By DAVID MURPHY
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Jimmy Rollins wasn’t just dead. He was Fredo Corleone dead. He was William Wallace dead. He was 12-point-buck-on-Roy-Oswalt’s-ranch dead.
“There’s a lot that goes through your mind when you know you are out,” Rollins said. “And it’s not good. It’s really like two words. The first one is ‘Oh.’ And you can guess what the second one is.”
Truth be told, Rollins doesn’t know what happened next. One minute, he was rounding third and sprinting toward home, sure as the pleasant SoCal weather that Yorvit Torrealba had caught the throw from center field in perfect position to make the tag. The next, he was flying by the catcher’s outstretched glove, twisting his torso and raising his arm and then slapping the corner of the plate with his hand.
He called it his Karate Kid fly-catcher move. Chad Durbin said it looked like something out of The Matrix. Brad Lidge, whose blown save on a bases loaded balk forced home the tying run in the ninth and led to the circumstances that unfolded in the 12th, called it the most athletic slide he’d ever seen.
Whatever the description, it resulted in the run that lifted the Phillies to a 3-2 victory over the Padres, in the run that snapped their four-game losing streak, in the run that cut their deficit behind the Braves in the National League East to two games.
Right up until the point he popped up from the dirt with an emphatic pump of the fist in the shadow of umpire James Hoye’s safe call, Rollins and the Phillies seemed destined to lose another heartbreaker. In the eighth, after seven innings of frustration at the hands of 22-year-old Padres righty Mat Latos, they’d taken a 2-1 lead on Raul Ibanez’s RBI single off of reliever Joe Thatcher. But like most of their leads this week, it evaporated quickly, this time in an excruciating ninth inning in which Brad Lidge hit Ryan Ludwick with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases with two out, then balked the tying run home.
It never would have happened if it were up to Roy Oswalt. The veteran righthander dominated the Padres for eight innings, allowing his only run and one of five hits on a solo home run to Yorvit Torrealba in the third. By the end of the eighth, he had thrown 102 pitches and retired 13 consecutive batters. Relying heavily on his fastball, he struck out six and walked none, throwing 78 strikes and just 24 balls. After retiring the eighth in order, catcher Carlos Ruiz egged him on.
“Carlos told me, ‘You’re going to finish this game.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to try to,” Oswalt said.
But Charlie Manuel scuttled that plan, pinch-hitting Domonic Brown for Oswalt to lead off the ninth with the hope of adding another run.
“At that point in the game, he was leading off the inning, I wanted to send someone up to hit,” Manuel said. “We had the top of the line-up coming up, and also he had already did his job.”
Oswalt, whose season high is 119 pitches, wanted to stay in the game.
“I felt like I could have probably finished the game,” Oswalt said. “I lobbied for it a little bit. I mean, I understand, as far as trying to get the leadoff man on, maybe score another run, get a little more cushion. . .But I felt like I had good enough stuff that I could go back out there and finish it.”
Lidge entered the night having thrown 10 straight scoreless outings, seven of which resulted in saves. After allowing a leadoff single to Matt Stairs a sacrifice bunt to David Eckstein, he got Miguel Tejada to ground out. But with two out, things unraveled. He intentionally walked Padres star Adrian Gonzalez, then hit Ludwick. Then came the balk, which Lidge said happened because he lost his grip on the ball at the beginning of his delivery, which started his momentum toward home.
“When I was taking (the ball) to my glove to get my grip, it started coming out, and I had to look down to get my grip, otherwise the ball probably would have fallen out of my glove,” Lidge said. “By that time, my momentum was taking me forward, so I basically I had to step off or I would have fallen on my face. Kind of hard to explain. It happened pretty quick. But suffice it to say, I wasn’t thrilled about that, and probably in million more wind-ups, something like that would never happen.”
The damage was limited to three extra innings by the bullpen, the last two coming from Durbin. Rollins led off the 12th with a double off the wall in right. Then, Placido Polanco singled up the middle, and third base coach Sam Perlozzo waived Rollins home. Center fielder Luis Durango charged the ball and unleashed a laser to home plate, where Torrealba appeared to have the sprinting Rollins lined up.
But then came the slide.
“I was really just trying to avoid him,” Rollins said. “It’s just a bad feeling, going ‘Oh. . .’ And he started to swing the glove around, and by the time I looked back, he was behind me. Somehow I ended up in front of him. I don’t know what I did. And then I just tapped the plate. I’d given up. Not given up, but as in, ‘I’m out.’ Until he didn’t tag me.’”