DENVER – Jimmy Rollins was sitting in his hotel room watching highlights from around baseball after Saturday night’s loss when he kept seeing the ugly truth roll across the bottom of his television screen.
The Phillies have gone four games without an extra-base hit.
“I watched it come across the ticker like four times,” Rollins said. “I was like, ‘Damn, for real?’"
Two games in cozy Citizens Bank Park. Two more in the launching pad that is Coors Field. No extra-base hits. Yeah, Jimmy, it was real. Real bad.
Rollins personally ended the Phillies’ embarrassing extra-base hit drought -- the franchise’s longest since 1968 -- when he stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning Sunday afternoon and smacked a solo home run into the right-field seats. That early bolt set a tone for the day and the Phillies’ offense, which, after scoring just three runs in the previous four games, erupted for 15 hits in a wild, 10-9, win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field (see Instant Replay).
Seven of the Phillies’ hits were for extra bases. The Phils had gone 131 plate appearances without a double, triple or homer.
“That was long overdue,” manager Ryne Sandberg said.
So overdue that Sandberg took the unusual step of having his team take full on-field batting practice before a Sunday day game. Teams usually have more casual batting practice in the indoor cages the day after a Saturday night game.
“We wanted to get on the field,” he said. “We also wanted to get the bats started. This is the type of game that could be a little bit of a carryover game for us going into Los Angeles.”
Ryan Howard had two of the Phillies’ seven extra-base hits -- a homer and a triple -- to go along with a pair of singles on a four-hit day that took his batting average from .217 to .262.
Howard might end up with another extra-base hit in the coming days. The Phillies will ask Major League Baseball to review the scoring on his seventh-inning RBI single. The ball got by rightfielder Brandon Barnes after he tried to make a shoestring catch. It was scored a single and an error. Sandberg believed the play should have been scored a double, which would have given Howard the cycle.
Howard kept the ball just in case the call is reversed.
“The goal was to get the run home, and it’s what I was able to achieve,” he said. “Anything else would have been a bonus. If it turns out being a cycle, that’d be great. But I’m still going to keep the ball as a memento. I still got four hits so it will be special anyway.”
The Phillies have not had a player hit for the cycle since David Bell in 2004.
Sandberg described the game as a “Coors Field special,” and he was right. The two teams combined for 19 runs and 30 hits. It took four hours and eight minutes to complete the game and the score wasn’t finalized until the umpires reviewed John Mayberry Jr.’s final scoop at first base. He entered the game as a defensive replacement for Howard in the eighth and should have been awarded a save along with Jonathan Papelbon.
How crazy was this game?
The look on Phillies’ starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez said it all. He allowed six runs in four innings.
Asked about his first Coors Field experience after the game, his eyes widened and he said, “Oh, my God.”
The Phillies blew leads of 1-0, 3-1 and 8-6 before finally hanging on to avoid the sweep.
The Phillies took their 8-6 lead in the seventh only to see Jake Diekman give it back in the bottom of the inning. The Phils re-took the lead, 10-8, on RBIs by Rollins and Chase Utley in the eighth. Antonio Bastardo allowed a solo homer in the bottom of the inning but got out of the frame with a one-run lead after striking out Justin Morneau who previously belted a two-run homer en route to a five-RBI day. Sandberg had Bastardo walk right-handed hitting Troy Tulowitzki (7 for 9 in the series) to get to Morneau and Bastardo made it work.
In between all the hits and three replays, the Phillies played very good defense. Rollins helped prevent a big inning by cutting down a run at the plate in the sixth. And, of course, he helped ignite the offense with his first-inning homer. He already has three. Last year, he had just six.
“There was a power outage last year,” Rollins said. “Someone turned out the lights. But it’s good to be able to get it back.”