Monday, September 14, 2009

Redemption Comes in Unpredictable Ways....

Two Phillies pitchers found redemption yesterday as the Phightins eliminated the hapless Muts from any chance of making the postseason by taking both games of a double header.

In the first game, Kyle Kendrick, who played such an important role in the 2007 miracle finish and then was so disappointing last year that he didn't make the postseason roster, pitched a superb game in the first game of the doubleheader. Kendrick pitched into the eighth inning, mixing up his trademark sinker ball, cut fastball, slider, and change-up. He took a shutout into the eighth inning before giving up a two-run homer to first baseman Daniel Murphy, and he left to a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd. "It felt good," he said of the crowd's reaction. "The fans were a little hard on me when I was dealing with last year's struggles, but today was pretty special." He has returned a much more mature pitcher with an array of pitches at his disposal. He's only 25 years old and could enjoy success in the major leagues for years to come.

Of course, Brad Lidge nearly blew the game for Kendrick, giving up two runs in the top of the ninth in a real white-knuckle save. He hung on and the Phils won 5-4. I still can't get comfortable with the idea of Lidge being the closer going into the postseason, but we shall see. He claims he's almost where he needs to be in spite of his horrific ERA of more than 7.0.

Then, in the second game, the years peeled away and the Pedro Martinez of 1999 made an appearance. Pedro pitched 8 gritty, magnificent shutout innings in a 1-0 win, running his record with the Phillies to 5-0 (the team is 7-0 in games in which he has pitched), dropping his ERA to an excellent 2.87. Pedro threw 130 effective pitches in 8 full innings, and he dominated the hapless Muts. Charlie Manuel almost pulled Martinez in the 8th, when the Murphy got a lead-off double. With two outs and Murphy on second, Manuel came out. "I didn't like it, but Chase said 'He might get you. He might not get you.'" Utley asked Martinez "if I wanted the guy, and I said, 'Yeah, I want him.' Charlie asked me the same thing. So I convinced him to give me one more out."

"When I went to the mound, I was leaving him in anyway, because I liked him on their hitters," said Manuel. "Just looking in his eyes told me that he wanted him."

Martinez threw a nasty change-up in the dirt, which Carlos Ruiz blocked. Murphy unwisely took off for third base, and Ruiz made a perfect throw to gun him down. As shown in the photo above, Martinez clenched his fist and left to a loud standing ovation from the appreciative faithful, which had been loudly cheering him all evening. It was his 130th pitch, something he had not done since 2003.

"If I'm healthy, I feel like I am able to do anything anybody does," declared Pedro after the game. "I came here with the mentality that I came here in the last quarter of the season to help this team when it matters the most. And I think today was a good example of what really matters to this team." Right now, Martinez is making a very strong case for being included in the postseason rotation, and if he keeps pitching as well as he has been, it will be very difficult to leave him out of that postseason rotation.

Ryan Madson pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning to nail down the save for Martinez, who was just superb last night. For one night, at least, the 37-year-old turned back the hands of time and looked like the ace that he was for so many years.

Kyle Kendrick and Pedro Martinez both found redemption agains the Muts last night. I'm happy for both of them.

The Phils now have a 6.5 game lead with 20 left to play. The magic number is 14.

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