This was the signature game of the Phillies' 2009 campaign to date: atrocious pitching overcome by offensive heroics. Twice, the team fell behind the visiting Nationals by four runs; twice, the offense saved the day with grand slam homers. The second slam, off the bat of Raul Ibanez, capped a six-run eighth inning to give the Phils a comeback win improbable and dramatic even by the standard they've set through the first weeks of the season.
Six years to the day after Kevin Millwood tossed a no-hitter at Veterans Stadium, six Phillies pitchers combined to allow 11 runs on 12 hits, including five home runs, and 10 walks. Joe Blanton set the tone early, giving up monster blasts to Ryan Zimmerman and Elijah Dukes in the third inning as Washington took a 5-2 lead. When Zimmerman homered again two innings later, the lead was 6-2. But the Phils loaded the bases with one out on consecutive singles by Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley. Nats starter Shairon Martis, who beat the Phils in Washington two weeks ago, got ahead of Ryan Howard, but hung a breaking pitch that the slugger deposited beyond the center field wall to tie the game.
Washington retook the lead in the sixth as Jack Taschner, who had come on in relief of Blanton in the fifth and surrendered two rockets tracked down by Victorino in center and right at Greg Dobbs at third, continued to flirt with disaster. After sandwiching an Anderson Hernandez double between hard-hit outs, Taschner walked two to load the bases before giving way to Clay Condrey, who promptly walked Dukes to force in a run. The Phils tied it in the bottom of the inning, but missed a chance to add more when Howard's bases-loaded line drive was caught by Nick Johnson, who stepped on first to finish the double play.
Scott Eyre relieved Condrey in the eighth and put the Phils right back in a hole as he alternated walks and second-deck home runs--to Johnson and Adam Dunn--before getting lifted for J.A. Happ. Trailing 11-7, the Phillies rallied again in the bottom of the inning. After a Pedro Feliz single and a Rollins double (his third hit of the game), Victorino's sacrifice fly plated Feliz and Rollins came around on a Chase Utley single just over the first-base bag. Nationals manager Manny Acta called in closer Joel Hanrahan to attempt a four-out save, but Hanrahan walked Howard--who came into the matchup 0 for 7 in his career against the right-hander, with six strikeouts--and Werth to reload the bases. Ibanez then crushed a first-pitch fastball into the right-field seats to put the Phils ahead for the first time in the game.
Ryan Madson, who had been warming through the long inning while Brad Lidge sat, pitched the ninth to earn his first save of the season.