Nothing has been more frustrating this baseball season than watching the Phillies go six,seven, or even sometimes eight innings without a run and wasting a great outing from Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, or even Vance Worley. It’s painstaking to watch a team put up consistent zeros in the runs column, especially when that team has been a serious World Series contender for about five years now. So when the Phillies came up to bat in the first inning and quickly put four runs on the board, it was hard for even the most doubtful of fans to keep a smile off of their faces. From that point on, Vance Worley was strong, the Phillies defense was solid and just less than three hours later, the Phillies had salvaged a four-game series with the Cubs.
While an obvious problem for the Phillies is scoring runs in general, more specifically, the Phillies have been unable to score runs early, scoring only 16 runs in the first three innings over the first 22 games of the year. To put that into perspective, the Phillies had scored the exact same amount of runs in their first 22 games in the seventh inning alone. So the four runs scored in the first inning alone were a breath of fresh air for a team that just has not been able to get their act together lately.
To make the early stages of the game even better, Vance Worley was commanding in his control, defending the team’s lead with ease. Worley allowed just seven base-runners in his seven innings of work (five hits, two walks) while striking out five. The only run Worley allowed came in the seventh inning on a double-play.
The Phillies’ eight inning was shaky, allowing three runs between Chad Qualls and Antonio Bastardo, tying the game at four. However, the Phillies came through in their half of the eighth, with a two-run double from Placido Polanco, giving the Phillies a two run lead that they wouldn’t give back, as Jonathan Paplebon got his eight save of the year.
Forget that Vance Worley had a good game. Forget that off-season investment Jonathan Paplebon had another shut-down inning. This game was all about the offense. From the four-run first inning to the timely hitting in the eighth inning, this was a great offensive performance. While it would have been nice to have scored at least one run from the first inning to the eighth, that is the beauty with this team. A four-run first inning lead will almost always be safe, and that is why it is so crucial for the Phillies to score early. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee–it doesn’t matter who is on the mound, it is so much easier to pitch with a nice, solid lead than it is to be trying to hold a team scoreless and praying that your offense will eventually bail you out.
Clearly this is only one game and needs to be taken with a grain of sand, especially with the way the Phillies offense has played this year. However, if the Phillies can recognize their success tonight and repeat it, they may be in control of the NL East even before Ryan Howard and Chase Utley come back.