Cliff Lee was never so disappointed to see a teammate hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning than he was when Erik Kratz belted one deep into the left-field seats on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
That’s because Lee had just been picked off first base by Cincinnati’s flame-thrower closer Aroldis Chapman just two pitches before Kratz went deep.
“It was brutal,” said Lee, who was in the game as a pinch runner for Delmon Young. “I felt horrible. [Kratz] made up for my mistake, which was unacceptable and, basically, brutal.”
Lee’s boneheaded move will be nothing more than a fun little footnote to the Phillies’ dramatic 3-2 victory over the Reds. After Kratz tied the game with the home run, Freddy Galvis hit a walk-off shot just three-pitches later (see Instant Replay).
“I thought it was going to hook foul. I hit it good, but I didn’t think it was going to the wall,” Galvis said of his first walk-off. “[It was] awesome. First time in my life and I’ll never forget it.”
It was the most improbable and dramatic victory of the season for the Phillies, and it almost didn’t happen. If Kratz had done anything other than hit a homer to tie the game in the ninth, manager Charlie Manuel would have used John Mayberry as a pinch hitter for Galvis.
Manuel said he would have gone with Mayberry because he felt the outfielder had a better chance of hitting a homer compared to Galvis. This is despite the fact that Mayberry has just two homers in 112 plate appearances this season and Galvis has three homers in 62 plate appearances.
But as the skipper says, baseball is a funny game.
“I was thinking about Mayberry’s power and that he hit a ball really hard against Chapman before,” Manuel said.
“That’s baseball and that’s the way it goes. You never know. I was thinking about sending Mayberry up there because he’s more apt to hit one out. We were down to the end there.”
Instead, Lee got picked off, setting off a whole chain of events where Kratz homered and Galvis remained in the game to hit the walk-off piece.
“It felt great. It was the best feeling I’ve had in a while when [Galvis] hit that homer to redeem my mistake,” Lee said. “It was huge. I feel like I should be able to play fundamental baseball and that’s basically the opposite of that. That just can’t happen no matter who is running right there. You know the situation and you know the scenario and it can’t happen. It’s not going to happen again by me, I can tell you that.”
The fact that the Phillies had a chance to tie the game — let alone win it — is a different story all together. After being shut out for the sixth time this season in Saturday’s 10-0 loss to the Reds, the Phillies’ offense wasn’t exactly in a hurry to wake up on Sunday.
Facing starter Homer Bailey, the Phillies did not cross a run in the first seven innings, pushing their scoreless innings streak to 16. In doing so, the Phillies did a nice job wasting the few opportunities they had. During three of the first four innings, they had a runner on base with one out or fewer, and they got the leadoff man on in the fourth, sixth and ninth innings.
The Phillies left runners in scoring position in the first, second, fourth and sixth and finally plated a run with two outs in the eighth when Ben Revere singled and Michael Young walked against reliever Jonathan Broxton. That set up an RBI single for Chase Utley against reliever Sean Marshall to get the Phillies to within a run.
“I thought we hit the ball hard all day. It just got caught and everything,” Manuel said. “We stayed with them and something good happened for us at the end. That’s the way you have to do it if you’re not scoring a lot of runs.”
It helped that rookie Jonathan Pettibone turned in another solid performance, allowing just one earned run on seven hits and three walks in a career-high seven innings. In doing so, Pettibone became the first Phillies rookie to allow three earned runs or fewer in his first six career starts since Ben Rivera did it in 1992.
It also helped that the Phillies got a solid performance from relievers Justin De Fratus and Antonio Bastardo in the eighth and ninth innings, too. By keeping the game close, the Phillies had a chance.
“Huge,” said Kratz, who came into the game during the third inning when Carlos Ruiz strained his hamstring (see story). “It wouldn’t have mattered if we got through it with seven guys in the bullpen or one guy. The job when they come in there is to keep it right there. You have to play it like a zero-to-zero game. You can’t let them get it to three because Chapman with a two-run lead is tougher than Chapman with a one-run lead. Each run is huge.”
Even the Phillies’ first run of the game with two outs in the eighth was huge. Revere legged out an infield hit on an 0-2 pitch to set up a walk for Michael Young on a seven-pitch at-bat.
Where would the Phillies have been without that one run?
Better yet, where would the Phillies have been if Lee hadn’t been picked off, or if Mayberry would have hit instead of Galvis?
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Kratz said. “If I would have hit a double in the gap, maybe it’s a little different. I’m glad Cliff [got picked off] and we won.”
Next, the Phillies hit the road for eight games starting in Miami on Monday night.
Cole Hamels (1-6, 4.61) looks to bounce back from a shaky outing against Cleveland against right-hander Alex Sanabia (2-6, 5.00) in the opener.