If at 38th You Don't Succeed: Phillies 3, Dodgers 2

It’s what Phillies fans have been anticipating for nearly 40 games now. You almost had that feeling that tonight was going to be something special. I mean, how could it not be? Everything was primed for a must-watch experience. And believe me when I tell you, it did not disappoint.

That’s right, after almost 40 games of waiting, the Phillies finally won a game they trailed after 7 innings! Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!

Wait…that’s not why you were watching? You were looking for something else…hmmm, let’s see now.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have been back for a while. Chooch is still awesome, so no change on that front. Galvis isn’t uninjured/unsuspended yet. No trades have been made. No one got tazed. Today’s not a holiday or anything…wait, holiday. That sounds familiar. Holiday…holiday…OH YEAH! Roy Halladay made his first start since coming off the disabled list. Let’s talk about that, shall we? I guess it’s kind of important, after all.

Harry Leroy Halladay III made his return to the rubber tonight, and pitched about as well as anyone expected him to, considering he was coming off the DL and on a tight pitch count. Actually, he probably threw a little bit better than that. His final line on the day was 5 innings, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, and 6 strikeouts. 2 of those strikeouts were to the first batters he faced. He did throw one wild pitch, but he didn’t walk a single batter, which is always a good sign for Doc. All the damage incurred to the Phillies ace came in the second inning on four straight hits: a line-drive single by Andre Ethier, a jam-shot, just-fair, BABIP-is-a-cruel-mistress double to right field by Adam Kennedy, and two more singles by James Loney and Luis Cruz. The inning ended mercifully when A.J. Ellis lined into a double play, and the pitcher (who we’ll talk about in just a bit) struck out looking. Doc would settle in very nicely after the second, allowing only 1 hit over the next three innings. He finished the night after the fifth inning at exactly 80 pitches.

The Phillies offense, meanwhile, went right to work against rookie right-hander Stephen Fife, who took a left turn at Albuquerque to make his major league debut for Los Angeles. Right away, he found himself in trouble after a leadoff double by Jimmy Rollins. Luckily, the Phillies were in a good mood and decided to give him his first major league out for free when Shane Victorino sacrificed Rollins to third. Rollins would then score on a grounder to first by Chase Utley.

Now remember how I said that this Fife guy was a rookie making his major league debut? You do? Good, then you know where this is going. If you don’t, allow me to take you back to September 6, 2010, if I may. Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Florida Miami Florida Marlins, and both clubs need an extra starting pitcher. The Phillies, as you may recall, elected to have the version of Vance Worley with long hair make his first career start. The Marlins chose to have Adalberto Mendez make his major league debut. To make a long story short, Mendez got the win with six innings of one-hit ball, completely stymieing the Phillies to the tune of 6 strikeouts and 2 walks. Not pretty.

Tonight? Also not pretty, considerably less pretty really. Apparently this Fife guy is a groundball machine, recording 13 of his 18 outs on the ground. He only struck out one Phillies batter, but walked 3 and threw 2 wild pitches. In every inning except the third, the Phillies had a man in scoring position with less than 2 outs, and only one run crossed the plate. It looked like they would get a second run in the sixth, when Hunter Pence singled to center with Ryan Howard on second, but Matt Kemp threw out Howard trying to score. On the replay, it looked like Howard got his hand on the plate before Ellis made the tag on his shoulder, but HP ump Wally Bell called him out anyway.

The skirmish of the bullpens ensued. The Dodgers trotted out Josh Lindblom for the seventh, where he pitched a perfect inning. Ronald Belisario, who struck out the side last night, entered for the eighth inning. After recording two quick outs, Belisario proceeded to walk Chase Utley on 4 pitches and hit both Howard and Carlos Ruiz, loading the bases. With Pence due to bat, Mattingly made the call for strikeout machine Kenley "Manly" Jensen to put out the fire. Pence, however, took a 2-1 cutter up the middle for a 2-run single, giving the Phillies their first lead this season when trailing after seven innings. Ruiz was thrown out going first to third on the play, but the damage was done, and the Phils now led 3-2.

The Phillies bullpen, by contrast, was absolutely fantastic this evening. Michael Schwimer and Jeremy Horst combined for a scoreless sixth, and Kyle Kendrick pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless ball. The biggest moment, though, came when Kendrick, who had just given up a hit to Kemp, was pulled in favor of Antonio Bastardo, who would face Ethier. After falling behind 3-1, Bastardo got Ethier to swing at a nasty slider for strike two and then stare at a fastball for strike three. The bottom of the ninth saw Jonathan Papelbon work a 1-2-3 inning, striking out Juan Rivera looking for the final out to record his 21st save and give the Phillies their fourth consecutive victory.

Fangraph ain't working properly, but believe me when I say it's pretty.

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