Whether you were watching on TV or if you had slogged through torrential downpours for hours at the ballpark, the end of the game proved to be a classic reminder of why it is good to be a Phillies fan. Perhaps for one moment, it may have been easy to forget what year it was… or what team was in the visitors’ dugout. Brad Lidge was on the mound. Eric Hinske was swinging at a slider in the dirt… Rains had soaked the field for days on end… The crowd was… well… most of the sane fans had given up and gone home! Some of the less prepared may have been washed away during high tide or simply dissolved while waiting for the baseball game. Noah’s Ark was seen in the parking lot taking passengers at reduced rates.
Mother Nature unleashed soaking torrential downpour on Citizens Bank Park and this was a week after Hurricane Irene. The schedule demands that 33 games be played in 31 days and by any means necessary the Phillies and Braves were obligated to make every effort. By the time the umpire finally shouted “Play Ball” the first inning was about 90 minutes late. There wasn’t much in the way of a rooting section at Citizens Bank Park. You couldn’t really blame them for not showing up in the first place – seeing the steady rain had been falling all day. While some might have circled this series on your schedule at the beginning of the season, the Phillies woke up yesterday with an 8 1/2-game lead over the Braves and 25 games remaining.
Lo and behold there was a baseball game Tuesday night. The Phillies felt so bad about insisting on playing this game that they offered anybody holding a ticket – the few thousand remaining who braved the conditions and the 40 thousand-plus who never showed – a free ticket to one of a selection of regular-season games next season. In the end, the deluge of rain tapered off to a mist, and the CBP Grounds Crew earned their overtime pay getting the field to resemble a baseball diamond more than the sunken Titanic.
The Phillies rattled off their latest victory (90th of the season), beating Atlanta, 6-3, to take a commanding 9 1/2-game division lead. The victory, a true team effort featuring clutch hits by Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard with a solid performance the makeshift bullpen, lowered the Phillies’ “magic number” to 14. Any combination of 14 wins and Braves losses over the last 24 games will clinch a fifth straight NL East title for the Phillies. When they get to 100 wins, it will prove just the third time in team 129 years of history (1976 & 1977).
Tonight, the Phils will go for the sweep against Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy. Next Philadelphia turns their attention toward a four-game series in Milwaukee which would offer them a stranglehold on homefield advantage throughout the postseason – as well as a postseason preview for a likely NLDS or NLCS matchup. But this is all getting ahead of ourselves…
Tuesday night’s game started one hour, 53 minutes late. A vast minority of the announced crowd of 44,781 – yes, it was a sellout, the 193rd straight – showed up. Those who did were treated to a solid, all-around showing by the home team, which improved to 90-48, a 105-win pace. The Phillies have won at least 90 games four seasons in a row (2008-2011) for the first time in franchise history and just the thirteenth 90-win season overall (1993, 1983, 1980, 1976-1978, 1964, 1950 and 1915).
Chase Utley gave the Phillies an early 1-0 lead with his 10th HR, a solo shot off Tim Hudson in the first inning. Raul Ibanez followed in the second with a single that dropped into centerfield and scored Ryan Howard. The Braves rallied to tie the game against rookie Vance Worley, who allowed a solo homer to Dan Uggla in the fourth and a sacrifice fly to Alex Gonzalez in the sixth.
Worley could have let the game get out of control in that sixth inning, loading the bases with no outs, courtesy of a pair of walks and a Chipper Jones double. Thankfully “Vanimal” escaped, allowing just one run. Worley earned the win when the Phillies scored twice in the bottom of the inning. This was the 14th straight of Worley’s starts that the Phillies won. Worley improved to 11-1, allowing 2 runs with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks in 6 IP, lowering his ERA to 2.86.
Raul Ibanez knocked in Hunter Pence with a double in the sixth, before the Braves cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the seventh. Michael Stutes replaced Worley allowing a double to Michael Bourn, who eventually scored on a groundout by Dan Uggla. Philadelphia added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh, one on an RBI single by Ibanez. Brad Lidge shut down Atlanta in the eighth and Ryan Madson worked the ninth for his 28th save.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org