The Phils went into the bottom of the 9th down 7-3 tonight. Matt Stairs led off the inning with what he does best, a pinch hit homer. The next two batters reached base, including the evening's third steal by Jimmy Rollins, and then Ryan Howard hit a three-run bomb to tie it. The Pirates got one out along the way, and the Phils loaded the bases. Light-hitting catcher Paul Bako won the game with a walk-off, bases loaded single. Final score, 8-3 Phils, featuring a 5-spot in the bottom of the ninth.
This team never, ever says die. They just don't quit. This is a game that they SHOULD have lost, but they once again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, picking up Cole Hamels after another poor performance by the ace of the staff, who gave up five earned runs in five innings tonight. The Phightin's are now 47-38, and have a 3.5 game lead over the Marlins and a 5.5 game lead over the third-place Braves (who are below .500, by the way). The dreadful Muts are now 4 games under .500 and 6.5 games out of first place, and headed south. But for the atrocious Nationals, the Muts would have a good shot at finishing last, but I can't see any team edging out the Nats for the crown of MLB's worst team, 2009 edition.
Howard now is tied with Raul Ibanez for the team lead with 66 RBI's, which is good enough for third in the National League, behind Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Even with his stint on the disabled list Ibanez has 60 RBI's. Chase Utley has 20 homers and 60 RBI's. Jayson Werth has 2o homers and 56 RBI's. This quartet of Phils marks only the second time in the long history of major league baseball that a team has had four players with 20 or more homers before the All Star break. When their bats are going good, this team flat-out scores runs.
I remain worried about the starting pitching over the long haul, although Joe Blanton is proving to be the work horse of the staff. Hamels and Moyer can't seem to get anyone out, and the team has yet to find a reliable fifth starter in the absence of Brett Meyers. J.A. Happ has done very well in most of his starts, but he is very inexperienced.
Kudos to Charlie Manuel for looking after his players by choosing Howard and Werth for the All Star team, and congratulations to Shane Victorino for being voted onto the All Star team. Two Phils will start the game: Utley and Ibanez, and then Victorino, Howard, and Werth will also appear. I can't remember another time where all three starting outfielders from a single team were named to the All Star team as Ibanez, Werth, and Victorino were this year. Congratulations to all of the Phillies players who will be appearing in the All Star game this year.