After blowing a five-run lead over the fifth and sixth innings and finding themselves down 10-6 going into the ninth inning, the Fightin’ Phils again reached into the bag of tricks they have been using on their current road trip and scored five times to beat the Reds, 11-10, Friday night at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.
Jimmy Rollins, who extended his career-high and post-1900 franchise record hitting streak to 28 games earlier in the game, led off the ninth with a single and Kenny Lofton followed with a base hit of his own to put two men on base for Chase Utley. Utley stepped up to the plate and drilled his second home run of the game to make it just a 10-9 game.
Bobby Abreu was then called out on strikes on a ridiculous called third strike that was both low and inside. Abreu argued and was ejected from the game. From the Phils’ bench, manager Charlie Manuel and pitcher Brett Myers were also tossed.
Pat Burrell then struck out for the second out of the inning. But then came the turning point of the game…National League Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ryan Howard strolled to the plate. Reds pitcher David Weathers wanted no part of the rookie and threw four straight pitches nowhere near the strike zone, walking Howard to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of the much-maligned David Bell.
Bell, who came to the plate with a .246 batting average and nine homers, has hit very well against lefthanders all season. However, here he was in a big spot against a righthander…and he had been barely serviceable against righties all year.
But in this season of destiny, Bell smacked a 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats for a dramatic, two-run homer that gave the Phillies an 11-10 lead. Billy Wagner notched his 35th save with a 1-2-3 ninth and moved the Phils to within one game of the Houston Astros for the NL wild card spot with just eight games left to play.
As I posted previously, the Phils have a tendency to fold down the stretch. But this year’s team seems to laugh at adversity. These Phils are resilient and have a lot of heart — no matter what many in their home city say about them.
I have been listening to New York’s 66 WFAN Sports Radio this morning and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo is taking a bunch of Phillies-related calls because stupid 610 WIP AM in Philly refuses to talk about anything other than the Eagles because the station is so anti-Phillies. And, to his credit, Russo is killing the WIP hosts for not talking about the Phillies this morning. “The way this team is playing and after that win last night, that station should be wall-to-wall Phillies,” he said at one point.
So, if you are wondering why I haven’t been posting as much lately, I have been completely preoccupied by the Phils’ pursuit of a playoff spot…and hope to remain so for a couple more weeks.
Photo: David Bell hits a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Philadelphia Phillies to a dramatic 11-10 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 23, 2005. Photo by AP.