If you looked past the absurdly late start time and the absolutely friggin' insane cold temperature--below 30 degrees by the last innings--the pattern for how the Phillies would win their biggest game of the year actually began to lay out with the third batter of the evening. Minutes into what would be an epic of four-plus hours, Chase Utley stepped to the plate with two outs. Utley, a middling 2 for 8 through the first two games of the Division Series after a miserable .204/.304/.343 performance in September, crushed a pitch from Rockies starter Jason Hammel over the right-center field wall to give his team a quick 1-0 lead. Utley made his presence felt with the bat all night, figuring in two big rallies later on and finishing with three hits and a walk.
Happ had no need for redemption after his outstanding regular season, but his first career playoff start isn't likely one he'll remember fondly. The rookie lefty needed more than 30 pitches to get through the first inning as the Rockies scored twice to take a 2-1 lead, and he ultimately lasted just three innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks. But his teammates took him off the hook with three runs in the top of the fourth. Shane Victorino led off with a walk, advanced to second on an Utley single and scored on Ryan Howard's single to right-center. After Hammel walked Jayson Werth, he got ahead of Raul Ibanez. But the veteran left fielder--another player look to silence doubters after a mostly pedestrian second half--came back in the at-bat to draw the first and biggest of his three walks for the game, tying the score at 3. After Pedro Feliz grounded into a 1-2-3 double play, Carlos Ruiz put the Phils back ahead with an RBI single that scored Howard.
The Rockies quickly tied it again on a long solo home run from Carlos Gonzalez, the emerging star who notched three more hits plus a walk tonight. But Joe Blanton held Colorado at bay for the rest of his 2 2/3 innings, before giving way to Scott Eyre with two outs in the sixth. By then, the Phils had retaken the lead, on another single from Ruiz that scored Ibanez. With a man on first, Eyre came on to face pinch-hitter extraordinaire Seth Smith, and induced a popup to end the inning.
Eyre did not fare as well an inning later, as Gonzalez led off with a double. Dexter Fowler tried to bunt him over, but Eyre's ankle collapsed and both runners were safe on the corners. Ryan Madson came in to strike out Todd Helton, but the Rockies tied it on a Troy Tulowitzki sac fly that looked much more troublesome off the bat. Madson finished the inning by freezing Yorvit Torrealba--who responded to manager Jim Tracy elevating him to fifth in the batting order by going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts--on outside heat.
The Phillies then let a great chance go by the boards in the top of the eighth, when an Ibanez walk and a bloop Feliz double put men on second and third with one out. Rafael Betancourt held on to strike out Ruiz and pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, and the Rockies seemed to have the momentum going into the home eighth. But Chad Durbin, a reliever I've certainly felt no faith in, and whose appearance on the playoff roster itself was a surprise after a poor regular season, set Colorado down in order, keeping things even. Another fallen star, Jimmy Rollins, stepped up to lead off the ninth, working a full count against Huston Street before singling up the middle. Rollins moved up to second on Victorino's sac bunt and got to third on an Utley infield single that he appeared to foul off his own body, then barely beat (or not) Torrealba's throw to first. Howard's deep sac fly plated Rollins, and the Phillies had their fourth one-run lead of the night.
With Madson used--exactly when he should have been, by the way, with the game on the line in the seventh--Charlie Manuel called on the closer whose reversal of fortune has been the biggest stain on a mostly successful Phillies season, Colorado native Brad Lidge. It was quickly clear that this Lidge had something over the helpless hurler seen a month ago getting smacked around by the likes of the Nationals and Marlins, as he induced an easy groundout from Brad Hawpe to start the inning. But Gonzalez had another superb at-bat, getting ahead 3-0, taking a strike, then fouling off pitch after pitch before taking a close fastball outside for the walk. He stole second with pinch-hitter Jason Giambi up, but had to stay there when the aging slugger fouled out to third. Lidge seemed to pitch around Todd Helton, and put the potential winning run on with another walk. But Tulowitzki, whose sac fly had plated Gonzalez two innings earlier, could only manage a shallow fly ball to left. Ben Francisco settled under it, squeezed, and pumped his fist, and Lidge turned to accept the handshakes and high fives of his teammates--who stood in for who knows how many thousands of exhausted but exhilarated Phillies fans everywhere.
Cliff Lee takes the mound tomorrow at 6 ET, looking to close out the series. As in Game One, he'll face Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez.