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My Favorite and Least Favorite Phillies Games: A Tale of Stolen Bases

Two men stood on first base. Not at the same time, mind you, because I don't think that sort of thing is allowed. They stood on first at different times, in different games, in different years, but in similar situations: ninth inning, close game, opposing closer on the mound. Each had reached base on a single to left field, though that doesn't really matter. What matters is what happens next. Both men wait for the pitcher to come set, to throw home, and take off running towards second. And I'm screaming at the TV, because I'm an idiot and that's what I do, and before I know it, both men stand on third base. One of those men is Johnny Damon, Left Fielder, New York Yankees, and it's November 1st, 2009 - Game Four of the 2009 World Series against the Phillies. With Brad Lidge on the mound, he'd stolen second and third (on the same pitch) to put himself 90 feet from home plate in a tie game. The other one of those men is Jayson Werth, Right Fielder, Philadelphia Phillies, and it's August 30th, 2007 - the final game in a pivotal late season series against the division leading Mets. With Billy Wagner on the mound, he'd stolen second and third (not on the same pitch) to put himself 90 feet from home plate in a one run game.

They say to save the best for last, and I happen to agree with them, so I'll start with Game Four of the 2009 World Series, or as I like to call it, the Johnny-Fucking-Damon-Steals-Two-Fucking-Bases-On-The-Same-Fucking-Pitch game. This happens to also be my least favorite Phillies game of all time. As I'm sure you remember, the Phillies won Game One behind a masterly pitching performance from Cliff Lee, lost Game Two behind a masterly pitching performance from Pedro Martinez, and lost Game Three behind an anything but masterly pitching performance from Cole Hamels and other various peoples. So Game Four was, then, one of those "turning point" games that SportsCenter likes to label every game past Game One, and represented the chance for the Phillies to tie things up and make it a best of three series.

The game began less than ideally, with Joe Blanton surrendering two runs in the top of the first on a series of dinks and dunks wrapped around a Johnny-Effing-Damon double. The game continued slightly more ideally, with Shane Victorino and Chase Utley getting one back in the bottom of the first via consecutive doubles. The Phillies would tie things up in the bottom of the fourth when Ryan Howard singled, stole second (!) and was driven in (!!) by a Pedro Feliz single. The Yankees would retake the lead in the next frame, scoring two runs on nothing but singles. Utley and Feliz (ha!) would homer in the 7th and 8th, respectively, to tie things up.

The top of ninth saw Charlie trot out especially wobbly closer Brad Lidge, who managed to get Hideki Matsui to fly-out to short and strike out Derek Jeter for the first two outs. Then Damon, in one of those "Jesus Christ just get him out Brad!" nine-pitch at bats, reached first on a single to left. With Mark Teixeira up, the Phillies went into the shift, and Damon did the usual thing and stole second on Lidge's first pitch. However, unlike the other thousand times someone has trotted to second with Lidge on the mound, THERE WAS NO ONE COVERING FUCKING THIRD BASE. Damon raced around second and cavorted gleefully into third, where he stood there grinning while I attempted to single-handedly tear down my underclassmen dorm with my desk chair. Bereft of his slider, Lidge hit Texeira and then allowed a double to A-Rod to make it 5-4, Yankees. Jorge Posada then stroked a two-run single to make it 7-4, and was mercifully caught trying to stretch it into a double. After that, I'm told the Phillies went quietly into the night, but I wouldn't know. I was gone, on my way to the bar, alternatively chugging cheap whiskey, breaking down in tears, and punching things. I slept fitfully that night, even with the aforementioned cheap whiskey.

With that catastrophe duly covered, I turn to my favorite Phillies game of all time, an incredibly exciting, four-game sweep clinching, 11-10 victory over the New York Mets on August 30th, 2007, in the midst of the Phillies historical charge to first place. Again, as I'm sure you'll remember, the Phillies entered the series six games back of the Mets, with about a month of baseball left to play. They'd taken the first three games of the series, 9-2, 4-2, and 3-2. I have no idea who pitched in those games, and the only thing I remember about them is that the 3-2 game ended on an interference call against someone on the Mets (who ESPN tells me was Marlon Anderson). The final game represented a chance to sweep the series and move within two games of the first-place Mets, with about 27 games remaining.

The game started ideally, with Ryan Howard hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to make it 2-0 Phillies. Things continued even more ideally in the 3rd, which saw the Phillies take a 5-0 lead behind the power of Pat the Bat and the leadership of Aaron Rowand. Not comfortable with a five run lead, Kyle Lohse decided to make things more interesting by surrendering three runs in the top of the fourth, the last of which on a single to Lastings Milledge, whose existence I had completely forgotten until today. Geoff Geary followed this up by allowing two runs in the top of the fifth, fully erasing the Phillies' five run lead. The Phillies singled in three runs in the bottom of the inning, giving them an 8-5 lead, and causing me to giggle with glee and put down the various things I'd been contemplating breaking. Things continued uneventfully until the top of the 8th, when a combination of J.C. Romero, Antonio Alfonseca, Jose Mesa, and Carlos Ruiz - but mostly Alfonseca, who I legitimately do not remember pitching for the Phillies - gave up five runs, giving the Mets a 10-8 lead, and causing me to pick back everything I had just put down. Pat the Bat got one back in the bottom of the inning off of war criminal Billy Wagner, and the Phillies entered the bottom of the ninth down 10-9.

Jayson Werth led off the ninth inning with a single to left off of Wagner, trying for the six-out save, and then Ruiz flied out to center. With Tad Iguchi batting, Werth, who at that point had stolen two bases on the season and 17 in his Major League career to date, stole second on the first pitch. On the second pitch, he stole third, barely beating the throw. "What the hell Jayson," I screamed, "where did that come from?" I was sitting in ice bath of the trainer's room of my high school, screaming at the TV with my teammates, first in fright and then in delight as Werth swiped both bags. Iguchi singled, Werth trotted home, and the game was tied 10-10. Every eye in the room, from football players to soccer players to cross country runners, was glued to the TV. Iguchi stole second, and then Wagner walked Rollins. Utley strode to the plate, worked the count full, and stroked a single through the left side. Iguchi raced home from second, the Phillies walked off, we threw ice in the air like it was confetti, and the Phillies swept the Mets in a pivotal four game series. The win was made even more beautiful thirty days later, when the Phillies won the division with nary a game to spare. It was, still is, and probably always will be my favorite baseball game.

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