From going 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and leaving a whopping 15 men on base to making two errors in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Colorado Rockies did everything in their power to give the Phillies a ballgame Wednesday night.
And finally, the Phillies took the gift.
The Phillies rallied for four unearned runs with two outs in the ninth inning to beat the Rockies, 6-3 (see Instant Replay).
The Phillies were one out away from falling a season-worst six games under .500 when Chase Utley tied the game with a single against Colorado lefty Boone Logan. The next batter, Ryan Howard, won it with a three-run home run, a bolt into the seats above the 387-foot marker in left-center.
It was Howard’s fifth career walk-off homer.
The Rockies, who had taken a 3-2 lead on a homer by DJ LeMahieu off Jake Diekman in the top of the eighth, left the door open for the Phillies to rally with two errors in the ninth. Second baseman Josh Rutledge threw away a ball with one out and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki dropped a pop up down the left-field line.
“That was big,” manager Ryne Sandberg said of Colorado’s miscues. “When you give major-league teams extra outs, something can happen.”
“It gives you life,” Howard said.
The Phillies hardly had a clean game, but performances like the one Mike Adams delivered put them in position to win.
Reliever Antonio Bastardo walked three batters in the seventh and catcher Carlos Ruiz made a throwing error. Adams was summoned into a bases-loaded, no-outs situation and calmly got his team out of the jam unscathed. Without Adams’ clutch work, the Phils probably aren’t in position to rally to win in the ninth.
“Phenomenal,” Howard said of Adams’ work.
Adams induced a 1-2-3 double play off the broken bat of Carlos Gonzalez before striking out Tulowitzki, the league’s leading hitter, on three pitches to end the threat and keep the game tied at 2-2.
Adams, who missed much of last season with a career-threatening shoulder injury that required surgery, has not allowed an earned run in his last 12 outings.
“If I’m healthy, I never doubted my ability,” he said. “All through my rehab, I believed and I am where I’m at now. Today was fun. That was a whole lot of fun.”
Adams faced Tulowitzki with first base open. Pitching coach Bob McClure went to the mound before the at-bat and gave Adams the option of walking the red-hot Rockie.
Adams never blinked. He was going after Tulowitzki.
“I was actually a little upset he gave me the option to walk Tulo,” Adams said. “I’m confident in what I do. I’m not going to back down from anybody. I ain’t scared. I don’t care who you are. I feel I’m better than the person at the plate.”
Sandberg said Adams’ performance came in “a closer-like” situation.
“Our backs were against the wall and he came up big,” Sandberg said.
Utley and Howard also came up big in the ninth.
The Phillies are 3-3 after six games on this 11-game homestand. Howard has had four hitless games (one was in a non-start) on the homestand. In the other two, he has five hits, including two homers, and eight RBIs. Both of those big performances have come in wins.
What has been the key for Howard in those games?
“I found the ball,” he said. “That’s about it. You don’t question it. You just roll with it.”
Howard hit a 2-2 fastball from Logan for his ninth homer. He knew it was a game-winner when he made contact.
“I knew I hit the gap,” he said. “I really didn’t care if it was out or not. I just knew once I hit it that it was going to be a base hit and game would be over. I really didn’t see where it landed.”
Howard’s home run touched off a home-plate celebration on a night when the Phillies appeared to be headed deeper into last place in the NL East.
Instead, they are just four games back in the division with the NL East rival Mets on their way in for five games.
“We’ve talked about trying to build on games like this,” Howard said. “Now it’s about doing it. It’s about going out there and executing. We have a chance to get ourselves back in this race. We’re not out of the race -- that’s the crazy thing about it. For as hot and cold as we’ve been all year, we still have a shot. I believe this is a championship-caliber team. We just need to start going out and playing like it.”