It was a curious thing when Jimmy Rollins took off from second base with two outs in the ninth inning and the Phillies trailing by a run to the Colorado Rockies in Thursday night’s dramatic 5-4 victory at Citizens Bank Park.
No, it wasn’t odd that Rollins would attempt to steal third base in that situation. Clearly, Rollins saw that it wasn’t a risk.
But why would the Rockies allow the tying run to get 90 feet from the plate after the Phillies had rallied for a walk-off win in the ninth barely 24 hours before?
So didn’t it just figure that the only way Rollins could have scored on Michael Young’s slow roller to the left of the pitcher’s mound was if he was on third base? With the way things have gone for the Phillies since Sunday, yes.
Dom Brown delivered the walk-off hit this time, scoring Young to seal the dramatics (see Instant Replay). How dramatic has it been lately? The Phillies have won four out of their last five games all by one run and three of them on walk-offs. Moreover, in Ryne Sandberg’s first week as manager of the Phillies, the team is 4-3 and feeling good after winning their first four-game series of the season.
Sure, the Phillies are still way behind in the standings. At 57-70, the Phillies are 20 games behind the first-place Braves, but they still feel like they have something to play for.
“It’s what winning will do,” Young said. “As tough as that stretch was -- and there’s no getting around it, it was a very difficult stretch for our team -- I felt like we knew we were better than that. And we look forward to showing that over the next five weeks.”
In the late innings of Thursday’s game, just like on Wednesday night, the Phillies seemed headed for a loss to the Rockies. Thursday’s game was especially dire with the Phillies trailing by three with four outs to go.
But that’s where it started. Darin Ruf belted a two-run homer with two outs to cut the deficit to one run. For Ruf it was his ninth homer of the season and seventh in August, the sixth most in the league for the month.
In the ninth, the Phillies again didn’t get going until there were two outs. After Roger Bernadina and Kevin Frandsen were retired easily by closer Rafael Betancourt, Rollins laced a 1-1 pitch into the corner in right for the double.
Two pitches later, he was standing on third with a stolen base.
Young’s dribbler and a six-pitch walk to Chase Utley (his third walk of the game) set the stage for Brown to deliver the walk-off piece.
Suddenly, the Phillies are having fun.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” Brown said. “Mike’s at-bat was very big, getting Jimmy in from third, and him stealing that base right there was definitely big as well. I just got a good pitch to hit. I knew he was going to try to get ahead of me with the first pitch. I was just looking for something up to drive.”
It was Brown’s second walk-off of his career, with the other coming on June 17 against Washington. Meanwhile, the Phillies have scored 17 runs in their last four wins and nine of those runs have come in the last two innings.
Actually, nine of the 17 runs have come with four outs or fewer to go in the game.
Needless to say, Sandberg believes games like Thursday -- as well as Wednesday and Sunday -- can spiral. Good vibes are infectious, Sandberg said, and the Phillies are feeling pretty good, lately.
“There’s a sense in these games that good things can happen with a positive energy and the guys pulling for each other,” Sandberg said. “The guys are having quality at-bats and rising to the occasion and then getting the big hit.”
Getting the big hit with a flair for the dramatic, too. Better late than never, right?
“I’d like to do something before those final at-bats, to be honest with you,” Young said. “The key is making sure we’re getting wins. I think the biggest thing is that we’re bearing down as a team and I think that’s something we weren’t doing earlier in the year. We talked about it as a team, we weren’t coming back at all. If we were down, we were losing. It feels good to show some life, show some heart at the end of these games.”
The Phillies continue their 10-game homestand on Friday night when the Arizona Diamondbacks arrive for three games. The pitching matchups for the series are:
Friday: Cole Hamels (5-13, 3.61) vs. LHP Wade Miley (9-8, 3.56)
Saturday: Ethan Martin (2-2, 5.23) vs. RHP Randall Delgado (4-4, 3.82)
Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (13-3, 2.45).