10/13/09 1:43 AM EST
Phils, Rox offer fitting finale to wild NLDS
Frantic finish to Game 4 caps series that had it all
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
And then there was Game 4, the weirdest, wildest and most wonderful one of them all.
In the middle of the champagne-soaked Philadelphia Phillies clubhouse after their astonishing come-from-ahead-and-then-behind 5-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies that sealed the National League Division Series, it wasn't difficult for the players to realize how extraordinary this game was.
"It's an instant classic," said Phillies reliever Scott Eyre, who pitched two-thirds of an inning of scoreless ball a night after collapsing off the pitching mound in sub-30-degree temperature with a sprained ankle.
"Seriously. No doubt. I've played in a lot of crazy games, in World Series and some other ones that I remember. But right now, this is probably the most incredible one I've played in."
Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, who homered and drove in what proved to be the game-winning run, agreed.
"It was pretty dramatic," Werth said. "The way the game went tonight, the ups and downs, what can you say? We knew what we needed to do and we got the job done."
For a while, it just seemed like a regular pitchers' duel, with Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee and Rockies righty Ubaldo Jimenez trading efficient frames.
The Phillies scratched out a 2-0 lead on home runs by Shane Victorino in the first inning and Werth in the sixth, but the Rockies put a run on the board in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI double by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Then, in the eighth inning, it got strange, even for Coors Field, where they once said anything can happen.
The Rockies struck for three runs when rookie outfielder Dexter Fowler drew a one-out walk from Lee, who was over the 100-pitch mark. The next batter, Todd Helton, grounded a ball to second baseman Chase Utley.
But while Utley was gathering the ball into his glove, Fowler was steaming toward him on the basepath. Fowler did what any player would do. Or, actually, he didn't. At all.
He jumped over Utley, made it to second base, allowed Helton to make it to first, and both scored later in the inning to give the Rockies a 4-2 lead.
"When I saw him, the ball was coming, so I was looking to avoid the tag," Fowler said. "I just jumped. I think that it caught him off-guard some."
And if anybody thought the theater would end there, they haven't watched much Phillies baseball over the past two years.
After the now-famous Fowler Flop, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel pulled Lee and brought in reliever Ryan Madson while replacing left fielder Raul Ibanez with a superior defender, bench player Ben Francisco.
Can you say prescient move?
Madson faced Tulowitzki and gave up a flare to left field that looked like it would drop for a huge Rockies hit until Francisco appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and made a diving, highlight-reel catch.
"Ben comes in the game and makes a crazy play," Werth said. "A circus catch. That was a big play."
But the Rockies didn't seem to care. Pinch-hitter Jason Giambi dropped an RBI single into left and Yorvit Torrealba followed with a double to the wall in right center that scored two more runs.
"When they took the lead tonight in the final game, that showed me something," Manuel said of the Rockies. "But then we mustered up enough ... we're resilient."
Werth said the mood in the Phillies' dugout before the ninth was a typical one for the defending World Series champions. Ryan Howard said the team knew what it had to do and liked its chances with its best hitters coming up and his team having gotten to Rockies closer Huston Street the night before on the frozen tundra of Game 3.
Street looked good striking out pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to lead off the inning, but Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins shot a single into right field, and with two outs and a full count, Utley worked a walk to pave the way for Howard.
"I was calm," Howard said. "I wanted to be in that situation. I just knew if Chase could get on, I could try to get those runs home. I was looking for [Street] to make a mistake middle-in, and he gave me the pitch I was looking for."
Howard hit a laser of a line drive to the wall in right field and the game was tied. Werth then promptly un-tied it with a single.
As if there couldn't be any more nail-biting tension, the Rockies got runners on first and second base with two out in the bottom of the ninth against Eyre before Manuel summoned his embattled, on-again-off-again closer, Brad Lidge, to get the big one.
Lidge struck out Tulowitzki, the Rockies rally towels stopped spinning, Coors Field went silent, and the Phillies were on their way to an NL Championship Series rematch against the Dodgers.
But in both clubhouses, it was clear that Game 4 of the 2009 NLDS will not be soon forgotten.
"This game ranks up there very, very high in the games I've played in my career," Lidge said. "And it was a crazy series. It took everything we had to win these games."
And even though the Rockies lost and will have to spend the winter wondering what could have been if they had managed to pull this one out and send it to a decisive Game 5 in Philadelphia, they, too, recognized how special it was.
"This whole series is right up there," Rockies reliever Joe Beimel said. "If you love baseball, you had to have been on the edge of your seat the whole time.
"It was an emotional series and definitely an emotional night. We just came out on the wrong side of it."
Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.