Phillies

Phillies

Our classic Phillies game re-airs continue tonight with the final regular-season game of the 2007 season, a 6-1 Phillies win over the Nationals that wrestled the NL East crown away from the Mets, who had famously held a 7-game lead in the division with 17 to play.

The Phillies were abruptly swept in the NLDS by the Rockies but prior to that, they were on fire. From Sept. 13 through the end of the regular season, the Phils went 13-4 and the Mets went 5-12.

Jimmy Rollins, who began that season by calling the Phillies "the team to beat" in the NL East despite their 14-year playoff drought, finished it by winning NL MVP. Rollins had a storybook season with his bat, with his glove, with his legs and with his mouth.

One of the most unique accomplishments in Phillies history was achieved by Rollins late in that 6-1 win we're re-airing Wednesday night. Jimmy always had a flair for the dramatic, as these memorable moments illustrate.

Sitting on 777 plate appearances for the season, Rollins stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Phillies were winning, there might be no bottom of the ninth and you figured it was likely going to be his final trip to the dish. Rollins needed one more triple to become only the fourth player in baseball history with at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season.

 

As Rollins reached the batter's box for that 778th plate appearance — still a big-league record — the only thing on the minds of Phillies fans watching was the hope that Jimmy would finish the job and hit that triple.

If you watch baseball, you understand that a player can't go to the plate trying to hit a triple. Triples are about solid contact, fortunate placement, speed and aggressiveness. Last season, for example, players hit a triple in just one of every 250 plate appearances. There were about 11 times more doubles and nine times as many home runs.

Ridiculously, impossibly, Rollins hit that 20th triple in his last plate appearance of the season.

In the history of baseball, the only players to achieve this feat were Rollins and Curtis Granderson in 2007, Willie Mays in 1957 and Frank Schulte in 1911. It's so random that it happened twice in the same season after occurring just once in the previous 94 years and not at all since.

The Phillies, who won the division by one game in '07, needed absolutely everything Rollins gave them that season. None of these were empty-calorie stats. 

Many Phils fans will remember the fateful four-game home series against the Mets Aug. 27-30 that summer, a four-game sweep for the Phillies that made a division crown actually feel realistic. Beginning with that series, Rollins hit .335 over his final 34 games with 6 doubles, 5 triples, 8 homers, 22 RBI, 31 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts. The Phillies went 23-11.

"The triple — I was stuck on 19 for a while," Rollins said years ago. "Milt Thompson (the hitting coach) was saying, 'You'll get it on your last at-bat, a little drama.' I was like, 'Of all guys, (Luis) Ayala,' because I never hit him. 

"The count was 3-and-2 and I said to myself, 'Don't be dumb. He's going to throw a slider, sit on it.' He threw it. I knew Austin Kearns was in right field and he could throw but I went for it. I remember going hard into [Ryan] Zimmerman. If I didn't go for it, I would have been upset. The crowd was just incredible that day."

Rollins was just incredible that season. He narrowly beat out Matt Holliday for NL MVP in one of the closest votes ever. Rollins received 79% of voting points to Holliday's 75%. Holliday had better offensive numbers (he hit .376 at Coors Field that year) but Rollins had the better story and the better all-around season.

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