Ryan Howard Walks Off in Series Victory

DSC_0129Photo: Philliedelphia/Andrew Gillen

The Phillies have seemingly caught on to a bit of a pattern in their last few series toward the end of May. In their three-game set in Miami against the Marlins, they split the first two contests, only to drop the third game. And just days ago, the Phillies came into Sunday's ball game against Josh Beckett and the Dodgers with a chance to take two-of-three, but were instead met with a no-hit performance. Tonight, Philadelphia looked to make the third time a charm, because after taking the Memorial Day game 9-0 over Colorado and dropping last night's matchup, they had their third straight opportunity to claim the victory in a three game series. It would be the National League's Masahiro Tanaka, Roberto Hernandez, facing off against the Rockies' Jordan Lyles.

The Game: Roberto Hernandez could have easily had quick outings in the first two innings, recording outs on the first two batters he faced in each of those frames. However, he allowed a double and a walk in the first with those two away, eventually getting the third out without a run crossing. The second inning got even dicier, as an error by Cesar Hernandez, a single, and another walk loaded the bases, all with two away. Again, though, Roberto escaped by getting a ground ball out. The flirting with danger caught up with him in the next frame.

Justin Morneau led off the third inning, and ripped the very first pitch just inside the right field foul pole to open up the scoring. Corey Dickerson would soon walk with one away, Hernandez' third base on balls of the game. Catcher Wilin Rosario then had his opportunity against Roberto, and sent a ball toward the angled wall behind Ben Revere in center field. Dickerson's speed allowed him to score all the way from first, and Rosario collected an RBI double. The Rockies now jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Philadelphia would cut the lead in half during the bottom of the third, led off by Chase Utley's league-leading 22nd double of the season. With Ryan Howard batting, the Rockies had a slight shift on, but not as dramatic as most teams do. It was Howard's opportunity to take advantage of the situation, and that's exactly what he did. A line drive just to the right of second base went through for an RBI single, and the score now stood at just 2-1. 

The game would eventually be tied at two, when Marlon Byrd came through in the fifth. Ben Revere had singled to lead things off, and stole second when Jimmy Rollins struck out. Chase Utley suffered the same fate, and Howard was set to come up with another RBI chance. Colorado decided it would be best to walk him though, and Piece was sent up to first base. That paved the way for Byrd to succeed, and he notched an RBI single to bring in Revere. 2-2 ballgame.

The bullpen, namely Antonio Bastardo, nearly imploded the game in the seventh. Bastardo had already allowed a walk in the previous inning, and began the seventh by walking all three batters he faced. That forced Ryne Sandberg to make the move to Mike Adams in the no-out, bases loaded situation. Clutch is an understatement for Adams' performance, as he was able to get pinch hitter Carlos Gonzalez to roll into the 1-2-3 double play. Now with two runners in scoring position and two away, Troy Tulowitzki got the chance to pinch hit as well. He would be set down on strikes, and the threat was extinguished. 

Unfortunately, all of Adams work in that seventh would immediately be lost in the eighth. Jake Diekman was summoned into the game, and despite forcing Charlie Blackmon to ground out, he could not hang on to the tie score. D.J. LaMahieu collected his first home run since August of last season, and Colorado now took a 3-2 lead in the rubber match of the series.

LaTroy Hawkins came in to close things out in the ninth for the Rockies. Cesar Hernandez was the first man to face Hawkins, but he flew out to lead things off. Tony Gwynn Jr. rolled a ball over to Josh Rutledge, whose throw was too high, allowing Gwynn to reach on an error. Ben Revere followed with a single into right field to put two runners on for Jimmy Rollins. Rollins was given a second life during his at bat when Troy Tulowitzki dropped a ball in foul territory. However, J-Roll lined out to left field for out number two. Surprisingly, Rockies manager Walt Weiss decided to replace Hawkins with Boone Logan on the mound to face Chase Utley. After reaching 3-0 in the count, Utley lined a ball deep into right field that just turned foul. It wouldn't matter, though, as the next pitch was sent into right field for a game-tying RBI single. 

With the game now sitting at 3-3, Ryan Howard was up, but in the dreaded lefty-on-lefty situation. After reaching a 2-2 count, Howard ended up winning the improbable battle, sending the sixth pitch over the 387 sign in left-center field for the walk-off, three-run jack. The Phillies take the three game series from Colorado with a 6-3 victory. 

Impact: After two failed attempts, the Phillies were finally able to take advantage of a rubber match in a three game set. They had lost the previous two series against Miami and Los Angeles, but took advantage of a 'rocky' bullpen to win the home series.  Now, a five game set against the New York Mets could be vital in keeping a beating pulse in the 2014 campaign. Both teams will see each of their rival's five starting pitchers in the series, and one could walk away putting the other deep into the bottom of the division.

Up Next: That five game stretch against the Mets starts tomorrow night at 7:05, as David Buchanan will make his second major league start for the Phillies. New York will send young right-hander Zack Wheeler to the bump in Game One. 

Andrew Gillen, Managing Editor of Philliedelphia.com