Phillies expect to come through in clutch
Howard, Werth deliver in ninth inning of series clincher
DENVER -- It had the makings to be a devastating loss that was going to force them to fly across the country to protect their postseason lives on their home turf. Instead, it evolved into a win that displayed the confidence possessed by the defending world champion Phillies.
As they bathed in the champagne celebration after clinching the National League Division Series with a 5-4 Game 4 win over the Rockies on Monday night at Coors Field, the Phillies actually spoke like a club that was expecting Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth to deliver the consecutive two-out, ninth-inning hits that made this victory possible.
"I came running off the field [after the eighth inning] with the feeling that we were going to win the game," Werth said. "When I got in the dugout, everybody was on the same page. I guess you could say everybody was calm, cool and collected."
There was nothing calm, cool or collected about the euphoric celebration the Phillies staged as they celebrated the fact that they'll be playing the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series for a second consecutive season, with a start time of 8:07 p.m. ET for Game 1 on Thursday.
Nor should the defending world champs have done anything other than bask in the glory of an improbable victory. Criticized throughout the season for their inability to deliver the clutch hit, the Phillies rose to the occasion and produced one of the best comebacks a team could realize during the postseason.
PHILLIES IN THE CLUTCH
|RISP||RISP w/ 2 outs|
|Regular season||.255 BA (23rd)||.218 BA (27th)|
|Postseason||.382 BA (1st)||.200 (6th)|
After ranking 27th in the Major Leagues with a .219 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs, the Phils delivered the two most important two-out hits they'll likely experience during this year's playoffs.
"That's just the character and the makeup of this team," Howard said. "We don't give up at all. We just stay the course and keep playing hard."
Given that they'd ranked 10th in the NL with a .255 batting average with runners in scoring position, the Phillies, statistically, were a team that made a habit out of squandering scoring opportunities.
When they were held scoreless after drawing three walks to load the bases in the eighth inning with just one out, the Phillies encountered some of the same frustrations that were present during the previous six months.
But Rockies closer Huston Street certainly will be the first to admit that the postseason version of the Phillies certainly is clutch.
Three outs away from having to fly back to Philadelphia to play Game 5 on Tuesday night, the Phillies began to whittle away at their two-run, ninth-inning deficit with the assistance of the six-pitch, two-out walk that Chase Utley drew off Street to set the stage for Howard.
After falling behind with a 2-1 count, Street left a fastball up that Howard drilled to deep right field for a two-run double. Utley sprinted from first base with the tying run, and he had to slow down when Shane Victorino initially missed third base.
Before the start of the inning, Victorino heard Howard say, "Just give me a chance to get up there."
"I was calm," Howard said. "I felt calm. I just wanted to be in that situation."
Howard's clutch delivery put him in position to score when Werth followed with his decisive single to shallow center field.
|Gm. 1||PHI 5, COL 1||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||COL 5, PHI 4||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||PHI 6, COL 5||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 4||PHI 5, COL 4||Wrap||Video|
"It's a big park," Werth said. "I knew there was a whole lot of holes out there. So I knew it wasn't going to take much to score him."
While pounding an NL-best 224 home runs this year, the Phillies solidified their tag as being a power-laden bunch. This power was on display through the first eight innings of this clincher. Heading into the ninth, their only runs had come courtesy of solo homers delivered by Victorino and Werth.
But through the early stages of this year's playoffs, the Phillies have mixed clutch hits with their power potential. The .382 batting average they produced with runners in scoring position stands as the best mark posted by any of this year's postseason competitors.
"I'll tell you something, our guys like to play," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "I can't say enough about how they go about it. In fact, they like to play more than it looks sometimes."
Over the course of the past two postseasons, the defending world champs also have thoroughly enjoyed each of these champagne celebrations they've encountered. But according to Howard, they simply get better with time.
"I could do this all day," Howard said as champagne continued to burn his eyes.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.