Phillies' experience shows in bizarre inning
PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley should get an Academy Award.
On a night when it took the Phillies a good four innings to shake the hangover from Roy Halladay's no-hitter on Wednesday, it was Utley who stole the show in a decisive seventh inning.
That wacky three-run seventh Friday night at Citizens Bank Park propelled the Phillies to a 7-4 victory over Cincinnati and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
It was an inning for the ages, so bizarre that baseball graybeards kept saying they'd never seen anything like it. And they probably haven't.
It was an inning when Cincinnati's Gold Gloves turned to lead, an amazing inning when rookie flame thrower Aroldis Chapman hit Utley and an inning when Chase took one of the most circuitous routes around the bases you'll ever see.
More about that later.
That has never been more true than Friday night.
The Phillies are heavily favored in this series over the Reds, who are in the postseason for the first time since 1995.
After Halladay pitched only the second no-hitter in postseason history, a 4-0 masterpiece in Game 1, the jury was out on how well the Phillies would respond in Game 2.
Would they be able to tend to the business at hand, or continue to celebrate one of the greatest achievements in postseason history?Almost lost in the national hoopla surrounding Halladay was the fact his teammates managed just five hits in that game, did not score after the second inning and had just one baserunner in the last five innings.
They managed just two singles during the first four innings Friday against Bronson Arroyo, leaving the sellout crowd of 46,511 unusually quiet and wondering if the series would return to Cincinnati on Sunday even at a game apiece.
This game wasn't even two minutes old Friday when Brandon Phillips, who would have three hits, sent Roy Oswalt's fourth pitch screaming to the left-field stands.
When a less-than-sharp Oswalt left after five innings, the Red were on top 4-0.
A comeback was in the cards, but the way it evolved is what led Reds manager Dusty Baker to say, "In my mind, we lost the game, but we ended up giving them most of their runs."
Back to Utley.
Chapman, the much-heralded rookie whose fastball regularly is clocked over 100 miles an hour, started the seventh.
The first batter he faced was Utley and he hit him.
Or did he? It was doubtful, but Utley acted out the role, got home-plate umpire Bruce Dreckman to agree, and jogged to first base.
"It was pretty close," said Utley. "At first, I thought it was going to hit me in my head. Fortunately, it didn't. I felt like I thought it hit me, so I put my head down and I ran to first."
Did it hit you?
"I'm not sure."
Chapman made Ryan Howard look foolish, striking him out on a foul tip of a 101-mph fastball.
Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen gloved Jayson Werth's grounder and threw to second base to get the forceout on Utley, but Chase beat the throw on a close call.
Jimmy Rollins hit a line drive to Gold Glove right fielder Jay Bruce, who lost the ball in the lights. The ball flew past him. At first, Utley tried to return to second, but when Bruce missed the ball and then Phillips dropped the relay throw from Drew Stubbs, he reversed course, ran to third, almost lost his balance and scored -- ahead of Werth.
Some of the Reds claimed Utley missed third base.
"Yeah, it was a little hectic," said Utley, who made two errors himself early in the game. "I'm not going to lie. I kind of lost my legs coming around third, but again, it worked out for the best.
"I was in the process of going back to second base. I didn't want to get doubled off. Then I saw the ball go by [Bruce], and then I was not in a very good position to score, but lucky enough ... that I was able to, and Jayson as well."
I've compared this series to 1976 when a young Phillies team was swept by the veteran Cincinnati Reds in three games. Much like the '76 Phillies, few of these Reds have experienced postseason play.
They made four errors on Friday night, hit three batters and Bruce lost Rollins' ball in the lights. Plus the veteran Rolen made an unwise decision to try to force Utley at second base.
"Things like that can happen to anybody, but with our experience, we don't let 'em happen to us very often," said Brad Lidge, who gained his 17th postseason save. "A lot of the guys on that team are in the postseason for the first time. There's a little different adrenalin, a little different atmosphere. Fortunately for us, we have the experience of playing in just about every postseason experience there is."
Baker refused to blame pressure on the Reds' poor play.
"I just don't think it's the pressure as much as possibly some of the inexperience," he said. "We made some untimely errors, had some untimely hit batsmen, and that ball got in the lights."
Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel: "I think some of their mistakes could have come from [lack of] experience. At the same time, they're a much better team than that. For four or five innings, they were a good team. They just started making mistakes and it caught up with them and the game cost them."
Manuel didn't say it, but his sermon is always about there being 27 outs in every game.
Or as Yogi says, "It ain't over till it's over" and that's the way these Phillies play.
Hal Bodley is a senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.