Friday, July 1, 2011
Posted: 4:18 p.m. Updated: 6:42 p.m.
By Jim Salisbury
TORONTO The ball came off Jose Bautistas bat with a thunderclap and the huge Canada Day crowd rose to its feet to celebrate as the Toronto Blue Jays took a one-run lead on the Phillies in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday afternoon.
Every set of eyes in Rogers Centre was trained on Bautista as he rounded the bases after his 25th home run.
Well, almost every set of eyes.
As Bautista circled the bases, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard stood as still as an icicle near his position. He stared off into the distance in a state of stunned disbelief. The lead that the Phillies had forged in the top of the inning was gone faster than you can say, Yo, Kyle, what are you thinking challenging that guy!?
It was one of those situations where we just worked hard to get the lead and now Bautista hits a home run, Howard said. It is stunning, but at the same time you have to bounce back. You cant get down. Youve got to fight back and go answer it.
Howard did answer it. In the top of the ninth inning, he rescued the Phillies from a one-run deficit and propelled them to a 7-6 victory with a two-run single to center field. Gifts were flying all over the place on this Canadian holiday. Kyle Kendrick teed one up for Bautista in the seventh, and Toronto closer Frank Francisco (and leftfielder Juan Rivera) reciprocated in the ninth inning. Francisco walked the leadoff man before Rivera misplayed Chase Utleys fly ball into a double, setting up Howards go-ahead hit.
We battled, manager Charlie Manuel said. We stayed after it. We got some breaks and we capitalized.
The Phillies needed the ninth-inning rally after Kendrick got careless with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The Phils had just scored twice in the top of the inning to take a one-run lead, but Kendrick couldnt hold it. With a runner on base and two outs, he left a first-pitch sinker up and over the plate to Bautista and the majors 2010 home run king 54 bombs drove it over the wall in left to give the Jays the lead.
Had the Phillies not rallied to win the game, Kendrick would have been the goat. Its not so much that he gave up a home run to a tremendous home run hitter it happens but how it happened and in the situation it happened.
We were trying not to give him anything to hit, trying to keep him in the yard, Manuel said. We wanted to pitch him down and away, make him fish or even walk him, but he got a pitch on the plate and he juiced it. Kendrick just made a mistake.
Kendrick acknowledged the mistake of challenging one of the games top sluggers in that situation.
It was a stupid pitch, he said. I was trying to be aggressive and I dont know why. He was probably the only guy in the lineup who can beat me like that.
Fortunately we won the game. Thats all that matters. Ill learn from this.
As Bautistas home run sailed out of the park, Manuel got a sinking feeling in the dugout.
You feel it, he said. Its a downer. What the hell, were trying not to let him do that.
Despite the mistake pitch by Kendrick, Manuel believes he made the right move sticking with the right-hander after getting the lead in the top of the seventh. With Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras on the disabled list, Manuel trusts few arms in the bullpen and he was content to save Mike Stutes and Antonio Bastardo for the eighth and ninth innings.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee and I liked Kendrick there, Manuel said. He just made a mistake.
He kept us in the game. He pitched a Kyle Kendrick game. He battled. A little here, a little there. He got by.
Kendrick gave up an earlier two-run homer to Eric Thames. Shane Victorino and Ben Francisco both had a pair of RBIs before Howards clutch hit in the ninth.
The Phillies resembled their old self with the late rally. Scoring seven runs wouldnt have been all that difficult for the Phils when they were finishing first and second in the NL in runs they did that the last six years but theyre a different team now, a pitching-based team that doesnt regularly put crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
I still think thats what were capable of doing, Howard said. But at the same time, baseball is an up and down game. As long as we outscore the opponent, it doesnt matter.
Related: Phils notes: Hamels upbeat, Rollins shoulder sore Hamels dinged as Phils drop finale to Red SoxE-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSalisburyCSN.