Saturday, July 14, 2012

Phillies finally break losing streak

DENVER – Before Saturday night, Vance Worley had never pitched at Coors Field, the carnivorous, downtown Denver ballpark where games can be wildly unpredictable and often unfair to those brave enough to take the mound.
Chase Utley once had six RBIs in a game that saw the Phils and Rockies score 23 runs in a one-run victory. Ryan Howard had what may have been his most memorable major league moment at Coors, when he asked his mates to “get me to the plate boys” in Game 4 of the 2009 NLDS, a game that saw two lead changes in the final two innings.
Worley was a Coors rookie, but he played right to the 18-year-old ballpark’s strengths Saturday night.
Worley pitched into the seventh inning, keeping the ball out of the hands of the bullpen for as long as he could, and helped pad his own lead with a, two-out, two-run double in the top of the sixth to lead the Phils to a 8-5 win.
Jonathan Papelbon saved the game from turning into a Rocky Mountain nightmare for the beleaguered Phils’ pen. After the relief corps flirted with disaster, Papelbon recorded his second, five-out save of the season to seal the victory.
“I wanted to win the game,” manager Charlie Manuel said of calling on Papelbon early. “I thought that was the best chance for us to win the game.”
The win was just the second for the Phillies since June 26. But with All-Star Cole Hamels taking the mound this afternoon in Denver, the Phils are suddenly in position to win their first series this month.
Worley, who had won one game in the last two months, was instrumental in putting the Phillies in that position.
With his team holding a two-run lead in the fifth, Worley gave up a two-out double to Marco Scutaro and put Carlos Gonzalez on base intentionally. But he escaped the bases loaded game by striking out Colorado cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer.
“That was a big time at-bat,” Manuel said. “He went at home, and he’s a fastball hitter. Cuddyer is a tough out.”
“I think that at-bat kind of set the tone for the rest of the game,” Worley said.
But Worley’s contribution at the plate was important, too. After ending a season-long, 0-for-21 slump at the plate with an infield single in the second, Worley made it two hits on one day to cap a two-out rally in the sixth inning.
With the Phils holding a 4-2 lead, Carlos Ruiz and Hunter Pence began the sixth with back-to-back strikeouts. But Juan Pierre (3-for-3 with a walk) singled and stole second base to breathe life into the inning and the Rockies decided to walk eight-hole hitter Mike Fontenot and take their chances with Worley.
Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino buried Worley into an 0-2 count. But then he left a fat, 94-MPH fastball over the heart of the plate and Worley launched it into the vast Coors Field outfield.
Worley’s opposite field, two-run double brought both Pierre and Fontenot across the plate to increase the Phillies lead to 6-2.
“It was up and away, and rather than trying to do too much with it, I just went with the pitch,” Worley said.
Both of the runs Worley knocked in loomed large on the final scoreboard.
After retiring the first two batters in the seventh, Worley’s pitch count crossed over the century mark and he allowed a two-out single to Marco Scutaro. Enter the Phillies bullpen, the second worst in major leagues.
Jake Diekman got the only batter he faced in the seventh out, and it was a critical out since it came against Rockies All-Star and perennial MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez. But Diekman ran out of gas when he came back for the eighth.
The left-handed rookie hit the second batter he faced the walked the third, giving way to right-hander Brian Sanches. The third pitch out of Sanches’ hand landed in the seats.
Rockies rookie catcher Wilin Rosario’s 15th home run of the season – and third against the Phillies – turned a 6-2 deficit into a far-more-reachable 6-5. He also ended Sanches’ night at three pitches.
With a win hanging in the balance, and with wins hard to come by in the last two weeks, Manuel brought in his All-Star closer to five outs. For the third time in the last two months, Papelbon converted a save that required more than the usual three outs.
Papelbon retired all five batters he faced for his 19th save and second five-out save of the season. Papelbon, who had entered the game having blown two of his previous three save chances, struck out Gonzalez to end the game.
Papelbon he took the mound in ninth with a little more breathing room than he had in the eighth.
Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Utley pieced together three consecutive, one-out hits to take two insurance runs on the scoreboard. It was the second time on Saturday night that the new-look, healthy Phillies lineup showed signs of coming to life.
In the first inning, Victorino doubled, Utley singled, Howard worked a walk and Ruiz launched a three-run home run as the offense turned over a 4-0 lead to Worley before he took the mound at Coors Field for the first time.
“Victorino swung the bat well today… he had a good approach from the left side,” Manuel said. “Utley got better as the game went on, he’s starting to swing the bat pretty good. Now we have to get Howie going.”
The Phils are going to need to get everyone going to cover up a bullpen that’s currently calling on the closer to enter in the eighth.
“We have a tough time,” Manuel said of his relief corps. “We struggle to get outs. We were having a hard time getting to (Papelbon) tonight, and we (planned on) using him in the eighth. … You have to send them out there. Hopefully they’ll get better as soon as possible.”


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