AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Here it is…drum roll, please…This is the greatest game of the 2009 season.
Most games are not marked by greatness on one play, but when looking at the situation, the result, and the circumstances had it not happened, you have to give this game the title. Single-handedly with two-outs trailing by a run, one out from heading back to the road in a championship series, all the momentum shifted from one team to the other, and basically all but ended the series.
The Phillies were locked in a tight battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was Game 4 of the NLCS, and the Phillies were one out away from a series tie at two games apiece. Then…history happened.
After a total offensive rout and pitching clinic by the Phillies the night before, there was tons of hope it would carry over to that night’s game. For the first inning, it did. Ryan Howard continued his torrid October run, hitting a two-run home run to give the Phils the early lead. From that point, Joe Blanton and Randy Wolf coasted to the fourth, when the Phillies hit a speed bump. A pair of two-out RBI singles by James Loney and Russell Martin tied the game, and Matt Kemp’s two-out homer the next inning gave the Dodgers a one-run lead. With Randy Wolf on his game, opportunity was not knocking for the Phillies, and the Dodgers looked to be in control when Casey Blake drove in another two-out run on a single. The Phillies needed a spark, and got one when Shane Victorino tripled with one out in the sixth. Chase Utley quickly got him home with a single, and the Phillies had a threat, and had chased Randy Wolf from the game. The Phillies had runners on the corners and two-outs with Raul Ibanez at the plate, with the chance to tie the game with a single. His line drive was caught on a shoe-string catch by Manny Ramirez that is still debatable. The Phillies couldn’t seem to get any rally as good as that going, and almost allowed the Dodgers to extend the lead in the ninth, but Brad Lidge entered and struck out two, including the dangerous Andre Ethier looking to end the inning. So, trailing by a run, the Phillies headed to the bottom of the ninth. After two very unsuccessful innings, the game looked over. Raul Ibanez grounded out weakly for the first out. Matt Stairs walked, and at least the pressure of the tying run on base was there. Eric Bruntlett pinch ran for Stairs, and Carlos Ruiz stepped in. He was hit by a pitch, tying run now on second base. With only one out, a single would tie the game. Greg Dobbs had the first chance, but broke his bat and blooped one to third base. With two outs, Jimmy Rollins was the last hope. Rollins fouled the first pitch off, then took one for a ball. Then, the greatest single hit in Phillies history happened. Rollins lined a hit to the gap in right-center field. Bruntlett raced around third to tie the game. Ruiz chugged home with the game-winning run. There wasn’t even a throw, and the Phillies had incredibly won the game 5-4, and taken a 3-1 series lead. Citizens Bank Park erupted, and the Phillies piled on top of the game’s hero, Jimmy Rollins. It was perhaps, the happiest moment of the season, and by far the greatest single play of the season.
The Phillies had one more comeback left for that series, and it was the most dramatic of any of them. This entire series of games presented here have had a common tie, if it didn’t clinch, it was a comeback. This game wins easily because it is the one moment that stands out in our minds, when that little team that could, did it one more time. The reaction by the team was priceless, like a punch of little kids winning the World Series, instead of twenty-five grown men. It showed what the postseason is all about, and how one single play can change an entire series in a matter of seconds. It was indeed the single greatest hit in Phillies history, and that makes it the number one game in Games of the Year: 2009.