The great winning streak of 2011 came to an end on Sunday afternoon when the Philadelphia Phillies, victors in nine straight, were felled by the light-hitting, pitching-heavy and bloop-happy San Francisco Giants, who gave the Phillies their first loss of the young Hunter Pence-era behind a strong outing from Tim Lincecum.
It was the first time all weekend that the reigning World Series champs held serve over the Phillies, who manhandled the Giants from the get-go, thanks to strong pitching performances from Vance Worley, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels -- with a pair of complete games (and a shutout from Lee) coming from the elder statesmen. They had just enough offense at times, but outperformed the Giants in every way -- on the mound, with the bats, and in the bullpen -- until Sunday afternoon.
Rewinding a bit, the streak started two Fridays ago, when they welcomed the then-contending Pittsburgh Pirates and promptly administering a knockout punch in the form of the sweep that more or less spelled the beginning of the end of the interstate rivals, who had been running with the big dogs atop the National League central for so much of the season. The big blow came in the series finale, when the Phils rallied late on the strength of a two-run homer from Raul Ibanez in the eighth, only to win it when Raul doubled home new Phillie Hunter Pence in the bottom of the tenth.
They then found themselves backed into a corner on the first game of a long west coast road trip, when they were down to their final strike against the Colorado Rockies in the first of three in Denver. Not to be outdone by his outfield mates, John Mayberry connected for a game-tying, pinch hit homer to send the game into extras, and eventually, into the win column for the Phillies. One game later, they were on the right side of a shutout, when Kyle Kendrick pitched eight scoreless frames to win the middle game, before engaging in an afternoon slugfest to get the win in the series finale.
All told, it was quite the week for the Phillies, who added 3.5 games of cushion between themselves and the second place Atlanta Braves to lead the division by 8.5 games on Monday morning.
Some quick hits about the streak:
The Phillies had no shortage of hits over the course of the nine game streak, and hit opposing pitching to the tune of .293/.362/.523, with 16 homers, 4 triples, and 18 doubles.
The big bats were out in force, with Ryan Howard, in full second half swing, belting four homers and knocking in 10. Not to be outdone, Shane Victorino hit an even .400 over the streak, and slugged at a .714 clip. Not satisfied to let the full-time guys get all the glory, John Mayberry got in on the action and hit three homers and knocked in five in 12 at-bats.
Newest Phillie Hunter Pence got off on the right foot with his new club, hitting an extraordinary .382 in eight games over the streak (he didn’t start until the second game of the Pittsburgh series), with a pair of homers, seven RBIs and three doubles.
Not surprisingly, the pitching staff brought their A game, as they pitched to the tune of a 2.49 ERA over 83 innings. In that span, they struck out 77, walked 11 and held opposing hitters to a .224 batting average.
They issued two shutouts and held opposing teams to three or fewer runs six times. The most runs allowed in a game during the streak was six, which happened in Colorado, of all places. Oddly enough, that game was started by Ace of Aces, Roy Halladay.
Like all good things, the winning streak came to an end on Sunday. At least the Phillies can take solace in the fact that it happened against Tim Lincecum, and came at the expense of the first start from Roy Oswalt since June, who was quite clearly still working some things out.
Regardless, as one winning streak ends, another one begins, as the Phillies take their show on the road to Los Angeles, where a three-game set with the Dodgers awaits.