07/08/09 11:34 PM ET
Final Vote hopeful Victorino lifts Phillies
Center fielder sinks Reds with walk-off RBI single in ninth
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Really? That's it? Just four more game-winning hits before the All-Star break?
"All right," Victorino chuckled. "I guess he wants to put pressure on me, but all right. I guess I'll take the challenge, if that's the case."
Victorino hit a two-out single to left-center field in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday, scoring Pedro Feliz from second base in the Phillies' 3-2 victory over the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils have won five of their past six games.
Victorino came up big at just the right time. Not only did his hit win the game, but he made a stronger case for himself for a spot on the National League All-Star team. Victorino is in second place in the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote at MLB.com, which determines the final roster spot on the NL team. Victorino narrowly trails Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval with voting ending at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday.
"Is this meant to happen?" Victorino said.
It might be. If Victorino wins the Final Vote, then obviously he is in. But even if he loses to Sandoval, he has a good chance at making the team.
Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran will not play in the All-Star Game because of an injury. If Beltran had earned a roster spot via the player vote, Manuel would have had to take the next highest finisher on the player ballot to replace him. But because fans elected Beltran as a starter, a MLB spokesman said Wednesday that Manuel does not have to pick from the player ballots to find a replacement.
That is good news for Victorino, who is hitting .308 with 22 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 40 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 61 runs scored.
That 40th RBI? He acknowledged afterward he wasn't even sure which pitch he hit.
"I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing," Victorino said. "Saw it and hit it. Sometimes that's how it works. Sometimes you see it and sometimes you don't."
And even when you don't see it, you hit it.
"He hit it off the end of the bat," Reds right-hander David Weathers said. "That's why they're so tough."
The Phils won the game and Victorino improved his chances of making his first All-Star team, but they also lost another pitcher.
Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez, who replaced injured left-hander Antonio Bastardo in the rotation last week, left the game after just five innings because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Lopez had pitched well in his two starts, but his injury only illustrated how bad things have been for the rotation this year.
Phillies starters had a 4.23 ERA last year, which ranked seventh in the National League. They used just seven starters: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, Adam Eaton and J.A. Happ.
But this season has been the opposite. Phillies starters have a 5.02 ERA, which ranks 15th in the league. They already have used nine starters with 80 games to play: Hamels, Moyer, Blanton, Myers, Happ, Bastardo, Lopez, Chan Ho Park and Andrew Carpenter.
It could be 10 starters if Lopez is unable to return after the All-Star break. Lopez said he felt some tightness, but he is confident he can be ready to pitch against the Cubs on July 20, the first time Philadelphia needs a fifth starter.
"It's a good thing for me right now that the break is coming," Lopez said.
Victorino hopes he has no break. He hopes to hop on a charter flight with Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Manuel, Phillies coaches and others to St. Louis on Sunday night for Tuesday's All-Star Game.
The Phillies set themselves up for Victorino's ninth-inning heroics when Jayson Werth hit a solo homer to right-center field to tie the game at 2 in the sixth. Werth has homered in three consecutive games and has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games.
The campaign for Victorino continues Thursday. Teammates have been giving Victorino a hard time about the effort put into his campaign, but some teammates seem to be enjoying it. Park wore a sandwich board to and from the bullpen, touting Victorino's candidacy.
"I loved it," Victorino said. "I'm going to try to find out how much those guys get paid who wear those things on the side of the road."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.