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Phlashback: the 1991 streak

With last night's thrilling 5-4 win over the New York Mets, the Phillies ran their winning streak to nine straight games, the longest since the club ran off thirteen wins in a row during the 1991 campaign. Unlike the current tear, that streak did not come as the team had realistic postseason hopes: the Phils sat 19.5 games out of first place at 40-58 when the streak began on July 30, and when it concluded on August 12 they still trailed the division-leading Pirates by 12.5.

Still, that 1991 streak was not meaningless in the history of the team. Most of the players who formed the core of the 1993 pennant winner were already on hand, and during those two weeks in late July and early August they showed GM Lee Thomas and manager Jim Fregosi what they could do.  Veterans Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Terry Mulholland and, yes, Mitch Williams were among the heroes of the streak, ably assisted by then-emerging players like Wes Chamberlain, Mickey Morandini, Tommy Greene and Dave Hollins.

Here's a game-by-game look at the last time the Phils tore through the National League for days on end, giving a hint of what was to come two years later.  

The Start: Tuesday, July 30: Phils 2, Padres 1
Jose DeJesus won his seventh game of the year, allowing just one run in eight innings despite seven hits and seven walks as the Padres left 11 men on base. Trailing 1-0, the Phils rallied with RBI doubles from Wes Chamberlain in the 6th and John Kruk an inning later off SD starter Dennis Rasmussen. The win improved the Phils' record to 41-58, 19.5 games behind the division-leading Pirates and still stuck in last place in the six-team NL East.

Wednesday, July 31: Phils 9, Padres 3
Chamberlain hit a pair of three-run homers and Bruce Ruffin struck out seven in as many innings to lift the Phils to their second straight victory. Rookie second baseman Mickey Morandini went 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI.

Thursday, August 1: Phils 4, Expos 1
Chamberlain hit his third home run in two games while John Kruk and Dave Hollins added two hits each to support the complete-game pitching of Terry Mulholland, who held Montreal to three hits and a walk while striking out seven.

Friday, August 2: Phils 6, Expos 5 (11)
Trailing 5-4 in the 9th, the Phils rallied to tie the game off Expos lefty Jeff Fassero when Lenny Dykstra singled in Randy Ready. Mitch Williams, who pitched two scoreless innings, earned the win after Dickie Thon's second home run of the game in the 11th.  

Saturday, August 3: Phillies 7, Expos 1
The Phillies jumped on Expos starter Brian Barnes for two runs in the second inning and four more in the third, keyed by a three-run Dale Murphy blast. Tommy Greene threw seven shutout innings to improve to 8-4 on the season.

Sunday, August 4: Phillies 3, Expos 2 (10)
With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the 10th, Lenny Dykstra beat out an infield single, stole second base, and scored on a Dale Murphy double. Williams again earned the victory with two scoreless innings of relief as the Phils won their sixth straight.

Tuesday, August 6: Phillies 6, Cubs 2 (11)
For the second time during the streak, the Phils found themselves trailing in the 9th inning until Lenny Dykstra homered off Cubs reliever Paul Assenmacher. Two innings later, after a Dykstra walk and a Darren Daulton single, John Kruk was walked intentionally to bring up Dale Murphy. The veteran slugger made Chicago pay with a game-ending grand slam to give Mitch Williams his third win in four games.

Wednesday, August 7: Phillies 5, Cubs 4 (11)
Another day, another walkoff win: tied 4-4 in the 11th, Randy Ready singled with one out but had to hold at third on a Dykstra double. After Darren Daulton was walked intentionally, Wes Chamberlain won it with his third hit of the day. Williams earned his third straight victory with a scoreless two-strikeout inning.

Thursday, August 8: Phillies 11, Cubs 1
After four extra-inning wins in five games, the Phils won their ninth straight in more relaxed style, scoring five runs each against future Phillies Danny Jackson and Heathcliff Slocumb. Charlie Hayes drove in four runs, starting a streak of five straight two-hit games, while Thon went 3 for 5 with a double and two RBI. Danny Cox pitched seven innings to square his season record at 4-4.

Friday, August 9: Phillies 5, Expos 4
Looking for payback after getting swept by the Phils in a four-game set the previous weekend, the Expos broke a 1-1 tie with two unearned 7th-inning runs off Tommy Greene. But the Phils responded in the bottom of the frame on a bases-loaded three-run double by Ricky Jordan. The teams traded single runs again in the 8th inning, with the Phillies getting the game-winner on Dickie Thon's sac fly that scored Kruk. Mitch Williams won his fifth game of the streak, recording the last two outs in the 8th and holding on in the 9th despite surrendering a double and hitting a batter.

Saturday, August 10: Phillies 4, Expos 2
The Phils rallied again for win #11, tying the game at 2 in the bottom of the 6th as Hayes doubled in Murphy, and plating two in the 7th to win it on RBI hits by Dykstra and Chamberlain. Jose DeJesus pitched seven innings to improve to 8-4, and Williams notched his 20th save of the season.

Sunday, August 11: Phillies 5, Expos 4
Still another late-inning rally carried the Phils to their 12th straight win, and again Expos lefty Jeff Fassero was the victim. With the game tied at 4 in the 8th, Hayes led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and third on a groundout, and scored when Fassero uncorked a wild pitch with Dale Murphy at the plate.

Monday, August 12: Phillies 2, Expos 1
The Phillies beat Montreal for the eighth time during the streak behind the pitching of Terry Mulholland, who threw his second complete game in 11 days to beat Dennis Martinez. Dykstra's two-out RBI single in the 7th scored Thon with the go-around run as the team improved to 53-58 on the year.

The End: Tuesday, August 13: Pirates 4, Phillies 3
The Phils scored three runs in the top of the 3rd to take a 3-1 lead, but starter Doug Drabek and three Pittsburgh relievers held them off the rest of the way while the Pirate offense scored single runs in four straight innings off Danny Cox. Trailing 4-3 in the 7th, the Phils squandered their best chance to run the streak to 14 when, with the bases loaded and one out, Pirate reliever and future Phillie Roger Mason induced a double-play ball from Ricky Jordan.

Streak facts:

  • Mitch Williams went 5-0 with 2 saves during the streak, including three straight relief victories--all in extra-inning games--between August 4-7.  Overall, Williams appeared in 8 games over the streak, throwing 10.2 scoreless innings.

  • Terry Mulholland threw two complete-game wins during the streak, on August 1 and again on August 12, the 13th and final win.

  • Mulholland and Jason Grimsley are the only two 1991 Phillies still in the majors 15 years later. They both pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

  • Wes Chamberlain went 4-4 with two homers and six RBI on July 31 to power the Phils' 9-3 win in the second game of the streak. He added another, his fifth of the season, the next day in a 4-1 win over Montreal. Through the first eight wins of the streak (July 30-August 7), Chamberlain went 17-38 (.447) with three doubles, two triples, three HR, 12 RBI, two steals and six walks.

  • As Chamberlain cooled off toward the end of the streak, 3b Charlie Hayes heated up. Hayes had two hits each in the last five wins (10-23), including five doubles.

  • Dickie Thon broke an 0-for-14 with a single and two homers in his last three at-bats on August 2 as the Phils outlasted the Expos 6-5 in 12 innings for their fourth straight win. Thon drove in 8 runs over the last ten games of the streak.

  • Lenny Dykstra had four multi-hit games and six steals during the streak.

  • Darren Daulton, still a year from establishing himself as the NL's best hitting catcher, went just 6-38 (.158) during the streak.