Here it is, the kind of game that separates the wheat from the chaffe.
What a great win and unenviable task. The beat writers had to shovel 10 pounds of s*** into a five-pound bag on deadline last night and they did a tremendous job of it. Meanwhile, I exercised my blogger rights by deferring to this morning, hoping a cup of coffee and a passable night of sleep would aid in making heads or tails of the wildest win of the season. Five hours of sleep and two cups later, making sense of it is beyond hopeless. There’s just too much.
Baseball doesn’t get any more entertaining than this. Even Metsblog seemed to agree. At 13 innings, the Phillies wrapped it up before it became a true war of attrition. Tonight’s starter, Kyle Kendrick, was warming in the pen if it went to the 14th and it's unclear whether Kendrick is a go for tonight’s 7:05 ET start. The rest of the pen is largely spent and they can ill afford another short outing. For what it’s worth, Kris Benson is tonight’s scheduled starter for the IronPigs, who are at home. They’ll need to finesse a roster move if reinforcements are needed.
To the game, we start with Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez, who took the mound ages ago. It was Moyer’s shortest outing as a Phillie, a three-inning story in-and-of itself. The Mets seemed two steps ahead of Moyer, unloading for six runs and a pair of homers. On the opposite side, Pedro was decent until hitting a wall in the fifth, when Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard tagged him for a pair of two-run blasts, a rally that started when Clay Condrey doubled to lead off the inning, the first in a series of improbable moments. Pedro finished with five ER but eight Ks, a product largely due to the Phils chasing balls up and out of the zone.
With the score 7-5, and with the Phils already into their third inning with Condrey, both teams calmed things down by settling in with their middle relief. Scott Eyre, one of many unsung heros, took the ball from Condrey midway through the sixth inning and would rattle off 1 2-3 shutout innings. (Condrey departed after 2 1-3 good innings, allowing the final run for the Mets). After Eyre, always reliable Chad Durbin finished the eighth cleanly.
The Mets' bullpen, the Crux of Queens, wasn’t as spotless. The Phillies started pecking away in the eighth when Carlos Ruiz signaled to left off Duaner Sanchez. Then, Mets manager Jerry Manuel went left-left with Pedro Feliciano matching up with Greg Dobbs. Charlie Manuel countered with his first tactical triumph of the night, pinch hitting Chris Coste for Dobbs. Coste singled, which brought Jimmy Rollins to the plate with a runner in scoring position. J-Roll singled and scored Ruiz from second. The Mets would escape without further damage, making it 7-6.
Now Manuel had a decision to make: Keep Coste in the game to replace Ruiz and stick Eric Bruntlett at third for the ninth, or preserve Bruntlett and fill third some other way. In an unexpected move, Manuel inserted Ruiz at third and replaced Durbin with Lidge. The gamble worked: Lidge worked a groundout to short, strikeout, strikeout, making Ruiz a non-factor.
The payoff happened in the 9th. With the Phils down to their final out, Jayson Werth singled to center off temporary closer Luis Ayala, bringing up the pitcher’s spot. Representing the final man off the bench, Manuel called on Bruntlett, who was preserved for such an occasion. With the game on the line, Bruntlett smacked a game-tying double to deep right, sending it to extras. For the Mets, it was their 22nd blown save of the season. You have to go back to May of 2003 to find a bigger lead blown by New York.
One by one, the relievers took their turn in extras. Ryan Madson worked two innings, escaping danger. J.C. Romero and Rudy Seanez, the eventual game-winner, followed with scoreless frames. On the other side, Madson-foil Aaron Heilman threw 60 pitches over three frames, well beyond his usual limit. The Phillies would have the best chances, but with fatigue setting in, nobody was able to rise to the occasion.
It took the highest-motor player on the field to deliver a breakthrough. In the home half of the 13th, Shane Victorino lined a triple down the right-field line against last reliever standing Scott Schoeneweis. After Jayson Werth and Bruntlett were intentionally walked, Myers hit for Seanez. Myers, who was told not to swing (and look like a goober doing it), worked the count full before striking out looking. Finally, at 12:20 a.m., Coste delivered the game winner, giving the Phillies the win and lifting them back in front of the NL East.
I’d like to list everyone who contributed to this total team effort, but there’s no way to include Pat Burrell, who went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts, stranding 10. That’s his worst game this season if not his entire career. Heroes, in no particular order, include Bruntlett, who picked a swell time to deliver his 10th extra-base hit of the season. Coste, who went 4-for-4 off the bench. Charlie Manuel, for his finest tactical hour as Phillies manager. No question about it. The unbreakable bullpen: Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Lidge, Madson, Romero and Seanez. Rollins, for a 5-for-7 night, spraying hits everywhere including the right-field seats. Werth, taking advantage of his opportunities against right-handed pitching and making a great play cutting off a ball down the line in right and gunning down David Wright at second. The defense indeed made some key plays.