10/10/08 11:31 PM ET
Victorino dazzles with all-around play
Center fielder's four RBIs, great catch help Phils top Dodgers
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Shane Victorino cemented his place in the hearts of Phillies fans on Friday night, assuming he hadn't already done so long ago. He singled and tripled, driving in two runs with each hit. And he made a spectacular catch at the wall in center field, depriving Casey Blake of extra bases and two RBIs in Philadelphia's 8-5 win against Los Angeles in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
Victorino showed baseball fans all over the country what his teammates already knew: the guy can play ball.
"He's a huge part [of what we do]," said teammate Greg Dobbs. "He's a table-setter. He can drive in runs, and he can steal bases. He plays a great center field. He can hit the ball out of the park. He's a complete player. And I think the more times you get to see him, the more time he comes up in those clutch situations, the more he proves he's that kind of player."
Unfortunately for Victorino, his big game isn't the only reason he'll remember Friday. He was informed after the game that his grandmother, Irene, had passed away earlier in the day. Moreover, manager Charlie Manuel lost his mother, June, on Friday morning. It made for an extremely complicated assortment of feelings for the energetic 27-year-old speedster.
"It's about baseball," Victorino said after the game. "Charlie stayed strong and kept us all strong. My dad didn't want to tell me -- I found out the news after the game. It's definitely an emotional time. But you know what? It's all about baseball right now. That's what we're focused on. You're guaranteed of one thing in life, and that's death. She's in a better place."
Who knows how Victorino might have performed if his father had told him the news earlier in the day? As it was, though, he put up yet another outstanding performance. Thus far this October, he's 7-for-23 (.304) with three doubles, one triple, one home run and nine RBIs.
He hits one spot behind the 2007 NL MVP and two spots ahead of the '06 MVP, but thus far, Victorino has done more than Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard to contribute to the Phils' 5-1 start to the postseason.
"Shane is huge," Howard said. "Shane is one of the other catalysts. Jimmy's the leadoff hitter, and Shane is like the second leadoff hitter. When Shane can get on base and wreak havoc -- he's been getting big hits for us, he's just been doing what he's been asked."
He was almost lost once again on Friday, overshadowed not by Rollins, Howard or Chase Utley but by the No. 9 man in the Philadelphia order. Brett Myers singled in a run in the second, but it was Victorino's two-run single that made it a four-run outburst. Myers singled in two more runs in the third, but Victorino capped the inning with a two-run triple.
In all, Victorino had three at-bats off the previously rolling Chad Billingsley, and he hit three balls hard. He lined out to right in the first inning.
"I guess you just try to hit your pitch," he said. "I think Chad tonight was trying to find his stuff when guys were on base. When he's on, it shows. Just like with [Derek] Lowe last night, when these guys are on, they're tough to hit. You try to hit mistakes or you try to hit your pitch. And I think we were able to do that tonight, and we were able to capitalize."
In the seventh, though, Victorino put his exclamation point on the night, making the play that turned this into his game.
With men on the corners and two outs, Blake hit a mammoth shot to left-center. Victorino tracked it and pulled it in, ending the inning without what surely would have been two more L.A. runs.
"I think it was one of those nights where it's starting to get cold and the ball is not traveling as well as it usually does," he said. "He hit the ball well. I just told myself to try to get back and make the catch."
When Victorino batted in the next inning, he was greeted with a boisterous ovation from the Citizens Bank Park fans. They know it. The Phillies know it. Now the baseball audience at large is learning it, too.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.