Jayson Werth homered and singled in the deciding run in the ninth inning on Monday to give Philadelphia a 5-4 victory over Colorado and advance the Phillies in the Major League Baseball play-offs. The Rockies scored three runs with two outs in the eighth inning to seize a 4-2 edge but Philadelphia responded with three runs in the ninth to reclaim the lead and win the National League (NL) first-round play-off series 3-1.
Just one out from defeat, the reigning World Series champions Philadelphia rallied to stun a club that lost only once in the six-month regular season when leading after eight innings. "When we got down, no one got rattled. No one got worried," Werth said. "It was a great win." The Phillies will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best-of-seven NL finals starting tomorrow. The winners will play the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Angels in the World Series starting on October 28.
No National League club have won back-to-back World Series titles since the Cincinnati Reds in 1976 but the Phillies could after going all the way last year, including their victory over the Dodgers in last year's league finals. "It will make for an exciting series," said Werth, a former Dodger. The Rockies manager Jim Tracy could only wonder what his club might have done had they forced a fifth-game decider on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
"We're very disappointed," Tracy said. "We were a strike away from making a trip to Philadelphia and who knows from there. "But we got beat by the defending world champions in a fashion that shows why they are the defending world champions. They were down to one strike and they scored three runs to beat us." After the Rockies made their comeback in the eighth to grab a 4-2 lead, the Phillies began their amazing ninth-inning rally when Shane Victorino reached first on a fielder's choice.
The Rockies relief pitcher Huston Street walked Chase Utley to bring Ryan Howard to the plate. Howard, down to his last strike, hit a double to the left-field wall to score Victorino and Utley and level the game. Howard, who drove in six runs in the series, then raced home on a double by Werth to give the Phillies a 5-4 lead. "Ryan had a great at-bat and things got crazy from there," Werth said. "I was just looking to put the ball in play, hit the ball hard."
In the Rockies' half of the last inning, Colorado put the tying run in scoring position after Carlos Gonzalez hit a one-out single and Todd Helton advanced him with a two-out single. That prompted the Phillies to insert their relief pitcher Brad Lidge to face Troy Tulowitzki. The closer Lidge struck out Tulowitzki for his 15th save in 17 play-off chances and the Phillies began an emotional celebration.
"We didn't give up," Howard said. "It feels great. Right now we're just trying to soak it all in. "We'll just celebrate and get ready for Los Angeles. This is just step two of where we are trying to go." Philadelphia's game one-winning pitcher Cliff Lee baffled the Rockies for seven innings but the Phillies could manage only a 2-1 lead. Victorino hit a home run off the Colorado starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in the first inning and Werth homered in the sixth.
The Rockies responded in the sixth with a double. Philadelphia went scoreless in the eighth despite loading the bases and the Rockies took advantage to seize the lead with three runs in the eighth. Colorado's Dexter Fowler walked and then hurdled the Phillies second baseman Utley on a grounder by Helton. Utley made a bad backhand flip of the ball to Jimmy Rollins at second and both Rockies runners were safe.
Tulowitzki followed with a fly ball to left field but Philadelphia's Ben Francisco made a diving catch for the second out to hold the runners in place. The Phillies' luck ran out when the pinch-hitter Jason Giambi singled to score Fowler and level the score. Yorvit Torrealba followed by doubling over Victorino to the left-field wall, scoring Helton and Giambi to give the Rockies a 4-2 edge, setting the stage for the last-inning dramatics.
* With agencies