The city of Denver is used to stunning reversals of fortune. In 1893, the sudden plummeting of silver prices plunged one of America's economic hubs into a depression. In 1970, the city was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics only to see voters force the games elsewhere after voting down the public dollars required to fund them. And who can forget 1994, when two good samaritans named Lloyd and Harry set out for Colorado hoping to re-unite a woman with her lost luggage only to find the Rocky Mountains slightly less rockier than they were led to believe. They had no food. They had no jobs. And their pets heads were falling off.
Over the last couple of years, such misfortune has filtered onto the baseball diamond on Blake Street whenever the Phillies are in town. Last night, John Mayberry's two-run home run tied the game with two out in the ninth and Shane Victorino's solo shot off Rex Brothers in the 10th gave the victories their latest stunning victory in the Mile High City.
The victory was the fourth time in the Phillies' last six games in Colorado in which they scored a winning run in their final at-bat. That doesn't include last September's victory, when they overcame a four-run deficit by scoring nine runs in seventh, then held on as Colorado scored four more runs before finally giving in for a 12-11 Phillies win. It does include last at-bat victories in Games 3 and 4 of the 2009 National League Division Series, when Huston Street picked up two losses.
Oh, and the Rockies' only win during that stretch came courtesy of a walk-off home run by Miguel Olivo off Chad Durbin to lead off the ninth last May.
So in the last six games the Phillies have played in Colorado, five have featured a last at-bat victory, and the sixth featured 23 runs and a come-from-behind Phillies win.
For the first eight innings of last night's edition, the Phillies couldn't find a way to capitalize. Victorino was thrown out at home on a two-out double by Chase Utley. Even after his game-winning home run, Victorino was exasperated with himself on the play. He said he did not mistakenly think that Utley's ball was headed out of the yard. He wasn't quite sure what happened.
All he knew, he said, was, "I shouldn't get thrown out from first on a double."
He made up for it in a big way in the top of the 10th, getting a fastball up in the zone from hard-throwing lefty Rex Brothers and dispatching it into the seats for his sixth home run in 69 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season. He flipped his bat after the hit, and pointed to his parents in their seats as he crossed home. But, he stressed, "I'm not trying to show up the other team."
Mayberry's hit was the biggest one. It came against Street, whom he faced in college when he was a star at Stanford and Street was a standout at the University of Texas. It also may have removed his name from the Phillies' candidates to be sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley when Roy Oswalt returns from the disabled list this weekend. The Phillies are only carrying 11 pitchers, something they could continue to do in order to keep a six-man bench. But they are also carrying two right-handed-hitting outfielders and two utility infielders. Mayberry has been the odd man out already this season, but you have to think that he won't be this time around. Whether it is fellow outfielder Ben Francisco, who still has minor league options, or utility man Wilson Valdez, who stands a decent shot of making it through waivers, or a pitcher from the bullpen remains to be seen.
The Phillies are on pace for 103 wins. They have the type of energy they exhibited during their two World Series runs, with players like Victorino and Mayberry and Hunter Pence providing the type of youthful exuberance that compliments the team's more established stars.
The trade deadline is over, and the focus is back on baseball, and the Phillies are just now entering the stretch of the season that they have come to dominate.
The first four months of the season are the real marathon, with April and May questions giving way to June and July trade talks and the mental grind of a schedule that sometimes seems without an end.
These next three months -- yes, the losingest franchise in sports history has reached a point where Octobers are expected -- are where the real season lies. And with two more games in the fickle air of Colorado, the fun has only just begun.
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