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Category Archives: 2011 Phillies Moments

2011 Moments: #1 Baez, Valdez unlikely relief heroes for Phils

Wilson Valdez pitches to Jay Bruce in the 19th inning of the Phils 5-4 win over Cincy. (Photo by John Russo)

The beautiful thing about sports is that you’re never going to know what to expect.

As a player, coach or fan, the game is built on mostly skill. But factored into that equation is a thing called luck. Like it or not, the luck factors into the bizarre and the bizarre factors into the shock value.

For the sold out attendance at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, it was just another game against the Cincinatti Reds. To the few thousand on their feet in the 19th inning nearly five hours later, it was something they will most likely never witness as baseball fans again.

No one is ever lucky enough to witness a 19-inning game — the term luck is used, not for the five hours of baseball that included a 7th and 14th inning stretch, but for how the game ended.

Put aside the fact that the game went 19 innings. Instead, look at the two heroes of that game, heroes in ways they thought unimaginable to fans, and even to those two players themselves.

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Papelbon inks four-year deal with Phils

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

It looked as though the Phillies were going to resign closer Ryan Madson but the deal seemed to fall apart.

Instead they plucked former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon off the free-agent market. The deal is believed to be worth $50 million over four years.

It also includes a vesting option for a fifth year. The contract could reach $60 million when it’s all said and done.

The deal is the richest in MLB history for a closer. It will surpass the five-year, $45 million pact that B.J. Ryan signed with the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2005.

Papelbon was 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA with 31 saves in 63 appearances this year. He has a career 2.33 ERA and 219 saves over his big-league career.

But did the Phillies sign the right closer?

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2011 Moments: #2 A record-breaking season

102 wins.

Just reading it summarizes the dominance of the Phillies 2011 regular season. But despite breaking a franchise record that stood for over four years, the season ended in disappointment.

Many questions were raised towards the end of the season and soon following the Phillies elimination in the Game 5 of the NLDS to the eventual champion Cardinals. Is this the greatest Phillies team of all time, even without a championship? Is this the most disappointing Phillies season to date?

It’s the second straight season the Phillies boasted the best record in all of baseball (won 97 games in 2010). It was also the second straight season the Phillies failed to win the National League pennant after back-to-back trips in 2008 and 2009 that ended in one World Series title.

In fact, since winning in 2008, the Phillies have failed to match or exceed the previous season’s feats, leading to those wondering if next season – a season that could be without Ryan Howard for much of the season as well potentially losing some key players – would continue the trend and see the Phils miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

But what does this all have to do with winning 102 games?

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2011 Moments: #3 Utley does things the hard way

There are certain things only certain athletes can do.

The Phillies have one of those athletes and his name is Chase Utley.

On July 26, Utley rounded the bases much like he has 188 times in his career. But this time was different. The 32-year-old second baseman needed a little extra hustle to make it home safely, a testament on his hustle and abilities as a ball player.

With the Phillies leading 5-1 in the bottom of the 6th inning against the San Francisco Giants, Utley took a Barry Zito pitch to straight away center. The ball ricocheted off the top of the side wall near left-center and got away from Giants center fielder Andres Torres.

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2011 Moments: #4 The Might of Cliff Lee

Phils pitcher Cliff Lee celebrates with Shane Victorino at the top of the dugout after hitting his second home run of the season in the 7th inning. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Cliff Lee was forcing the Philadelphia fans to fall in love with the left-handed pitcher even more than they already had two years prior.

Lee’s swagger off the mound, his abilities on the bound and his ability to win over the hearts of more and more fans intensified when Lee belted not one, but two home runs through the course of the 2011 season.

On July 9, Lee provided the only run support he would get in the Phillies 4-1 loss. Granted they lost 4-1 in 11 innings due to a poor 11th inning by reliever Michael Stutes, the game was remembered for what Lee did at the plate.

In the 3rd inning, he faced Braves starter Tommy Hanson for the first time of the game. He worked a long, 10-pitch at-bat full before he sent Hanson’s pitch into the right-centerfield stands for his first career home run.

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2011 Phillies Moments: #6 An unlikely hero

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Jaime Garcia had the Phillis foiled, and it seemed they couldn’t do a single thing against the Cardinals left-hander.

That is, until they pinch-hit Ben Francisco in the 7th inning in hopes of sparking something for the offense. Francisco provided more than just a spark; he single-handedly won the game for the Phillies.

Though the post season was short lived, it didn’t lack in the memory department. Francisco’s blast is one of two moments that made this Top 10 list.

Garcia was cruising through the first six innings, allowing only a trio of singles. If the Phils couldn’t strike, who knew how long Cole Hamels and their bull pen could contain the eventual World Champion Cardinals powerful line up.

Shane Victorino led off the inning with a single, only his team’s fourth hit of the evening. With John Mayberry at the plate, sure-gloved catcher Yadier Molina let a pitch get past him and Victorino scampered safely to second. Mayberry and Placido Polanco proceeded to record outs, causing fans to worry Victorino was going to be stranded at second with no outs.

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2011 Moment: #7 Hunter Pence Trade

(AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

Some say that July 29th should be a holiday for the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.

It was on that day in 2009 that the Phillies acquired Cliff Lee from the Indians. On July 29th 2010, the Philadelphia Phillies added another Ace to their staff, Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros.

One year later, Philadelphia was astonished one more time. On July 29th 2011, the Phillies acquired right fielder Hunter Pence in a trade. He was traded from the Houston Astros for pitcher Jarred Cosart, first baseman Jonathon Singleton,  pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be named later.

Hunter Pence brought a youthful and fresh look to the Phillies line up. He added protection for Ryan Howard and fit right in with the team. Not only did he fit in with the team from the start, but also the fans. Philadelphia fell in love with Hunter Pence the day he put on the red and white pinstripes.

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2011 Moment: #8 IronPigs make first ever playoffs

The Pigs celebrate after reaching their first ever Governor's Cup.

Much wasn’t expected when Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg took over as manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

The IronPigs had never had a winning season in their first three years of existence. In fact, they had never had a record over .500.

But Sandberg turned everything around and had the Lehigh Valley buzzing.

The IronPigs finished the 2011 regular season with an 80-64 record and made the International League playoffs for the first time.

They advanced all the way to the Governors’ Cup finals where they fell to the Columbus Clippers three games to one.

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2011 Moment: #9 Opening Day Heroics

Phils pinch hitter John Mayberry drives in the game-winning run with a single to score Ben Francisco. (Photo by John Russo)

The fans knew it was over as soon as the ball left John Mayberry Jr’s bat.

Perhaps it was the fact the Phils had the bases loaded with one out that forced Astros center fielder Michael Bourn to play shallow. But the moment Mayberry ripped a screamer to center with the game tied 4-4 in the 9th, the fans knew it was over Bourn’s head and the game was over.

Mayberry’s winner wouldn’t have been made possible if it weren’t for the Phils showing resiliency in their first action of the 2011 season.

Brett Myers had been dominating the Phils through the first seven innings, holding them two only two runs on three hits.

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2011 Moment: #10 Cliff Lee’s lights-out June

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Only a few months into the 2011 season, the dominance of the Phillies rotation was put on full display.

Living up to the expectations heading into the season, the Phillies were a league-best 34-22 while holding a two-game lead on the Florida Marlins in the division.

It was all thanks to the pitching, that is, except Cliff Lee.

Lee was signed in December, giving the Phillies the scariest rotation in all of baseball. But it was Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels living up to the hype while Lee and Roy Oswalt took up the rear.

Lee was heading into June with a 4-5 record and 3.94 ERA through his first 12 starts. But what he did next was one of the most incredible months not only in Phillies history but baseball history itself.

By the end of June, Lee’s ERA dropped to 2.66 and his record was 9-5. That was all thanks to a 5-0 June for Lee, in which his ERA was a staggering 0.21. He had allowed only one earned run on 21 hits and eight walks in 42 innings of work, striking out 29.

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