For the past two postseasons, when the Philadelphia Phillies enter a Game 4 of their respective series, something VERY special happens…
- 2008 National League Division Series: Phillies beat the Milwaukee Brewers to move on to the NLCS for the first time in 15 years.
- 2008 National League Championship Series: Down 5-3 in the 8th inning, Shane Victorino ties the game with a two-run, line drive home run in to the Phillies’ bullpen against the Dodgers’ Cory Wade. With two outs, manager Joe Torre brings out their unstoppable closer Jonathan Broxton to finish off pinch hitter Matt Stairs. With one on base, Matt Stairs hits a 3-1 pitch roughly 4,700 feet, securing both the Phillies with a crucial win and his place in Philadelphia sports lore.
- 2008 World Series: Phillies crush the Tampa Bay Rays 10-2, punctuated by four home runs, including one from the very light-hitting Joe Blanton… the starting pitcher for the Phillies. The last time a pitcher hit a home run in the World Series was 1974.
- 2009 National League Division Series: Giving up three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to the Colorado Rockies, the Phillies started the top of the frame facing one of the best closers in the game in Huston Street. Again, with two outs, Ryan Howard hits a two-run double to tie the game. The very next at-bat, Jayson Werth singles in Howard for the go-ahead run, stunning the Rockies and their fans. Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge close out the ninth as the Phillies advance to the NLCS for the second year in a row.
This trend did not end on Monday.
Ryan Howard got the party started right away with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning against the Dodgers’ starter and long time Phillie, Randy Wolf. With that home run, Howard tied the great Lou Gehrig in knocking in a least one run in eight straight postseason games. He already has more RBI’s this postseason than he had in all the playoff gams in 2007 and 2008 combined. “The Big Piece” is proving to be the biggest so far.
Previous Game 4 hero, Joe Blanton took the mound for his first start of the 2009 playoffs and cruised along until the 4th inning, giving up two runs to tie the game. Two more runs in the 5th and 6th inning increased the Dodgers’ lead to 4-2. Chase Utley knocked in Shane Victorino in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit to one.
It was now up to both bullpens.
The Phillies, who have been surprisingly inconsistent this season with their late inning pitching, were extremely effective, shutting down the Dodgers for three innings. Closer Jonathan Broxton, who had pitched to one batter in the 8th, returned for the 9th to hold the lead and possibly notch the series at two a piece.
After a quick groundout by leadoff batter Raul Ibanez, Broxton saw a familiar face enter the box in Matt Stairs. Once again, Stairs was coming in to pinch hit… in Game 4… in a very important situation… against Broxton. This round, again, went to Stairs. This time, instead of a fastball being launched in to the Schuylkill River, Stairs took four straight balls and accepted his free pass to first base. Unsung postseason star Carlos Ruiz stepped up next against Broxton and was pluncked in the arm on the very first pitch. Just like that, hope returned to the Phillies Phaithful. Pinch hitter Greg Dobbs hit a soft liner to Casey Blake which left Jimmy Rollins as the last chance for the Phillies to go up 3-1 in the series.
While J-Roll hasn’t been lighting it up at the plate this postseason (.243 with three doubles and three RBI’s), he has hit exactly when he needs to. He hit two 9th inning singles in games 3 and 4 of the NLDS that sparked late wins against the Rockies. With the count 2-1, Rollins lined a 98 MPH fastball into the gap in right-centerfield, scoring pinch runner Eric Bruntlett and Ruiz all the way from first base, giving the Phillies a 5-4 walk-off victory and possibly one of the most memorable wins ever in Philadelphia sports history.
With Cole Hamels tabbed as the Game 5 starter, he will be looking to rebound from a subpar performance from Game 1. The Phillies will also be looking to exact revenge on Dodgers’ starter Vicente Padilla, who virtually shut them down in Game 2. This, combined with the momentum of an 11-0 shellacking in Game 3 and Game 4’s incredibly emotional ending, the Phillies are in the driver’s seat to make a return to the Fall Classic.
About the Author
Written by Bryan Sargent
Bryan Sargent is a lifelong Phillies fan, currently residing in the least hospitable city for such a person as himself, New York City. This coming January he will be attending Phillies Phantasy Camp in Clearwater, FL. He is currently documenting the entire process on his blog (http://www.bryansargent.com). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @BTSargent.