Last night, I completed the finally leg of my baseball-centric road trip – taking in the Phillies-Giants game at Citizens Bank Park. It was a fun game and a special occasion for me, as my family and I celebrated my father’s birthday and my birthday. The Phillies certainly delivered a great present for both my and my father, winning what became a wild game. In addition, Chase Utley returned from the DL, which afforded me the opportunity to see my favorite Phillie in action.
Walking through the stadium to our seats, we were treated to seeing rookie Domonic Brown being interviewed by radio personality, Jim Jackson. It was pretty cool to see Brown up close and listen to his interview with the former voice of the Flyers, now the voice of Phillies radio.
When I heard the pitching matchups announced for the series, I was happy that Roy Oswalt vs. Barry Zito was the contest for the game I would be attending. I had seen Zito pitch earlier in the year when I went to a Giants-Cardinals game in San Francisco, so I would have liked to have seen another Giant pitcher (maybe Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum) but I can’t complain too much. I was exciting to see Oswalt toe the rubber for the Phillies.
The game did not disappoint, right from the start. Pat Burrell made his triumphant return to Citizens Bank Park and received a hearty ovation both during lineup announcements and prior to his first at-bat. He promptly thanked Phillies fans by smashing a home run into the left-field stands to give the Giants a 2-0 lead. Matt Gelb, Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, tweeted after the home run “So that’s twice this year when Phillies fans have cheered an opponent (Thome, Burrell) only to have them homer. Stick to booing, obviously.” Funny, how Phillies fans defy all the stereotypes that sports people want to assign them and are then rewarded with home runs that hurt their team. I suppose people might say that karma is a bitch. Following a rocky first inning, Oswalt settled down and looked dominant until surrendering a home run to Jose Guillen in the 7th.
For the Giants, Zito pitched well through the first 4+ innings, but then the Phillies strung together a mini-rally in the 5th to tie the game and another in the 6th to take the lead. Of course, I missed the rally to take the lead, as I was in line to get Crab Fries from the Chickie’s and Pete’s stand. The line to get the fries was incredibly long, rivaling those at Disney World. Crazy! Philly sure does love those Crab Fries. During the 6th, Jayson Werth finally did something with runners on base (though Placido Polanco wasn’t in scoring position). Werth has been terrible with runners in scoring position all season, but maybe his double while Polanco was on base will jump-start his season.
The game took a comical turn in the 8th, as the Giants handed the Phillies insurance runs on a balk by Ramon Ramirez and a throwing error by Mike Fontenot. By the time the Giants committed these errors, the Phillies had already taken a 7-3 lead, but a couple of free run to pad the lead certainly were welcomed. As for the Phillies pitching, Ryan Madson (he pitched the 8th) and Chad Durbin (pitched the 9th) both looked good. Madson continued his scoreless innings streak, it’s now 10 1/3 inning over 10 appearances. Not too shabby.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Placido Polanco’s awesome night. All he did was go 4-5, to take the lead in the NL batting race from Joey Votto. Polanco ended the night batting .325 to Votto’s .324. It should be fun to watch Poly make a run at the batting crown. Hopefully, he has many more 4-5 nights before the season is over. The Phillies need those types of performances to make the playoffs, and it would be great to see a Phillie win the batting title. If Poly can hang onto the lead, he would be the first Phillie since Richie Ashburn in 1958 to win the crown!
With the win last night, the Phillies took the lead in the Wild Card race. They are 19-5 in their last 24 games, and now have a 1 game lead on the Giants and a 1.5 game lead on the Cardinals. Following the game, Baseball Prospectus puts the Phillies’ chances of making the playoffs at 52%, up 5% with the win. If the Phillies can win one of the next two games against the Giants, they should end this week in possession of the Wild Card lead.