Four games ahead in the division, the Phillies were poised to deliver a serious gut punch to the Braves tonight. A victory would ensure a series win and reduce the Phillies magic number to 6. With Roy Halladay set to pitch, the Phillies had to feel pretty good about their chances.
In the first inning, Halladay looked like he was firing bullets out of his arm. He set the Braves down in order on only 6 pitches. But after that, the struggles began and Halladay had issues with his control. But in typical Halladay style, he worked in and out of jams to keep the game close.
Despite the difficulties, Halladay made it through 7 innings while allowing 3 runs. It was enough to earn him his 20th win of the season; no pitcher has reached that mark in the National League since 2005. For the Phillies, the last time was in 1982 when Steve Carlton had 23 wins.
So while tonight was not Halladay’s best effort, the poor man does look awfully tired after pitching 241 2/3 innings so far this year. And with 20 wins, it is hard to complain. With any luck, the Phillies can clinch the division early and give the Doc some much needed rest.
The offense was a little sluggish as well tonight, leaving 12 men on base. But for the 2nd time this week, Jayson Werth came through at just the right time with a 3-run homer in the 3rd inning. An even bigger clutch hit came with a 3-2 score in the 6th inning; Raul Ibanez smashed a 2-run double with 2 outs. That gave the Phillies a bit more cushion to work with.
The defense was key to the team’s success as well. Just like last night, the Phillies turned 3 great double plays to help out their pitchers. Wilson Valdez almost had another one in the 5th, but Rick Ankiel charged 2nd with his hands up and Valdez hit him in the arm with the attempted throw to first. It probably could have been called interference as Ankiel did not go straight for the bag, but the Phils had to settle for one out there.
Up by a score of 5-3 in the 8th, it was up to Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge to finish off the win. Madson benefited from one of the double plays in the 8th, helping to get him out of the inning. And Lidge pitched another great 9th inning to save the game.
So to recap, the Phillies are FIVE games ahead in the division with the magic number of 6 to win the division! Game 3 with the Braves is tomorrow at 7:05pm…let’s go for the SWEEP!!!
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography