If C.B. Bucknor lasts as a major league umpire for a thousand years, men will still say, this was his finest hour. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
[Part one of this article covered the prelude to the series and its first game. This part will cover the series' second and third games. The series finale will be covered in part three, either tomorrow or Thursday.]
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 (Adam Eaton vs. Tom Glavine): Phillies win 4-2 in 10 innings
We all remember Adam Eaton as (A) one of the worst free agent signings in Phillies history, and (B) the guy who showed up at the Phillies' World Series ring ceremony even though he'd been so bad in 2008 that he was sent to the minors and excluded from the playoff roster. Eaton was just as bad in 2007 and he would be in 2008, and yet he played a very special role in the Phillies' miraculous comeback. Because, you see, as bad as he was against everyone else, for some reason the Mets were the only team that couldn't get to him. The numbers are actually kind of astounding. Against every team not named the Mets, he had a 6.70 ERA in 26 G, 138.1 IP, and allowed a HR to every 23.5 batters. Against the Mets, he had a 3.86 ERA in 4 G, 23.1 IP, and only allowed a HR every 32.7 batters.
The Mets countered Eaton with Tom Glavine, who was 41 and approaching the end of what would prove to be his last productive season in the majors. He no longer had a fastball, but he frustrated the Phillies' powerful lineup with weak contact all game, allowing only eight baserunners (all on singles) in 7.0 shutout innings, while striking out only one batter. Meanwhile, Eaton allowed a two-run homer to Carlos Delgado in the 2nd, but then -- somehow -- survived into the 6th without giving up any more runs.
Mets manager Willie Randolph finally pulled Glavine to begin the 8th with his pitch count over 100. He replaced him with lefty sidearm junkballer Pedro Feliciano to face Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Pat Burrell. Feliciano had been great in 2006 and was doing okay in 2007, but on this night, Rollins met him with a solo homer to cut the lead in half. Then Feliciano got Utley on a groundout, walked Burrell (who was pinch-run for by Shane Victorino), and retired Ryan Howard on a flyout to left. With Aaron Rowand and Jayson Werth up next, Randolph called for righty Aaron Heilman.
The Mets catcher at this time was Paul Lo Duca, who was not only pretty bad at throwing base stealers out, but was also kind of a douchebag whom talking heads irritatingly loved because they thought he was scrappy. On the first pitch to Rowand, Victorino took off for second, and Lo Duca deliciously threw the ball into center field, allowing Shane to make it to third. And then Rowand took a giant hack at a 2-1 Heilman offering, which barely nicked the bottom of Rowand's bat and rolled along the third base line, right in front of the helpless David Wright and -- somehow -- stayed fair. Victorino scored.
It was then a battle of the bullpens. With the game being played in Philadelphia, the Phillies immediately went to their closer, Brett Myers, who retired all six batters he faced in the 9th and 10th. Reluctant to use their closer Billy Wagner in a tied game on the road, the Mets instead went with Guillermo Mota and his 5.40 ERA. Mota pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, but in the 10th, Victorino led off with a single, and Howard ended the affair with a mammoth two-run shot to left-center.
But to me, the story of this game was Eaton. The Mets had four shots to face Eaton in 2007. As it turned out, they only needed to beat him once to get themselves the division title. They beat him zero times.
Every game in this series was more dramatic than the one that preceded it. Game three featured a matchup of two lefties who couldn't have been more different from one another. Jamie Moyer requires no introduction here, but one thing to remember about him is that while he pitched well after his acquisition in 2006, and while he improbably won 16 games in 2008, the results he got in 2007 were not particularly good. He had gotten off to a nice start, but then struggled badly in July and August, and entered this game with a 6.99 ERA in his last ten starts. Oliver Perez, meanwhile, was not yet the joke that he would later become. He was still (unlike Moyer) a guy with a live arm and dangerous stuff, although (also unlike Moyer) he rarely knew where it was going. (I see that he now appears to have resurrected his career as a reliever with the Mariners. Good for him.)
This time Perez was outdueled by the old man. Moyer allowed a solo home run in the 1st to David Wright (which, luckily for the Phillies, came shortly after Moyer picked Jose Reyes off first base). But the Phillies responded in the bottom of the 1st, with solo homers by Rollins and Burrell. The Mets tied it up in the 4th, but Moyer helped get the lead back himself in the 5th by working a leadoff walk against Perez. Singles by Rollins and Tadahito Iguchi (giving Utley a night off) moved him to third, and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Perez then buckled down with a series of strikeouts, ending up with 10 K (and 5 BB), but the Phillies had what they needed and just barely hung on.
Moyer got through the 6th by striking out Paul Lo Duca and Lastings Milledge with a man on. In the 7th, J.C. Romero walked Reyes with one out, but then hilariously picked him off for the second time in the game, helping Romero to complete the inning unscathed. In the 8th, Tom Gordon issued a leadoff walk, but later erased it on an inning-ending double play. Finally, Myers came in to pitch the 9th, where, after a strikeout, he allowed line drive singles to Lo Duca and former Phillie Marlon Anderson. Another former Phillie, Endy Chavez, had pinch run for Lo Duca and made it to third on the Anderson single, putting a speedy runner only 90 feet from tying the game with only one out. With the pitcher's spot due up, the Mets called on broken-down ex-star Shawn Green to pinch hit.
After working the count to 2-2, Green hit a slow bouncer to Jimmy Rollins who tossed it to Iguchi at second base in a desperate, but surely futile, attempt to turn two. Chavez crossed home plate for the tie... but wait! For some unfathomable reason, as Anderson slid into second, he reached out with both hands and shoved Iguchi onto the ground in order to break up a double play that had no chance of being turned. Second-base umpire C.B. Bucknor immediately called Anderson out on interference, ending the game. Bucknor does not have a good reputation as an umpire, but this was the right call and he made it emphatically. The Phillies immediately streamed out of the dugout to celebrate the win and then got the heck off the field. It was one of the best and most surprising endings to a baseball game that I've ever seen.