. He knew Street didn’t want to be forced to throw a 3-1 fastball, so he’d want to get one over and catch Howard waiting for ball three.

On the twenty-fourth pitch of the inning, Street left a fat, 91 MPH fastball over the plate on the inner half that Howard sent to the wall in right field. Victorino scored on a jog, and Utley, in an act of base running that may forever go unheralded, blazed a path from first to home on a gallop that nearly caught Victorino from behind. It took six seconds from contact to Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez’s throw to the infield, and Utley was already around third, gaining ground on Victorino.

Howard got to the plate once more in that ninth inning, as Jayson Werth followed up with a tie-breaking, bloop single past second base that gave the Phillies the lead. Brad Lidge would close out the ninth, and a new legend was born. The Phils were on their way to defending their National League crown.

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Top Moment No. 3: NL Pennant!

Posted by Amanda Orr, Wed, January 20, 2010 11:17 AM Comments: 3

Top Moment #3: Phillies Clinch Second Straight National League Pennant

It had never been done in franchise history. Following an epic win, there was no doubt that this team was going to do it.  For the second year in a row, each member of the Philadelphia Phillies raised the Warren C. Giles trophy.  National League Champions!  Some things just don’t get old.

The Phillies fell to an early one-run deficit, but one swing of the bat changed the momentum.  After crushing a three-run home run, Jayson Werth trotted to right field, tipped his cap and fist pumped to an amped up crowd.  The atmosphere and the attitude didn’t change as the Phightin’s cruised to a 10-4 victory, shattering the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hopes for the second consecutive year.

In the process, the Phillies rocked Vicente Padilla, who shut them down in game two.  Cole Hamels handed over the NLCS Most Valuable Player award to Ryan Howard.  Howard batted .333 with two home runs and eight RBIs during the series.

The players sported their new t-shirts and caps.  Champagne was sprayed throughout the clubhouse and the streets of Philadelphia emptied.  It’s starting to become a nice tradition.

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Top Moment No. 4: World Series Game 1 Victory

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, January 19, 2010 01:18 PM Comments: 9

Top Moment #4: Lee Shuts Down Yankees in WS Opener

http://assets.nydailynews.com/img/2009/10/29/alg_lee_ruiz.jpgBefore the start of the 2009 World Series, Phillies fans were peering through rose-colored glasses. There was a certain sense of entitlement that this team, this city, belonged on this grand stage.  The Phils were the defending champions, after all.  Who did these punks from the Bronx think they were?

With optimism at an all-time high prior to the start of the Fall Classic, the Phillies seemed to use their relatively easy road to the World Series, along with the fabled left arm of Cliff Lee, to take Game 1 over the New York Yankees, 6-1. It was a monumental matchup, a Clash of the Titans, if you will, with Lee going up against the $160 million man, CC Sabathia.  For the first seven frames, it lived up to it’s billing.

Lee settled into the new Yankee Stadium instantly by striking out Derek Jeter on three pitches, inducing a ground out by Johnny Damon, and then fanning Mark Teixeira.  Cliff tossed just 10 pitches in the first inning, and never looked back.  His location was precise from the first pitch, something we’d seen throughout his five playoff starts.

The offense finally got involved in the third inning as Chase Utley blasted one of his two homers on the day, en route to a series-record-tying five, as he joined Mr. October, Reggie Jackson at the top of the sacred list.  Utley gave the Phils a 1-0 lead, then struck again in the sixth with another solo shot to right-center field, which doubled as the game winner.  The Phils would tack on two in the eighth and two more in the ninth off of five different Yankee relievers to lock it up.  Don’t read much into the lopsided score, however, because this was an old-fashioned pitchers duel for the first seven.

Lee and Sabathia went toe to toe, with Chase Utley taking full advantage of the only two mistakes CC made.  Cliff would win the battle with a stat line that had never been witnessed before in a World Series. His complete-game, zero earned run performance, to go with 10 strikeouts and no walks, was the first of its kind.  Koufax never did it. Gibson never did. Maddux didn’t either.  Cliff Lee holds one of the most dominating performances in the history of MLB’s postseason.  Unfortunately for the Phillies, it did not translate into another title, but for Game 1, the Phillies were still kings.

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Top Moment No. 5: Utley, Lee Keep Phils Alive

Posted by Amanda Orr, Mon, January 18, 2010 02:47 PM Comments: 4

Top Moment #5: On Brink of Elimination, Chase Utley and Cliff Lee Keep World Series Hopes Alive

It wasn’t a situation that the Phillies wanted to be in.  After a heartbreaking loss, the Phillies found themselves trailing 3-1 in the World Series.  However, the Phillies had their ace on the mound and a star second baseman that would tell the New York Yankees whose house they were in.

After a slight postseason slump, Chase Utley turned around his struggles in the World Series.  He already hit three home runs, but he was far from done.  A.J Burnett was Utley’s next victim, greeting him with a three-run bomb.  Burnett was unable to recuperate as the Phillies tacked him for six runs in two innings.

Utley still had more in the tank.  In the seventh inning, Utley’s short, quick swing sent another baseball into the outfield seats.  This home run made history.  Utley’s five World Series home runs tied Reggie Jackson’s 1977 record.  Utley’s homers and a later Raul Ibanez’s solo shot were big reasons why the Phillies led 7-2 after seven.

In the mean time, Cliff Lee was cruising.  Lee gave up five runs in seven innings, but he pitched better than his line indicated.  The Yankees put up a fight, scoring three runs in the eighth inning, cutting the Phillies lead in half.  But it wouldn’t be enough.

Chan Ho Park and Ryan Madson finished the game, securing the 8-6 win.  Under the circumstances, it was the biggest win of the year, sending the series back to the Bronx and giving the Phillies high hopes.

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Top Moment No. 6: The Day That Harry Died

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, January 17, 2010 07:30 AM Comments: 18

Top Moment #6: Harry Kalas Passes Away in the Broadcast Booth in Washington

http://popcultured.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/harry-kalas.jpgThis isn’t a top moment because of a particular play in the field or a tremendous home run hit, but because of the passing of a legendary figure.  If we voted on Worst Moments in Phillies History, this would certainly be at, or near, the top.  It makes this list because of the magnitude of such a loss; one that had a lasting impact on the 2009 season.  It isn’t a particularly joyous occasion, but it deserves its spot here as this list tries to tell the story of the past year.

Harry Norbert Kalas was born a broadcaster.  His soothing delivery became epic upon excitement; it was something you waited for and when it happened, it made the play that much more special.  Whether it was a “long drive, deep center field” or a “great diving stop”, or even the occasional “6-4-3 twin-killing”, Harry Kalas allowed for the game of baseball to be thoroughly enjoyed. It mattered not that you were five or 95 years of age; he connected generations with that smooth baritone voice.  There isn’t a Phils fan on Earth that hasn’t shared a drink with Harry Kalas, either through the transistor, or more recently, the flat screen. There isn’t a Phillies fan on Earth that didn’t shed a tear on that somber spring afternoon.

On April 13, 2009, as HK prepared for another day at the park, his big heart gave way, and he was called up to the stadium in the sky.  The Phillies would still play that day against the Nationals, pulling out a 9-8 victory with heavy hearts.  But the game meant very little other than a win for the standings. It meant nothing it all because the voice of the team for nearly four decades would no longer raise his voice in celebration as the Fightin’ Phils scraped and clawed their way to victory.

This is certainly a day no Phillies fan will ever forget.  Still, it’s good to know we can all take joy in the fact that HK finally got to call a World Series clincher.  He also died in the place where he’d made so many memories – the booth, getting ready to call another game.  I’m sure he’s busy right now hanging with Whitey, smoking stogies, taking pleasure in yet another baseball game.

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Top Moment No. 7: Bruntlett’s Unassisted Triple Play

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, January 15, 2010 05:40 PM Comments: 12

Top Moment #7: Bruntlett’s Rare TP Gives Phils a Big W

Eric Bruntlett had two defining moments as a two-year member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Nothing is more grandiose than scoring the winning run in the final game of the World Series.  If you’re talking about single plays, few approach that level in baseball.  Unless, of course, you walk right into an unassisted triple play to end a game; which is pretty damned close.

The Bearded One will forever be associated with this one-man beatdown of the New York Mets, providing one of the most unheard of plays in all of sports.  It’s such a rarity that it hadn’t happened that way since a gent named John Neun did it for the Tigers in 1927.  There have been 33 triple plays in the history of the Phillies, but just two of them of the unassisted variety. Mickey Morandini did it as well, back in 1992 against the Pirates.  EB became the 15th player in MLB history with any sort of unassisted triple play.  Not bad for a career .231 hitter.

Prior to that ridiculously improbable ending, Eric Bruntlett was in line to be one of the goats.  Along with Ryan Howard, the two fumbled a few grounders in the ninth inning, allowing for the winning run to approach home plate.  The Phillies held a six-run cushion after the first inning when they chased starter Oliver Perez.  They inflicted so much damage in that opening frame that Perez didn’t pitch in the majors for another two months.  However, The Phils, with Pedro Martinez on the mound in his first appearance in New York since his release, let the Mets back in it, setting the stage for a precarious ending.

With Jeff Francouer at the dish, the runners on first and second were told to run, and run they did – right into the record books.  Francouer smashed it right at Bruntlett who stepped on second, then tagged Daniel Murphy to complete the 1.8 second triple play.  The Phils escaped with a 9-7 victory.

It was one of the few games during the season where Bruntlett made a real impact.  However, it’s such a monumental feat that Phillies fans everyone will be able to answer this trivia question for the next few decades.

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Top Moment No. 8: NL East Champs

Posted by Nick "Beerman" Staskin, Tue, January 12, 2010 01:13 PM Comments: 28

Top Moment #8: Phillies Clinch National League East

It didn’t have the drama of the two NL East titles that came prior. The Mets weren’t busy blowing leads. There was no miraculous double play. Hell, it didn’t even make it to the final weekend of the season.

2009 was a different year. The Phillies had built up a big enough lead that on a Wednesday night on the last day of September, they had a chance to pop the bubbly and sport some new hats and t-shirts.

The only real question as the night progressed was whether or not the Phillies would take care of business themselves or if the Braves were going to finish off the Florida Marlins first. After falling behind early, the Phillies finally pulled ahead 5-3 in the fourth inning and never looked back. Cue in a couple Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino triples, add in a Raul Ibanez bomb and all of a sudden it was 10-3 in the 7th inning.

However, then things got interesting. The Phillies game and the Braves game almost fell into a dead heat, going out for out.

During the past two NL East titles though, the Phillies had always clinched on their own. This year, the scoreboard operators would make sure that tradition continued. Suddenly, there were no updates coming of the Braves-Marlins game.

And with two outs in the ninth, Charlie Manuel went to the bullpen despite the game not being in question. Feeling as if he owed his much-beleaguered closer the opportunity to finish it off, Manuel brought in Brad Lidge to finish off his old team and bring the Phillies their third straight division championship.

A few fans in the stadium had their phones out and had seen the Marlins had already lost and the division was already won, but it felt better this way.

It felt better celebrating in front of the Harry Kalas tribute sign in left center. It felt better hearing the crowd erupt for a third straight division title considering prior to 2007, we hadn’t won one in 14 years.

It just felt better this way.

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Top Moment No. 9: Lee’s First Start a Gem

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, January 10, 2010 01:02 PM Comments: 51

Top Moment #9: Cliff Lee Goes the Distance in His First Start as a Phillie

http://www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/delcotimes/ryanl/uploaded_images/CliftonLee-792040.jpgDoesn’t it feel like Lee is somehow haunting this team?  Take a trip back to July 31 when Cliff Lee was the New Guy on the Philadelphia Phillies, when the buzz was reaching its apex following the pre-deadline deal that brought him over from Cleveland.  The Phils didn’t get the guy at the top of their list (Roy Halladay), but did acquire someone with a solid pedigree.  No one was sure exactly what Lee would bring to the table, but it was apparent that moving to the NL would give him a leg up on the competition.

His first start took place against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park along the Bay.  Lee wasted no time acclimating himself to the NL, tossing a complete game, four-hitter, throwing 109 pitches – 76 for strikes – all while re-energizing a team that had been lacking that big-game starter they could rely on for the postseason.  In one fell swoop, Lee became an ace, and from that point forward, became a cult hero in Philadelphia following the 5-1 victory.

I won’t soon forget where I was for this game.  Standing in Lucy’s Hat Shop on 3rd & Market, the place erupted as Lee closed the game out by inducing a 4-6-3 double-play, complements (or compliments) of Bengie Molina.  As we rejoiced a little louder than usual for a July 31 game, the seeds had then been planted.  The Phillies were in the process of running away with the NL East, as they took a six game lead. Lee was in the process of sheer domination, as he would go on to win five straight starts, beginning with this demolition of the Giants.  The team, starting July 31, became the team to beat once again in the Senior Circuit.  All thanks to Cliff Lee.

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Top Moment No. 10: Rally on Ring Day

Posted by Amanda Orr, Fri, January 08, 2010 10:26 AM Comments: 10

Top Moment # 10: Phillies Rally Big on the Day of their Ring Ceremony

Every player in the major leagues desires to have one.  It is not easy to obtain; some will earn one, others will fall short.  It has become a symbol around Major League Baseball.  Years after a player retires, they still proudly sport it.  The Philadelphia Phillies already experienced the thrill and glory of a World Championship, but it was time for them to officially be given the hardware.

One by one, each player was called out of the dugout.  After handshaking an emotional Pat Gillick and Charlie Manuel, the player was handed a box with a 14-karot, 103 diamond ring inside.  Each player tried on the beautiful piece of jewelry, but there was a game to play.  It was April 8, and the Phillies were without a win.  It was finally time to put the 2008 season behind and move forward to 2009.

Joe Blanton was making his first start of the year, and it didn’t go as planned. The righty allowed seven runs in four innings.  At the top of the 7th, the Phillies found themselves trailing 10-3.  Perhaps the ring ceremony took the focus away.

In 2008, the Phillies’ first win came on a walk-off walk.  The Phillies needed a huge rally for their first win of ’09, and they kept fighting.  Like ’08, walks became a huge factor.

Raul Ibanez and Pedro Feliz started the rally with bases-loaded singles.  Matt Stairs, Chris Coste and Jimmy Rollins drew three consecutive bases loaded walks.  Shane Victorino’s single and Ryan Howard’s fielder’s choice capped off an eight-run inning.

The Phillies 12-11 victory over the Atlanta Braves was the Phillies’ first win of the 2009 season.  It was only appropriate that it came in comeback fashion, something they did so many times.

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