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
Ryan Howard loves that home cookin’. Whenever he goes home to St. Louis, he gets to sleep in his own bed and his mama makes him breakfast. Apparently, this really works for him.
Howard went deep tonight in the 5th inning with the bases loaded off former Phillie, Kyle Loshe. Grand Slam, in front of his family and friends! It was Howard’s 7th career Grand Slam, which ties Mike Schmidt’s career total. Howard, feeling mighty comfortable in his home town, always performs well at Busch Stadium and today was no different. He went 2 for 3 with a walk and the 4 RBI on the slam.
Jayson Werth was happy to see his mama as well; she was in the stands tonight with the Howard clan, cheering on her son. Werth knocked a 2-run blast in the 4th inning and was 2 for 4 in the game.
The even bigger news of the game for the Phillies though was the strong outing from Joe Blanton, who has not had a good start to the season. Blanton got through 6 innings with only 1 run allowed. He even stayed focused when things got rough. Pedro Feliz had a brain-fart in the 6th when he fielded a grounder, looked at the runner coming at him, and decided to try for a double play instead of tagging the runner. His hesitation resulted in all runners being safe as his throw to 2nd was late and this loaded the bases with only 1 out. But Blanton pulled it together and struck out the next batter, then got the final batter out on a ground ball. Could this be the beginning of a better starting rotation for the Phils? We hope so…
On a very serious note, Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals ran face first into the outfield wall in the 8th inning on a Feliz long fly ball. He hit the ground like a ton of bricks and the ball rolled away. It looked for a moment like he may have been unconscious, but he did speak to teammates after it happened and gave the thumbs-up to the fans as they wheeled him away in the cart. A very scary moment – my thoughts go out to Ankiel and his family. I hope he is okay.
So the Howard slam was really the only scoring the Phillies needed as they walked away with a 6-1 win for the first of this short 2-game series. One more in St. Louis; game time tomorrow is 8:15pm.
While you are waiting for the next game to start, get on-line and VOTE for your All-Stars! Get the Phillies to the game in St. Louis! Ryan Howard will thank you for sending him home…he just LOVES those pancakes :O)
Photo by Jenn
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