10/14/08 3:50 AM ET
Victory tends to follow valiant Victorino
Phillies center fielder in the middle of playoff success, buzz
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
"He's an energy player," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said just after Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, echoing the thoughts of so many others.
"I like having fun," Victorino said. "And I think that a lot of people know it."
Most in Dodger Stadium knew it on Monday, hissing disapproval of L.A.'s newest villain each time Victorino came to the plate. Then Victorino silenced nearly all of them, drilling a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and leading his Phillies to their third come-from-behind victory over the Dodgers in the NLCS.
"It's exciting," Victorino said. "We stole a little bit of momentum back in our favor."
They stole perhaps a bit more than that, tipping the NLCS scales decidedly to their side. Victorino was just one of several key components in this particular game, but he's been perhaps the Phillies' most valuable player throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs. Monday's Game 4 was simply the latest example.
The Phillies were still down two runs when Victorino came to the plate against Dodgers reliever Cory Wade in the eighth inning, with a man on first base and one out. Dodgers fans voiced their infinite displeasure, as they have during every Victorino at-bat since the third inning of Game 3, when he helped spark a bases-clearing incident.
Yet this time there was no controversy -- Victorino simply lined a first-pitch curveball over the fence in right field, tying the game and stunning the Dodger Stadium crowd. The home run was his second of the postseason, and it came just three days after Victorino stood mourning the death of his grandmother back in Philadelphia.
|With his two RBIs in Game 4 of the NLCS, Shane Victorino set a record for most RBIs in a single postseason by a Philadelphia Phillies hitter.|
The success was also nothing new. Victorino has been in the middle of so many recent Phillies victories, making a game-saving catch in Game 2 of the NLCS and knocking in four runs in a playoff game on two separate occasions. He has withstood controversy, committing baserunner's interference in last week's NLDS clincher against the Brewers, and jawing at Hiroki Kuroda to spark Sunday's bad blood.
And he's done all his damage while bouncing between the second and sixth spots in the batting order, gluing together a potent offense by whatever means he can.
"Victorino's one of those guys that kind of goes under the radar because we have so many big hitters," closer Brad Lidge said. "But he has home run power from both sides of the plate, he's got incredible speed, he's got a great arm and plays great defense -- I mean he's really a complete player, and hopefully teams keep taking him lightly because he's as good as it gets."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre didn't take him lightly, lamenting only that Wade couldn't execute a pitch as desired. Intending to throw his first-pitch curveball down in the strike zone, Wade instead left it up.
"And Shane hit it hard," Chase Utley said.
And that set the stage for Matt Stairs, whose ensuing pinch-hit, two-run home run pushed the Phillies to the brink of their first World Series in 13 years. Perhaps it was only fitting that Victorino, the most consistent offensive threat of this Phillies postseason -- and suddenly among the most reviled players in Southern California -- was the one to make that situation possible.
"[It's] what you play for as a kid," Victorino said. "You play for it in the Minor Leagues. You get an opportunity and try to make the best of it."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.