The once sudden surge of success, stretching into a fifth consecutive season, now is showing signs of retreat, even as the Phillies stretch their National League lead.
They once again were shy of their familiar offensive power and were again bitten by the injury bug, but all was well again for the Phillies after a long and rainy Friday night. Raul Ibanez's walk-off homer in the 10th inning made them 3-2 winners over their closest Eastern Division and NL pursuers, the Atlanta Braves.
But while Ibanez' well-timed lightning bolt and a stunning show of dominance by three young (to the majors, at least) Phillies relievers were keys to another happy night in South Philly, the club that often hasn't been able to hit this year suffered two more clubhouse blows, and to a pair of players who had been scheduled to play in the All-Star Game.
First, Shane Victorino was declared to have a small ligament tear in his throwing thumb, relegating him to the 15-day disabled list. Then at his daily managerial injury call, Charlie Manuel revealed that third baseman Placido Polanco's back pain was the result of "a bulging disk."
Oh, is that all?
Add those to the slew of injuries the Phillies have had in every corner of the clubhouse, and it must be figured that the Phillies will need all of their knockout starting pitching to survive. But with two starters still out and two position players joining them, and with the Phils on their fourth closer and with their DL list looking like many clubs' playing rosters, the question has to be answered; how long can the run of success be expected to continue?
NOTES and QUOTES
- Roy Halladay earned a no-decision Friday night. He certainly didn't pitch his best, but he pitched well enough to keep his team in the game against the Braves. Halladay went seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits in 116 pitches. But he never did get very dry after warming up in the rain, only to have to endure two trips by groundskeepers to take off the tarp amid a pre-game rain delay of 1 hour, 54 minutes.
"I was soaking wet after I pitched in the rain," Halladay said. "I went and got changed. ... It was different. I wouldn't say it threw me off, but you kind of roll with it. There's not a whole lot you can do to keep your pre-game routine. Obviously, we were having a tough time gripping things, and a wet rosin bag wasn't helping."
Of the seeming indecision the Phillies officials seemed to have on whether to call the game beforehand, Halladay said, "Yeah, sometimes you wonder if you're making the right call."
- Halladay's performance was overshadowed by the relievers that bailed him out while they were all waiting for the Phillies' sometimes dynamic, often dormant offense to making a lasting impression on the game. After Halladay left after the seventh with a 2-2 tie, the Braves had the top of their order up for the eighth, and young right-hander Michael Stutes set them down in order. Then in the ninth, leftie Antonio Bastardo went through the meat of the order unscathed, though those three outs included a bullet to left fielder Raul Ibanez by Chipper Jones and a deep fly to center by Freddie Freeman. But that was all just window dressing for the tenth, when seldom used minor league promotee Juan Perez came in and struck out the side; on nine pitches.
"That was impressive," Stutes said. "Nine pitches, three strikeouts. I don't think I've ever seen that."
Speaking of being never seen, Perez is 32. He was a non-drafted free agent signee by the Red Sox in 1998. He didn't appear in the majors until the Pirates called him up in 2006. He was with five organizations and made only about 24 appearances in a major league uniform over all those years until the Phils signed him to a minor league contract last offseason.
This amazing outing against the Braves was his third Phils appearance since being recalled in late June. In those outings, Perez has faced nine batters, walking two and striking out seven.
- Jimmy Rollins threatened to end the game in the ninth inning when he came up with a big one-out single. But on the next pitch, he tried to steal second on a pitchout and was easily thrown out. It was the first time Rollins had been caught stealing in 15 tries.
- Carlos Ruiz had three hits, including a game-tying homer in the fourth inning. But Ruiz also was hit by a Brandon Beachy pitch in the sixth inning. That marked the third straight game that Ruiz was hit by a pitch.
- Ryan Howard went 1-for-5 although he hit the ball hard a couple of times. That said, Howard's one hit on the night barely went 30 feet. It was a swinging bunt that went into the grass approaching third base, and the closest Brave to it was in the visitors' dugout.