Don’t Go Down Without a Fight – Phillies 8, Cardinals 7

Erik Kratz continues filling the Chooch-shaped hole in the roster.

Today’s game began much like yesterday’s, with several runners reaching base in the first and the pitcher regaining control before too much damage could be done. Vance Worley started it off and allowed one run before ending the inning. His opponent Lance Lynn wouldn’t be so lucky. After hitting Juan Pierre with a pitch and letting a Kevin Frandsen bunt turn into a single, Chase Utley came up and rocketed a line drive off the left field wall, scoring both men easily and sliding into third base safe on a play that clearly had him out on the tag. The Man indeed. The first inning ended with the Phillies up by two runs, but the Cardinals would chip that lead away in the following innings.

After scoring one more in the third inning, the Cards would make several big hits in the top of the fourth thanks to the Phillies’ defense unraveling on a key play. After Jon Jay knocked in Rafael Furcal to even the score, Erik Kratz attempted to gun him down at second base, but wound up throwing it offline and Jay moved from first to third. Matt Carpenter would knock him in on a single to make the score 4-3. The lead wouldn’t last though, as Ryan Howard led off the bottom of the fourth and hit his seventh homer of the year into the left field seats to tie the game.

After an easy fifth inning on the part of Worley, he left in the top of the sixth (having pitched 5.1 innings) following an error by Chase Utley, relieved by Raul Valdes. The game remained more or less uneventful up until the top of the eighth, when several bloop singles, a walk, and a double did Michael Schwimer in for three runs. With the score now 7-4, things did not look very good for the Phillies.

But I can never doubt this team’s ability to get right back into the game when it’s down. the bottom of the eighth was led off with two walks, to Chase Utley and to Ryan Howard, courtesy of Mark Rzepczynski. Erik Kratz, backup catcher of the .732 slugging percentage, came up to the plate. And, in typical Philadelphia comeback fashion, he busted a fly ball that somehow just kept on carrying, right into the left field flower box and tying the game up once again. Now all it took was one more run, and the series was ours.

That run would come in the bottom of the 11th inning. After three excellent innings of relief from Jonathan Papelbon and Jeremy Horst, Erik Kratz continued to prove himself in a Phillies uniform with a double to lead it off. Unfortunately for him, Jimmy Rollins made a weak fielder’s choice out, but Kratz kept running to third. He gutted it out, but was a dead duck at third. And instead of a man on second with no outs, we had a man on first with one. Brian Schnieder grounded out to put a man back on second, but with the added caveat of two extra outs to be had. What started off promising didn’t look good.

But the inning wasn’t over yet.

Juan Pierre, the singles-hitting machine, was up to bat. And a single could score Rollins easily. He fought off a tough seven-pitch at-bat, the middle of which involved Jimmy stealing third. A single wasn’t even needed to score him now, just good contact and some luck. Which is exactly what he got. After slapping a ground ball to Rafael Furcal at shortstop, he was off and running. Furcal’s throw, attempting to be quick to first base, wound up being airmailed ever so slightly. Pierre was safe on the call at first, and Jimmy scored to win it, 8-7.

As bad as the season has been overall, as infinitesimal as our playoff chances currently are, it’s games like these that make baseball worth watching. A team that has no possible way of being relevant this season when all is said and done, refusing to lay down and die and fighting back with every play. It’s the exact opposite of how the team played in the first half of the 2012 season, and what made me fall in love with them in the first place.

Let’s go Phillies.