WASHINGTON — Though he had not pitched in a week and struggled in situations with inherited runners, reliever Chad Durbin said he was ready for the call from manager Charlie Manuel with two on and two outs of a 3-3 game against the Washington Nationals on Saturday night.
Better yet, Durbin had a pretty good time out on the mound during a pretty important late May game.
“That was the most fun I had all year,” Durbin said after the Phillies 5-3 victory in whiched he picked up his first win of the season (see story).
There haven’t been too many light moments on the field for the veteran right-hander this season. Heading into Saturday’s game, it was a wonder if Durbin was going to last much longer on the Phillies’ roster. In fact, it was a bit of a surprise to see Durbin jog in from the bullpen in a tight spot in the seventh inning and then make the trot back out from the dugout for the eighth inning.
“I don’t know if it took nerve or not,” Manuel said about his decision to put Durbin into the game.
Maybe it took a bit of nerve, or perhaps some prayer, considering Durbin had an 8.10 ERA in 13 appearances this season. Typically, Durbin had only seen the mound when the Phillies were far behind since the team was 2-11 in his appearances while he had allowed 13 runs in six of his 13 games.
So of course Durbin needed just two pitches to get out Ian Desmond in the seventh inning.
From there the Phillies scored two runs with two outs in the eighth and Durbin went back out for the bottom half of the inning looking for his first win of the season.
In other words, after not pitching for a week —save for a bullpen session on Friday— Durbin jumped into a critical point of the game and then went back out for a second inning.
Pretty tough, huh?
“I try to get ready like that's going to happen every time. A lot of times it hasn't been the case that my name is called,” Durbin said. “[Former Phillies reliever] Flash Gordon told me when I first started, ‘Just be ready every time the phone rings.’ And I've tried to hold to that.”
It didn’t go as smoothly in the eighth, but Durbin did the job. Though he gave up a leadoff single to Kurt Suzuki and walked Tyler Moore, Durbin got Steve Lombardozzi to pop out.
That’s when Manuel turned to lefty Jeremy Horst with the go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth. Horst had been a little better than Durbin, sporting a 5.00 ERA in 20 appearances. Horst went into the game having allowed nine of his previous 22 inherited runners to score.
Amazingly, Horst needed only four pitches to get out of the jam. Pinch hitter Chad Tracy hit a can-of-corn fly ball to left on the first pitch and then Denard Span lined the third pitch to right to end the inning.
From there, Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for his ninth save in nine chances.
“We wobbled a little bit, but we gained composure. It was interesting,” Manuel said. “Actually, we ended up doing a good job. We got guys out when we were supposed to. That’s what counts.”
Who knows, maybe it was even an audition of sorts, too. Though Durbin’s experience and locker room presence are big positive assets, he still has to get batters out. Good guy or not, there aren’t many roster spots for pitchers who allow the opposition to bat .315 and slug .630.
But rather than dwell on the bad stats as he might have when he was a younger player, Durbin’s experience helped him manage.
“I try to internalize all of that. You can't worry about those variables,” Durbin said. “If they do call on you, you have to be ready. If it works out, it works out that you get in a tight game and sometimes that's the momentum that builds. The bullpen came together tonight and picked each other up.”
Chances are Durbin and Horst won’t see too many of those high-leverage situations in the late innings any time soon. On Sunday, set-up ace Mike Adams will be back from the disabled list. Those eighth innings will be all his.
Following Saturday’s game, right-hander B.J. Rosenberg was optioned to Lehigh Valley. The move will allow Adams to be activated.