By Amy McGinnis
Last night’s game at Citizens Bank Park illustrated one of my favorite parts about a baseball game: It’s not over ’til it’s over.
Joe Blanton had a shaky start, and managed to give up three home-runs. The back end of his performance, though, was pretty good. He really settled in and retired the last eleven batters he faced.
Offensively speaking, Hunter Pence (first inning) and Jimmy Rollins (fourth inning) each had an RBI. Michael Martinez hit a three run home-run (not a typo) in the bottom of the second inning. We went into the ninth inning tied 5-5, until Papelbon (who ended up with the win) let up a run.
About as soon as the bottom of the ninth inning began, Phils had two outs. I’ll be honest; it didn’t look good; I knew it wasn’t over, though. Ty Wigginton singled to left, and we had ourselves a baserunner. Hunter Pence then cracked the ball into the corner of left field … Wigginton scored, tying the game, and Pence was on second base. Rafael Betancourt intentionally walked Carlos Ruiz. Maybe it was to ensure Chooch didn’t get beamed with another pitch, because the IBB strategy didn’t work out well for Colorado in the end.
Shane Victorino hit a ground ball to shortstop Marco Scutaro, and it would have been the end of the ninth inning if Vic hadn’t hauled his ass down the basepath. “You bust your behind down the line, and anything can happen,” said Victorino. That’s what I like to see, and it’s what I like to hear: hustle until the very end.
Plácido Polanco, with bases loaded and two outs, hit a ground ball to shortstop Scutaro, and it was essentially the second time the ninth inning should have ended with a tie score. Polanco isn’t as quick on the basepath as say, Victorino, but it might just be a matter of aerodynamics. That head of his can’t help his speed. Anyway, Polly hustled – and I mean hustled – to first. He saw an opportunity when Todd Helton’s foot wasn’t on the bag, and in a very close call, Polanco was safe.
Helton, whose footing was awkward and sloppy, said, “I should’ve been on the bag and it should’ve been an out. So it’s my fault.” To be fair, maybe Helton missed “How to Keep Your Foot on the Bag” day in little league. I joke, but in all honestly, I always appreciate a player’s candid honesty (looking at you, Cole Hamels). It was an error, both Helton and Polanco knew it, and the Phils capitalized on it.
The Phils’ dugout emptied as if it were a postseason win. It wasn’t the most graceful win, but as they say, “a win is a win.” While Helton earned that error, it wasn’t what gave Philadelphia the win. The Phils won because, for the first time in a very long time, we saw them fight til the end. It would have been par for the 2012 course if the Phillies had stranded runners in the ninth. Instead, we saw our offense play like they wanted it. I’ve stopped thinking “I hope this sparks some momentum,” and now I’m just enjoying the win for what it is: my team playing a full nine innings. There’s nothing I love to see more than hustle.