The Phillies came back in dramatic fashion on Sunday, when they belted back-to-back homers in the bottom of the ninth inning to down the Cincinnati Reds, in what was arguably the most exciting win of the season.
Coming off an embarrassing 10-0 loss on Saturday, the Phillies turned to RHP Jonathan Pettibone to right the ship. He responded with seven solid innings, where he allowed two runs to the high-powered Reds offense.
The Phillies, however, failed to get much of anything going, and were in jeopardy of getting shut out for the second straight game. It wasn't until Chase Utley's RBI single broke the scoreless streak to cut the deficit by one run, leaving them trailing 2-1 heading into the ninth. And that's when it got crazy.
The Reds sent the hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman to the hill, where he would be facing the bottom half of the Phillies order. Usually, you'd call it a game right then and there, but baseball is nothing if not unpredictable, which is why the bottom of the ninth inning went something like this:
Aroldis Chapman walks pinch-hitter Delmon Young on four pitches
Cliff Lee, pinch-running for Delmon Young, gets picked off first base
Erik Kratz homers two pitches later to tie the game
Freddy Galvis homers to win the game
If I'd have told you that that exact series of events would have occurred in a baseball game in 2013 to result in a Phillies win, you'd probably think I was crazy, and you wouldn't be wrong. It was crazy, because that was an absolutely insane way for the Phillies to win a game, for a number of reasons.
Delmon Young got on base. That's pretty incredible in most circumstances, but in the ninth inning of a close game against a pitcher like Aroldis Chapman? He's getting on base at a .286 pace so far with the Phillies, which isn't too far removed from his career OBP of .316, so him standing on first base is the last thing you'd expect. And not only did he get on base, but he did it by drawing a walk, which is impressive, because Young has never walked more than 35 times in one season (by comparison, Jimmy Rollins has never walked fewer than 40 times in a season). Sure, that wouldn't have an impact on the game, but it's nonetheless a pretty rare feat.
Cliff Lee got picked off first base, and it didn't even matter. Following Young's leadoff walk, Lee was brought in to pinch run. It was a smart move, as Lee is a decent enough runner, and should be able to score from first on anything hit to the gap. Of course, his speed doesn't matter at all when he gets picked off first base in what would be (and still is) an awful act of baseballing. If not for the game ending the way that it did, Cliff Lee would have been the goat. Thankfully, that didn't prevent the Phillies from winning it darn thing, anyway.
The Phillies were in a position to win. That it was a one-run game in the ninth was nothing short of miraculous, considering that 1. the offense has been pure dreck lately, and 2. the bullpen us the worst in the National League. Thanks to Pettibone and two relievers, they were able to keep it a one-run game, paving the way for the walk-off in the ninth.
Aroldis Chapman blew a save for the second time in a row. The hard-throwing lefty has owned opposing hitters to far this season, and is once again among the best relievers in the game, so it's a rare thing for him to blow a save, especially to a light-hitting offense like the one the Phillies fielded on Sunday. After successfully converting his first eight save opportunities of the season, Chapman blew his second in a row on Sunday at the hands of the Phillies.
Erik Kratz and Freddy Galvis both homered. If there is a more unlikely combination of back-to-back home run hitters in the game, I'd like to hear it. Kratz has so far been unsuccessful in replicating his success from 2012 (.544 OPS coming into Sunday). Galvis, despite showing a decent stick so far this season (.798 OPS, 2 HR in 58 ABs), isn't a guy that anyone would expect to come up big in that spot. But, that's baseball, and one of the best relief pitchers in the game was undone by a pair of hitters who, combined, are homering once every 42 at-bats.
With the win on Sunday, the Phillies are 21-23 and continuing to hang tough in the National League east. They head to Miami for a three-game set against the Marlins. Cole Hamels (1-6, xxx) will take the hill on Monday night, where he will face off against RHP Alex Sanabia (2-6, 5.00).