AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr.
When the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez, nobody expected the offensive clinic he would put on in April, which would lead to his first All-Star appearance. This was the game that made him even more of a hero, he’d already hit a walk-off home run, and showed the Phillies were never out of a game. And it all started on April 27 against the Washington Nationals, in the ultimate slugfest.
The Phillies were working on a three-game winning streak, and creeping closer to the division lead. They sent Joe Blanton to the mound, but Blanton could not quite put it together. Washington struck for two runs in the second, when Alberto Gonzalez hit a sac fly, and Shairon Martis singled home a run. The Phillies had an answer on a Greg Dobbs single, and run scoring on Lou Marson’s double play. Washington answered again the next inning, with Ryan Zimmerman and Elijah Dukes homering in the inning for three runs. Zimmerman homered again to lead off the fifth, and Blanton’s night was done after 4.1, with the Phillies losing 6-2. The bottom of the fifth held the first rally. After Jack Taschner remained in the game, and popped out to second, the top of the Phillies order hit back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases. Ryan Howard tied the game on one swing that launched a fly ball to deep center field for a grand slam. Just like that, it was 6-6. The Phillies and Nationals traded runs in the sixth. In the eighth, the Nationals took Scott Eyre deep twice, and almost put the game away completely, as Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn each hit two-run shots to put the Nationals up 11-7. The Phillies had two innings to get four runs, no problem for a team that always has comeback spirit. Lou Marson struck out to lead off the eighth, then Feliz and Rollins reached on a single and double. Shane Victorino got one run back on a sac fly, Chase Utley another on a single. A wild pitch moved Utley to second, and allowed the Nationals to walk Howard. Werth followed with a walk loading the bases for Raul Ibanez. Joel Hanrahan’s first pitch to Ibanez was smashed to right field for a grand slam, and the Phillies had the lead 13-11. The Nationals never stood a chance the rest of the way, and Ryan Madson closed the door, on one of the most dramatic wins of the season.
This game seemed to have it all, but you couldn’t help but be stunned at Raul’s slam to give the Phillies the lead. A grand slam is special. Two in one game, each important to your comeback, means a special game just happened. This made Raul Ibanez the fan favorite he is. It showed Ryan Howard still had a flare for the dramatic, and most importantly, it was a taste of the many comebacks this team would put together over the season. That’s what allows this game to rank fourth on the list of Games of the Year: 2009.