Offense erupts late to send Phillies home happy
Howard comes through in 10th after Brown caps ninth-inning rally
PHOENIX -- The Phillies had their pink bats to the wall on Sunday, but it was the pink shoes worn by Ryan Howard that may have saved the day for them.
On Mother's Day and in deference to breast cancer awareness, Howard wore the shoes as he struggled through another tough afternoon at the plate until coming up with one out and runners on second and third in the 10th inning.
Howard's solid single to right made the difference in a 4-2 Phillies win over the D-backs, who led 2-0 heading into the ninth at Chase Field.
"I just wanted to go out in support for Mother's Day," said Howard, who was in an 0-for-18 slump and had nine strikeouts in the series before winning the game with a two-run hit off left-hander Matt Reynolds. "I had the pink wristbands, the pink arm sleeves. I wasn't sure it was going to work, but when I saw the shoes with the two colors in it I said, 'OK, we're good.'
"I had it coordinated. It starts with the shoes. The only thing I didn't have was the bat today. It's all about going out and supporting the cause. It got me a hit today. I might wear them again on Tuesday. You never know."
Despite a hapless offensive performance for most of the four-game series, the Phils earned a split as they head home to face the first-place Indians on Tuesday night. The Phillies were 4-3 on this seven-game trip to San Francisco and Arizona, and the three losses each came by a margin of a single run.
It could have been a lot worse. Chase Utley had a pair of key doubles, one in each of the final innings when the Phils knocked out eight of their 15 hits. The Phillies scored just 10 runs in the series and Jimmy Rollins' solo shot Friday night was the only homer.
Rollins and Ben Revere used the pink bats in the game for the Phillies and were a combined 1-for-8, with Rollins contributing a one-out single in the 10th followed by Utley's second double -- Utley's fourth hit of the game.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson threw all kinds of shifts against Howard in the series, but when he came to bat with one out in the 10th and Rollins and Utley in scoring position, Gibson pulled the infielders in and moved three of them over to the right of the second-base bag, playing tight on the grass.
This time, Howard simply lined a solid single over the shift to drive home only his third and fourth runs of the trip. He had one homer and hit .148 (4-for-27) in the past seven days.
"My frustration level coming in to today? I don't know if I can really put a number on it," Howard said. "It's definitely been frustrating. Upset. Ticked off. But you just try to keep separating each at-bat. And I was able to get one to fall. Shifts? I've seen all kinds of them. Shifts aren't fun."
Right-hander Brandon McCarthy had his way with the Phillies on Sunday in his best outing for Arizona since coming over from Oakland in an offseason trade. The Phils had seven hits -- none for extra bases -- and only two runners reached as far as second base in eight innings against McCarthy, whose win was wiped out in the ninth.
How close did Gibson come to leaving McCarthy in with a pitch count of just 88?
"Yeah, I thought about it," Gibson said. "I guess we thought it was the best way to go. You make decisions, sometimes they don't work out. That was my decision. I did what I thought was the right move and it didn't work out. We didn't execute our pitches. They made us pay for it."
In that fateful ninth, Utley led with a double and scored on Delmon Young's one-out two-bagger. Young was replaced on the bases by pinch-runner John Mayberry Jr., who scored on Domonic Brown's single. The comeback came against Heath Bell, the latest in a line of Arizona relievers who have now blown a Major League-leading 11 save opportunities.
Once again a Phillies starter pitched well enough to win. This time it was Kyle Kendrick, who gave up a pair of runs in the first inning and then settled down to pitch seven innings of six-hit ball. He didn't issue any walks and struck out four.
Before the game, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had said he was short on relievers. After the win, he disclosed that Mike Adams is dealing with a bit of tightness in his back.
"We just didn't want to get him up," Manuel said.
There was a question beforehand that Jonathan Papelbon might not be available after recording a tough 29-pitch, five-out save on Saturday in the Phils' 3-1 victory.
But after the Phillies took the lead Sunday, there was Papelbon in the 10th. This time he needed only 15 pitches to record his seventh save. Didi Gregorius made it interesting by smacking a two-out double, but he was left stranded on second when Martin Prado flied out to center.
It was that kind of game and that kind of weekend. The Phillies may have had their pink bats to the wall, but it was Howard's glossy pink shoes that proved the lucky charm in the end.