Phillies

An entertaining 2008 Phillies win and a visit with Shane Victorino's proud father

An entertaining 2008 Phillies win and a visit with Shane Victorino's proud father

Game 2 of the National League Division Series — which will be re-aired on NBC Sports Philadelphia on Tuesday night — was one of the most entertaining of the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship run.

A roaring crowd of 46,208 — the largest ever at Citizens Bank Park to that point — watched the Phillies beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-2, to go up two games to none in the series.

The Phillies scored all of their runs in the second inning against Milwaukee ace CC Sabathia, who had previously been spectacular, going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts after joining the Crew in a mid-season trade with Cleveland.

Phillies starting pitcher Brett Myers helped make it an entertaining night for the fans when he worked Sabathia for an unforgettable nine-pitch walk to keep the second inning alive.

Myers looked like a woodchopper as he fouled off pitches to prolong the at-bat and the full house loved it. The crowd and the length of the at-bat clearly weighed on Sabathia because he walked the next batter, Jimmy Rollins, on four pitches to load the bases.

As important as Myers' remarkable showdown against Sabathia was in Game 2, it was not the most memorable moment of the game for these eyes.

That would come two batters after Myers' walk, one batter after Rollins' walk, when Shane Victorino stepped to the plate and launched a dramatic grand slam to cap a five-run inning.

In my mind's eye, I can still see Victorino pick up that 1-2 pitch, a sweeping breaking ball, out of Sabathia's hand.

I can still see him turn on the pitch and sprint around the bases to the thunderous reaction of the crowd.

And I can still see him cross home plate and point to his dad in the stands.

"I saw it," Mike Victorino said that night. "I was tearing up."

Mike Victorino had flown all day from Hawaii and arrived in Philadelphia just a couple of hours before the game.

A few innings after his son's grand slam, I wandered down into the stands and found him.

Shane had a big night, three extra-base hits, including the decisive one, in the Phillies' win and Mike Victorino was thrilled to be in the house for it all.

"Shane had a fabulous night," Mike Victorino, wearing a red Phillies cap, said that night. "I'm so happy and proud to be here and share in this with him.''

After the grand slam, Mike pulled out his cell phone and called his wife back home in Maui. Jocelyn Victorino could not make the game because of a work commitment, but she saw her son's heroics on television.

"I didn't make a reservation until (the day before)," Mike said that night. "I wasn't sure if I was coming. Mom said, 'You go.' She hopes the Phillies make the next round so she can be here."

Cole Hamels was that October's MVP, Brad Lidge was perfect, and Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were the best ever at their positions in Phillies history. But that great Phillies team was loaded with key complementary talent — players like Victorino, Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Madson, Matt Stairs and others — and the title doesn't happen without them.

Victorino was 27 when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. The Phils were his third organization. He was basically rejected by the Dodgers and Padres before landing in Philadelphia and becoming an All-Star.

"Shane was always one of the smallest guys, but he always worked hard to be as good as the bigger guys," Mike Victorino said that night. "He was never the automatic first pick. He always had great stick-to-it-iveness.''

On that happy October 2008 night, Mike Victorino could not say enough about how much the Phillies and the city of Philadelphia meant to him and his son.

"I like this town for him," Mike Victorino said. "It's a blue-collar town and we're blue-collar people. Our family has worked in the pineapple and sugar cane industry. My other son is a longshoreman. This has been a great place for Shane.

"His mom and I feel like he's really matured and blossomed here. People ask me what I think of his career and I tell them he has put it together because the Philadelphia Phillies gave him a chance.

"In our hearts, Shane's mom and I thank the Phillies for giving him a chance, and we thank this town for supporting our son."

In later years, Shane Victorino gave back to the city of Philadelphia. He made a generous donation to the Boys and Girls club in the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia and the facility now bears his name.

Interesting little note about Victorino's heroics in Game 2: He batted sixth the day before in Game 1 of the series. In Game 2, he batted second. Manager Charlie Manuel liked the way Victorino swung the bat from the right side against hard-throwing lefties like Sabathia so he adjusted the lineup. Two doubles and a grand slam later, Manuel looked like a savant and the Phillies had a commanding lead in the series.

Check it out Tuesday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Three days after MLB’s 2020 schedule came out, the league released the 2021 schedule.

There’s so much uncertainty around baseball right now, with COVID-19 cases around the league, issues with testing, players opting out and many others wary of the virus. There will be no fans in the stands in 2020, but this look at the 2021 schedule provides some early excitement for if/when the coronavirus pandemic slows enough to allow fans back into stadiums.

The Phillies will open the 2021 season at home against the Braves on April 1. The first four series alternate between Braves and Mets, the first two at home and next two on the road.

The Phils’ earliest 2021 non-division road trip is to Colorado and St. Louis from April 23-29.

The month of May includes two long road trips — a nine-gamer through Atlanta, Washington and Toronto, and another nine-game trip to Miami, Tampa and Cincy the week of Memorial Day. The Phillies also have a home weekend series against the Red Sox.

The Phillies face a daunting slate in June, with 11 consecutive games against the Nationals, Braves, Yankees and Dodgers. That Dodgers series is the Phils’ first West Coast swing, with a series in San Francisco to follow.

The Phillies are home for July 4 (a Sunday) against the Padres and then close out the first half of 2021 on the road at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in back-to-back series. That is a bucket list trip for many baseball fans.

From July 22 through Aug. 15, the Phils play 17 of 24 games at home, before their final West Coast trip to Arizona and San Diego.

September/October 2021 is not as heavy a dose of division matchups as usual for the final month. Only 13 of the Phillies’ 30 regular-season games after Sept. 1 are against NL East teams. Their final week is a trip to Atlanta and Miami.

The Phillies’ interleague schedule is entirely against the AL East, so these two divisions will become quite familiar over the next 15 months. The Phillies play the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox on the road. They host the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Orioles.

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Who is that masked man at first base? It might be Rhys Hoskins

Who is that masked man at first base? It might be Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins is taking Major League Baseball’s health protocols very seriously.

Heck, he wore a mask during a zoom video session with reporters after Wednesday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park.

Hoskins did not wear a mask during the game.

But he may opt to wear one when the regular season starts on July 24.

Or even sooner.

Hoskins is a first baseman and that position isn’t exactly the best place to employ social distancing. You have to hold runners on base, take pickoff throws from the pitcher and make sweep tags on runners diving back to the base. Occasionally, a first baseman and base runner get physically tangled. You know, the throw from the pitcher is off-line. The first baseman lunges to stop it from going down the right-field line. Next thing you know, the first baseman is sprawled on top of the base runner.

That doesn’t exactly qualify as good social-distance practice.

So Hoskins may don a mask in the field one of these days.

“I thought that any time I was on the field, I would not be wearing a mask, but maybe it’s something I keep in my back pocket in a Ziploc baggie or something,” Hoskins said. “When somebody gets on first, I throw it on."

“It might make some more sense if I am wearing a mask in the field.”

Sitting outside the Phillies’ clubhouse, Hoskins tugged on the mask he was wearing during his zoom interview. 

“I’m not super bothered by it,” he said. “These are pretty comfortable. Hot for sure but the expense of being hot is worth not catching this thing and potentially ruining a season. It’s definitely something I’ll have to give thought to and ask the trainers and see what they say and go from there. I’m not opposed to it.”

Hoskins knows full well what a beast coronavirus can be. He and teammate Scott Kingery are longtime best buds. Kingery spoke of his battle with coronavirus earlier this week.

First base is baseball’s water cooler and the men who play the position are generally gregarious by nature. Hoskins is no exception. He likes to chat with base runners and share a laugh during breaks in the action.

That practice might be going away. Just like spitting.

Will Hoskins chat with base runners?

“I don't know if I will,” he said. “At least if I am, it's definitely not looking at him. I'll probably just continue to look at the pitcher.  

“But yeah, that's something that happens, I think, on every baseball field. Runner on first, there's usually some sort of exchange and off we go, we're talking about whatever we're talking about. Again, just a little adjustment that we'll have to make."

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