The Phillies took one of their more improbable victories of the 2009 season in Chicago Tuesday night, outlasting the Cubs by a 4-3 score despite recording only three hits to Chicago's 10. The difference: two of the three left the yard, including Ben Francisco's game-winner to lead off the 12th against Cubs closer Kevin Gregg, who had entered the night with an 0.79 career ERA against the Phils and carved through Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez an inning earlier. The madness continued in the bottom of the inning, with Chad Durbin--fresh off the disabled list--finishing things off on a deep Alfonso Soriano flyout to record his second save of the season.
With the bad taste of Sunday’s debactacular loss to the Marlins lingering and the atmosphere tense after Jamie Moyer’s demotion to relief work, the Phillies were probably glad to get back on the field Tuesday night at Chicago’s Friendly Confines. Unfortunately, awaiting them there was Rich Harden, the oft-injured but overpowering Cubs righthander. Like Gregg, Harden has always had the Phils’ number, taking a career 0.90 ERA over three starts into the game—and for five and a third innings Tuesday, he was much better than that. The first sixteen Phillies to face Harden sat back down on the bench without reaching base, and with his pitch count low, a date with baseball history seemed entirely possible. Finally, Carlos Ruiz walked with one out in the sixth—and after J.A. Happ failed to get a bunt down, Jimmy Rollins broke up the no-hitter and the shutout both with a home run to right field, tying the game at 2.
That it was only a two-run deficit to start with owed something to luck and something to Happ’s composure. The rookie stranded two Cubs runners in each of the first two innings, then allowed the first four Chicago hitters to reach in the third, scoring one. But the Cubs only added a sacrifice fly after that, and Happ settled down to throw three more scoreless innings and keep the game close.
With Harden finally out of the game, the Phillies took a 3-2 lead in the eighth without benefit of a hit, thanks to the wildness of Chicago reliever Carlos Marmol. Ruiz walked, and with two outs Marmol hit Shane Victorino, then walked Chase Utley and Ryan Howard before leaving to a cascade of boos. But after Ryan Madson set the Cubs down in the eighth, the Phillies’ own high-risk relief show took center stage as Brad Lidge walked Kosuke Fukudome to lead off the ninth. A sac bunt later, Milton Bradley—whose clutch hitting and inexplicably great right-field defense against the Phils summoned memories of Mets-era Cliff Floyd—tied the game with an RBI single to right.
So for the second time in less than a month, Rich Harden stymied the Phillies over seven innings, and his team lost hours later. On a night when Lidge provided yet another reason to worry that a stretch-drive time bomb ticks at the back of the bullpen, we'll take it.