Brett Myers

Remembering just how dominant that Brad Lidge-Ryan Madson bullpen was, especially in playoffs

Remembering just how dominant that Brad Lidge-Ryan Madson bullpen was, especially in playoffs

Re-airing the Phillies' 2008 postseason run, as we have been here at NBC Sports Philadelphia over the past week, has provided us with a reminder of just how talented a group of players the team had in that era of good feelings.

Rollins, Utley, Howard, Hamels, Lidge, Chooch, Victorino, Werth, Burrell ...

Those were some good ones ...

But there were many others who helped the Phillies win it all in 2008.

Complementary players. Role players. Supporting cast. Call 'em what you want. The Phils don't win without them.

Remember how good that bullpen was?

Of course, you do. Brad Lidge to this day is a reminder of how important the bullpen was for the 2008 Phillies, a team that did not give up a ninth-inning lead all season, thanks mostly to Lidge's fantastic 41-for-41 performance in save opportunities. He converted seven more in the postseason to finish 48 for 48.

But there was more to that bullpen that just Lidge. Lefty Scott Eyre was an important pickup. J.C. Romero, another lefty, and Chad Durbin were valuable setup men, and Clay Condrey an unheralded middle man.

And then there was Ryan Madson.

What a major difference maker he was for the Phillies down the stretch in 2008 and in the postseason.

As you'll be able to relive Tuesday night, the Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-5, in Game 2 of the 2008 National League Championship Series to take a two-games-to-none lead in the series.

Shane Victorino and Brett Myers, offensive stars in Game 2 of the NLDS, did it again in Game 2 of the NLCS as they combined for seven RBIs. Myers' bat (three hits, three RBIs) gave him some much-needed cushion on the mound because he couldn't completely hold back the Dodgers' offense. He gave up five runs and was gone after five innings.

The bullpen did the rest.

Durbin, Romero, Madson and Lidge combined on four scoreless innings and struck out six to nail down the win.

Lidge presided over a nervous ninth inning and walked two as the Dodgers brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out.

Matt Kemp had the first chance to dent the Phillies' perfect closer. Lidge struck him out on a 1-2 slider.

That brought up former two-time American League batting champ Nomar Garciaparra.

Lidge went back to his signature pitch — the slider — and struck out Garciaparra on three of them, each a little harder and nastier than the previous one. The final two sliders corkscrewed into the dirt and catcher Carlos Ruiz blocked both as the crowd of 45,839 exhaled and headed out of Citizens Bank Park happy.

"No way (Garciaparra) was getting a fastball," Ruiz said after the game. "You have to go with your best pitch."

The Phillies' bullpen allowed just eight earned runs over 40⅓ innings (1.79 ERA) in the 2008 postseason.

The unit was brilliant against the Dodgers in the NLCS, picking up 18⅔ innings while allowing just two earned runs (0.98). Madson pitched five scoreless innings in that series and struck out four.

Ten years earlier, Madson had been a ninth-round draft pick of the Phillies. The team bought the right-hander out of his commitment to the University of Southern California and it paid off a decade later. Madson had been groomed as a starter in the minors, but manager Larry Bowa and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan pushed to have him make the 2004 team as a reliever. The role fit his two-pitch power fastball/changeup mix.

Madson had been inconsistent in his early years in the majors. He put it all together in 2008 and recorded a 3.05 ERA in 76 games. His emergence began in spring training when pitching coach Rich Dubee gave him a stern talking-to about work ethic and commitment and how it could lead to financial reward.

"I told him, 'You're cheating yourself and your family,'" Dubee said back in October 2008. "He hadn't stepped up. He has a total-package arm, but he hadn't pitched to his capabilities. I felt he should know."

During that season, Madson, on a recommendation from teammate Tom Gordon, visited a physical therapist from Phoenix named Keith Kochner. Kochner prescribed a shoulder strengthening routine that Madson, under the supervision of Phillies athletic trainers, followed religiously. Late in the season, Madson saw results. While some pitchers were wearing down, his velocity was ticking up into the high-90s. That made his knee-buckling changeup that much better. His confidence swelled. He started attacking hitters, daring them to hit his stuff.

It's sometimes forgotten that the Phillies had to win 13 of their final 16 games to overtake the New York Mets for the 2008 NL East title.

Down the stretch that season, Madson allowed just one run in his final 14 games and carried that success right over into the postseason.

"Ryan's confidence is like a closer's right now," Lidge said during that NLCS against the Dodgers. "He's learned how to dominate guys."

And what a difference that made for the Phillies in October 2008.

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Brett Myers' walk against CC Sabathia was an all-time Philly sports moment

Brett Myers' walk against CC Sabathia was an all-time Philly sports moment

I was sitting in section 110 at Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. “They actually did it,” I remember thinking. It was a truly remarkable feeling.

It was the first championship I ever witnessed a team from Philadelphia pull off.

But if you asked me what the most memorable play that I witnessed in person from that run was, my answer probably wouldn’t be from Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Or even from any of the three World Series games I attended in South Philly that series.

That’s because Brett Myers drew a walk.

NBC Sports Philadelphia will re-air Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers this evening and I’ll get to watch Shane Victorino take CC Sabathia deep for a legendary grand slam once again.

But it was all made possible by the Phillies' starting pitcher working a remarkable at-bat against the Brewers' ace that had the 46,208 screaming fans at Citizens Bank Park going ballistic.

"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,” is how Jim Salisbury described it today. My memory is pretty similar, but from the vantage point of the second row in the third level in right field where I was sitting with my dad and friend Matt.

One of the aspects of sports that makes it such a joy is its unpredictability. Myers shouldn’t have stood a chance against Sabathia, and yet with each fouled-off pitch, the roar of the crowd grew, the white rally towels waving higher.

And the chants. How can you forget the chants?!

“CEEEEE! CEEEEE! … CEEEEEE! CEEEEEE!”

Man, that sure was fun. One of the most joyous moments of being a Philly sports fan I've experienced.

“Most f******g insane [stuff],” Matt texted me yesterday when reminiscing.

“SHANE.”

That’s all that needed to be said. No questions asked.

I took out my camera prior to the seventh pitch of the Myers' at-bat and started recording. My favorite part of the video is the laughing at what we were witnessing. So rewatch the TV broadcast of the 2008 NLDS tonight but enjoy the view from the crowd once more below. 

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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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