The seventh inning ended with a perfect inning on the mound from Kyle Kendrick. But a quick look at the scoreboard brought on a daunting reminder.
The Dodgers were ahead 2-1. The Phillies were carrying an 0-38 record when trailing after seven innings.
For a team on a three-game winning streak and appearing to find new life, it was starting to look like one of those nights.
The offense had been stymied by a rookie pitcher making his major-league debut. The pitching was there. The defense was there.
The eighth inning was the difference maker. It was also a different sight for Phillies fans, one that has eluded the Phillies all season. And for Roy Halladay, his return from the DL, a gritty performance on the mound, turned into an ending fit for Hollywood.
Halladay had a run on the board before even taking the mound. Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a double. Two batters later, Chase Utley hit a sharp grounder to first that scored Rollins and gave the Phillies the lead.
Halladay appeared to be his usual self in the first, striking out the first two batters he faced on called third strikes, then getting Matt Kemp to fly out to end the inning.
The second inning was vastly different. Four straight singles to lead off the inning, including two RBI singles in a row by James Loney and Luis Cruz, gave the Dodgers the lead. Halladay escaped further damage with the help of a double play and a strikeout looking on pitcher Stephen Fife.
Fife held the Phillies at bay from there. He pitched six innings allowing one run on just four hits. The last hit appeared to tell the story of the game at the time.
With Ryan Howard on second with two outs, the Phillies had no choice. Hunter Pence had not been the best hitter with runners in scoring position. But when he lined a single over the head of shortstop Cruz, Howard was coming home.
The play at the plate appeared to be dead even. Howard may have barely got his hand on the plate ahead of the tag from A.J. Ellis, but he was called out to end the inning.
That would have taken Halladay off the hook after he battled through five innings allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out six and didn’t walk a batter. He was on a pitch count, throwing 80 pitches, 55 for strikes.
For another night, the Phillies bullpen did their job. Michael Schwimer and Jeremy Horst split the sixth. Kendrick pitched the seventh, keeping the Dodger lead at one.
In the eighth, the Phillies were working on a threat. It was evident if they were to make a comeback, it had to happen now.
With two outs, Chase Utley worked a walk. Howard was hit by a pitch and replaced with a pinch runner in John Mayberry Jr. That would prove to be important two batters later.
After the bases were loaded when Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch. It was up to Pence again.
On a 2-1 pitch, Pence slapped a single up the middle, scoring both Utley and Mayberry to give the Phillies the lead. Ruiz was thrown out at third trying to advance, but the damage had been done.
Kendrick got the first two outs of the eighth before giving way to Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo was facing Andre Ethier, who worked the count full. Bastardo had managed to get Ethier to swing at a 3-1 pitch in the dirt. His next pitch froze the All-Star, catching the outside corner of the plate for a called third strike to end the inning.
The next inning, Jonathan Papelbon did the same thing. After getting the first two batters on groundouts, Papelbon froze Juan Rivera with a called third strike to end the game, giving the Phillies a 3-2 win over the Dodgers.
Let’s start from the beginning. Roy Halladay looked back to form. His pitches are not as overpowering as they once were, but he was far from being lit up tonight. He limited the damage in the second, and pitched nearly flawless baseball the rest of the way.
The bullpen was excellent. As a whole, they finished pitching the final four innings, shut out the opposition, allowed just two hits and struck out three.
For the offense, this was an up-and-down night. Things started on a high note with Rollins’ double and Victorino and Utley perfectly executing moving him up and scoring him.
For Hunter Pence, this was a monumental night. He had struggled with runners in scoring position for most of the season, but drove in the most important runs of the game with a clutch two-out single in the eighth. Had it not been for a great throw and tag on his single in the sixth, he would have had three RBIs, all with two outs.
For a team that really needed to get hot in a hurry, this team certainly looks different. Their job is simple at this point. Don’t focus on games back or how the rest of the division is doing, just win – win games and win series. So far, this is two series played and two series wins.
A 5-1 road trip would be an excellent start to the second half of the season. The Phillies can get that if they complete a sweep of the Dodgers with a win tomorrow afternoon.
L: Ronald Belisario (3-1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (21)