It's never wise to invest too much meaning in a game you needed more than the other guys. With the Mets riding a 10-1 wave while the Phillies endured a 4-8 swoon--both punctuated by the visitors' 9-1 beatdown in the series opener Friday night--and the prospect of staring up at Johan Santana Sunday night in the finale, the Phils really didn't want to fall to New York again Saturday afternoon with ace Roy Halladay on the hill. Through three-plus innings, though, this looked all too likely. New York put men in scoring position in the second, third and fourth, while the Phillies wasted a first-inning leadoff double from Shane Victorino and subsequently looked helpless against Mets starter Mike Pelfrey. Even though Halladay turned away each New York threat, he'd thrown 73 pitches through 4; it seemed all too likely that the Mets could win a war of attrition.
About 20 minutes later, the Phils were on their way to a blowout win that, at least for we anxiety junkies, might have offered as much relief between the ears as in the standings. All it took to get things started was a couple flare hits from Chase Utley and Jayson Werth in and out of the gloves of Met infielders, sandwiched around a Ryan Howard line single. Utley scored from second on Werth's hit, which Alex Cora very nearly caught for what might have been a triple play. After Raul Ibanez struck out, Juan Castro doubled past David Wright down the third base line, driving in Howard and Werth. He was thrown out at home trying to score on a Carlos Ruiz single, but Halladay kept the inning alive with a single up the middle and Victorino followed with a three-run homer, stretching the lead to 6-0. Pelfrey, who had taken a 27 inning scoreless streak into the fourth, didn't make it into the fifth.
The Phils added two more runs each in the fifth and seventh, on an Ibanez triple and Werth and Ruiz singles respectively. The offense nearly matched its run total from the previous four games (11), reaching double digits for the third time this season and the first against a team other than the Nationals. Victorino, chastised after failing to run out a dropped strike three Friday night, had the biggest hit with his homer, but every starter other than the suddenly slumping Placido Polanco had at least one hit, led by Utley's 3 for 5 with two doubles and Werth's 2 for 3 with three runs scored.
Oh, yeah: after needing those 73 pitches to record his first 12 outs, Halladay required just 45 to notch the final 15. He wound up with his third complete game and second shutout in six starts for the Phillies, allowing three hits and a walk--none of either after the fourth--against six strikeouts to improve to 5-1 and lower his ERA to 1.47. Unreal.
Jamie Moyer opposes Santana in the series finale Sunday night.