© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/21/07 12:30 AM ET
Fightin' Phils rally late in comeback win
Phillies overturn four-run deficit to keep pace in Wild Card
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- The visitors' clubhouse became the smallest place on earth on Thursday, amid a sea of bodies trained on a postseason race that wasn't supposed to be. A small television set conveyed images from nearly 1,000 miles away in Miami, as Phillies players, in various stages of undress and at different moments of their postgame meal, and coaches watched the Mets vs. Marlins game following Philadelphia's stirring 7-6 win over Washington. Showers went temporarily unused during this time of bonding, since no one wanted to miss a pitch. The players in the tiny room stirred when Hanley Ramirez reached first base, and erupted when Dan Uggla hit a walk-off double for Florida, sending the Phillies within 1 1/2 games in the National League East. "SICK!" screamed Aaron Rowand. "Tell [Uggla] I love him. It's fun to watch other games once you take care of your own business. We probably watched the game more intensely than any fan in the entire United States, but that's what it's about when it's crunch time." Added Rollins: "It's exciting. Usually we're watching the last three days. I think we get a full week and a half to do stuff like that this year. But that's what we play for, to be in a position to root for other teams, especially when we don't have a chance to play a team anymore." The Phillies share a lot of love these days in their never-say-die season, and the win over Washington was the lastest chapter. The team arrived in town after an excruciating 10-inning loss to St. Louis -- sending them 2 1/2 games behind the Mets and Padres in the NL East and Wild Card race, respectively -- at 3 a.m. ET, and dragged themselves to RFK Stadium for a four-game series in a place that essentially ended their season a year ago. A poor start by Kyle Lohse put them in a 6-2 hole, erasing a first-inning, two-run homer by Ryan Howard and putting them on the brink of losing another game in the standings. The Padres had already won their game and the Mets were leading in theirs. A year after severely denting Philadelphia's playoff hopes by taking two of three games during the season's final week, the Nationals appeared to be delivering another body blow at the season's most critical juncture. They pounded Lohse for six runs in two innings, with five coming courtesy of four second-inning doubles. Lohse finished the frame, but he wouldn't return in the third. Six relievers held the Nats scoreless and allowed for the Phillies' comeback. It happened the second effective Washington starter Jason Bergmann, who limited the Phillies to a pair of runs in six innings, departed. A Philadelphia offense, quiet since Monday's 13-run barrage, awoke in the seventh, starting when Greg Dobbs singled and Carlos Ruiz walked off Luis Ayala. Washington manager Manny Acta went to lefty Arnie Munoz, and Philadelphia countered by replacing pinch-hitter Pete Laforest with Jayson Werth. A hot hitter since receiving regular playing time, Werth sent a Munoz offering into the red seats, pulling the Phillies within a run. "With this lineup, we don't ever feel like we're out of a game," Werth said. "It's been crazy. Nothing can faze us at this point." Jimmy Rollins bolstered his Most Valuable Player credentials by following with a double near the left-field foul line. He was sacrificed to third and then scored on a fielders' choice hit by Chase Utley. Utley's fielder's choice came with the infield in, and Rollins broke immediately on the ball hit toward Ronnie Belliard. He scored easily. "I was going on contact," Rollins said. "You hit a line drive at somebody and you're doubled off. They brought the infield in and my job with my speed is to put the pressure on them. If they bobble the ball, I'll be safe. When the ball came off the bat, you have to anticipate that." Rollins added yet again to his MVP resume by giving the Phillies the lead with a two-out double in the eighth. That scored Ruiz, who had walked, and Rollins was greeted with chants of M-V-P from Phillies fans. "It's encouraging," Rollins said, laughing. "When you do something, you feel pretty good. But when you're losing, it's like, 'Be quiet.' I'd rather win than hear MVP chants, but it worked out tonight." J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers preserved the lead and secured the win. The Marlins did the rest, coming back with three runs in the bottom of the ninth, then winning the game in the 10th. "It's huge because it's what's been going on all year, as far as being down," Howard said. "We're having a lot of fun here," Werth said. "We have a great clubhouse with great chemistry. It's a special atmosphere. The stretch drive is going to be a lot of fun, and we're going to have a chance to do some special things." As players joked with each other and spread goodwill throughout the clubhouse, Rowand offered a reminder that the win should only be enjoyed for a few hours, since Friday's game is of equal importance. The Nats' scheduled starter Shawn Hill has allowed two runs to the Phillies in 14 innings. But that's an issue on Friday. "We'd be lying if we said we weren't paying attention to their game," Rowand said. "To be able to take care of your own business then come in and watch a game like that, is exciting. [The Mets] losing tonight was huge. We're all having a good time and we'll enjoy this for a couple of hours, then we have to go to work again."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.