There was lots to like about the Phillies' latest magic trick -- a come-from-behind victory in Colorado on Monday night that saw them throw a three-spot up in the last two innings to rally from the brink -- one-strike away from dropping the first of a ten game, west coast road trip.
Like They Drew It Up: The Phillies Rally
Published at 10:09 AM EDT on Aug 2, 2011 | Updated at 5:50 PM EDT on Aug 2, 2011
Aside from the obvious (they won), there were a few moments here and there that stood out and were the gears behind the comeback machine. Let's break them down.
Cole Hamels' Poise: Lots has been said about the maturity of Hamels, who only two seasons ago was considered to be a bit of a prima donna that would succeed in spite of this composure, and not because of it. That no longer seems to be the case, as the young lefty has transformed into an Ace before our very eyes. He's absolutely one of the best pitchers in the game. His moment in the Phillies' win on Monday came in the bottom of the fifth when the Rockies loaded the bases with one out. At the time, the Phillies trailed by two runs, and a base hit there could have put the game much farther out of reach. The Ace, undeterred by the pressure, proceeded to strike out the next two hitters, including Rockies' slugger Troy Tulowitzki, to end the threat.
John Mayberry's Long Ball: A deep, strong bench is an invaluable asset to a team, and Mayberry proved that in the top of the ninth when he deposited his seventh home run deep into the stands to tie the game. It's not enough that he went deep with the game on the line, but that he did it on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, as he worked Rockies' closer Huston Street over, taking and fouling pitches off until he got a pitch that he didn't miss. Mayberry has proven to be the go-to right-handed bat off the bench, supplanting Ben Francisco from the role.
Shane Victorino's Redemption: While Victorino's homerun in the top of the 10th proved to be the game winner, it wasn't altogether unexpected given Shane's ability to hit left-handed pitchers. This season, from the right side of the plate, he has an absurd .353/.470/.676 line -- that's a 1.146 OPS -- against southpaws. When he stepped into the box to face Colorado's Rex brothers, a left-handed pitcher, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he'd do something, anything, to get the Phillies in a position to win. Turned out, he did the whole thing by himself in an act of redemption from earlier in the game, when he was decidedly not running full speed from first base on a double to deep right off the bat of Chase Utley. As a result, he was thrown out at home instead of scoring the Phillies first run of the game.
Antonio Getting It Done: The biggest surprise of the season for the Phillieas has to be the emergence of Antonio Bastardo as a relief Ace. The 25-year-old, in his second full season as a reliever, has taken huge strides from where he was last season by reeling in his control. As a result, he's proven to be a late-inning weapon who is not affected by the pressure of late inning situations, and has even been a suitable closer while Ryan Madson spent time on the disabled list. In Monday's game, he was charged with keeping the score at three, as he took the hill in the bottom of the ninth. For a pitcher like Bastardo, it's not necessarily a difficult thing, but considering that venue that is Coors Field, it's much easier said than done. And despite giving up a lead-off single and having the winning run as close as 90 feet, Tony pitched his way out of trouble to send the game into extras.
All in all, the Phillies walked away from that game with a win in their pockets that they really should not have had. Despite their growing lead in the division, and the fact they are shifting into second-half mode, when they tend to reel off win after win with reckless abandon, it cannot be overstated how huge this win was.