Phils storm back, stun Brewers with six-run eighth
Club energized following third consecutive comeback victory
Or is this just a crazy, fun stretch of late-inning comebacks and walk-off victories in the midst of an otherwise disappointing season?
The Phillies, who have won three in a row and seven of their last 10, want to believe it is a glimpse of what could be.
"We see that identity," right fielder Hunter Pence said after a thrilling 7-6 comeback victory Tuesday over the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. "Everyone kind of came together, all of the pieces came together and we're working as a unit right now. It feels good."
"We've never given up," starter Cliff Lee said. "We still believe in ourselves. Basically, we're just proving it."
Manager Charlie Manuel offered his opinion when asked if he would tell general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to buy or sell before next Tuesday's Trade Deadline. The Phillies, despite three consecutive late-inning comeback victories, are just 44-54 and 9 1/2 games behind the National League Wild card leaders. The Phillies probably need to win at least 88 games to find themselves with a Wild Card spot. They would need to finish 44-20 (.688) to get there.
It's a long shot, but it's not impossible.
So, Charlie, buy or sell?
"I'd say hit leather," Manuel said.
"That means buy," he said. "I might always say that more than likely. I'm a buying guy."
The Phillies enjoyed walk-off victories Sunday against San Francisco and Monday against Milwaukee, which had them thinking good things Tuesday once Brewers ace Zack Greinke left the game after dominating the first seven innings.
They started thinking even better things once Erik Kratz hit a first-pitch, pinch-hit, two-run home run to get things going against reliever Manny Parra to make it 6-3 in the eighth. Parra walked Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to load the bases with two outs and send Carlos Ruiz to the plate representing the go-ahead run.
"They started keyholing," Parra said. "And I mean when you don't have to swing the bat, don't swing ... They didn't have to swing the bat. They don't want to hit and I didn't give 'em much to hit."
Ruiz, who would be garnering serious MVP hype if the Phils were not in last place in the NL East, continued his career season with a double to left-center field to clear the bases and make it a 6-6 game. Pence followed with a broken-bat bloop single just over the head of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks in shallow right field to allow Ruiz, who has been playing on a bad foot for a while, to score to give the Phillies a one-run lead.
Just like that?
Yeah, just like that.
"It's awesome," Kratz said. "You saw it before the eighth inning. You could see a difference with the fans staying in the park after [Monday] night. I think everyone feels it. You can't take away that feeling. We have to come out and grind it out, one day at a time. Whatever cliché there is, that's what we doing right now."
Think about this for a second: the Brewers scored a combined 12 runs in consecutive games against Roy Halladay and Lee and lost both.
Lee allowed 12 hits, six runs, one walk, four home runs and struck out six in seven-plus innings. The 12 hits tied a career high, something he last did June 16 in Toronto. The four homers also tied a career high, something he had done just once in 2010 with Texas.
Lee actually heard a smattering of boos as he jogged off the field in the top of the eighth.
The boos turned to cheers a short time later.
"We still think about it," Ruiz said about a sixth consecutive trip to the postseason. "We definitely want to go. We still have time to make it happen."
They don't have too much time. The Phillies have four games to play before the Deadline. They would do themselves a big favor by continuing to play like they have. But at least they're showing a pulse.
"We still have life and we've got energy and we've still got enough patience and fight in us to come back," Manuel said. "How consistent can we do it? That's part of the game, too. That's playing it out."