The first installment of the Games of the Year begins today. This is my opinion of the top ten games of the 2009 season. Starting off the list at number ten is the division clincher against the Houston Astros on September 30.
The Phillies were struggling late in the season. September had been a great month for the Phillies the past couple seasons, so everyone expected the best as the season began to wind down. The Phillies lowered their magic number to three with two weeks remaining in the season. The didn’t clinch until there were four games left. Most of us though the division celebration would be on the road somewhere. Instead, the Phillies headed home to face the Astros in a four game series on September 28, so the celebration of the division crown would be here. Pedro Martinez took the hill for the Phillies, and looked shaky early. After loading the bases, he struck out Geoff Blum for the second out in the first. He then walked Hunter Pence with the bases loaded, and the Phils trailed early. The Phillies answered as Chase Utley grounded out for the second out, which scored Jimmy Rollins, who had doubled to lead off the inning. J.R. Towles had a career night, hitting two home runs, in the second and fourth innings respectably, to give the Astros a 3-1 lead. Kyle Kendrick came on and threw three shutout innings. In the meantime, the Phillies fought back, then put the game and division away. In the bottom of the fourth, the Phillies bats came to life, as the Phillies scored four runs. Ryan Howard singled home Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez reached on an error, as Utley crossed. Another run scored on a Jayson Werth groundout, and Pedro Feliz doubled home Ibanez. The next inning, Rollins and Victorino both tripled plating a run, and Victorino scored on a sac fly by Ibanez. Carlos Ruiz doubled home Feliz in the sixth, and Ibanez cranked a two-run shot in the seventh. It was 10-3 when the scoring barrage by the Phillies was done, and that was all they would need. Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, and Brad Lidge all closed the door and the celebration was on.
Division titles are becoming more and more common in Philadelphia. It seems so familiar, as if we’ve seen this before. That’s because the Atlanta Braves put together a playoff streak unmatched by any team, but the Phillies are working on one of their own. This marked three straight division titles for the Phillies, and that streak is set to be continued in 2010. The Phillies are making their mark on the NL East in this decade, and they may even become the great National League team of this decade or the decade that follows.
This game ranks tenth on the list for several reasons. It makes the list for being a clinching game, one you just can’t forget. There were special pictures that can last a lifetime from the celebration, most notably the entire team paying tribute to Harry Kalas at the HK sign on the left field wall. The game is lower on the list because while being an important game, and an enjoyable one, you kind of knew all along that the Phillies were going to win that game. The game lacked drama, but was nothing but fun. That’s what makes the third division crown the number ten game in Games of the Year: 2009.