Rollins continues to excel on defense
Shortstop's glovework is a big part of Phillies' success
ATLANTA -- The Phillies clinched the 2008 National League East championship on a remarkably difficult double play.
Well, at least it looked remarkably difficult.
The Washington Nationals had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth inning on Sept. 27, 2008, at Citizens Bank Park. Brad Lidge had allowed a run to cut the Phillies lead to 4-3, when Ryan Zimmerman hit a ball up the middle.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins dove to his left, made the catch and flipped the ball from his knees to second baseman Chase Utley, who was standing on second base. Utley threw to first baseman Ryan Howard to complete the double play.
It is one of the greatest and most memorable double plays in Phillies history.
But Rollins, whose defense will be incredibly important to his team's success again this postseason, downplayed its difficulty.
"It was a perfect ball to double him up on," Rollins told reporters. "When the ball came off the bat, I knew I had it covered. The only thing kind of in the back of my mind is that it hits the heel of your glove and it sticks there and you only get one and the ballgame is tied."
He said the flip was no big deal because they practice it all the time.
Of course, he smiled when he said that.
Rollins has won two consecutive National League Gold Gloves at shortstop, and for good reason. He makes plays and catches the ball. He has a career .983 fielding percentage at shortstop, which is the second-best fielding percentage at shortstop in baseball history.
Only Omar Vizquel is better, at .985.
"He's the best shortstop in the National League defensively, and there's just no question about it," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said about Rollins. "And maybe in baseball. The thing about him is ... Dallas [Green] says it best. He's a two-out shortstop. If the ball is caught, the guy is out."
Rollins played a franchise-record 86 consecutive games this season without an error. His six errors this season are tied with the Orioles' Cesar Izturis for the fewest among Major League shortstops.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has worked with both Rollins and Vizquel.
"Jimmy has a stronger arm than Omar," Manuel said. "Jimmy is a little stronger backhanding the ball in the hole, but Omar is quicker at getting in position to throw the ball across the diamond. Omar's first-step quickness, damn, he was good in his prime.
"But when Jimmy is right offensively, with the way he plays defense, that's what makes him one of the best players in the game."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.