They were watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals and they were enjoying it.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
They allowed themselves that luxury. They had just beaten the Yankees, 7-1, for their second series victory since May 15-17, when they swept the Brewers at Miller Park.
Thursday's win allowed the Phillies to finish 3-3 on a road trip that started last weekend in Boston with 12-2 and 10-2 losses to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Huge victory? Definitely.
A turning point in their season? Time will tell.
"Sooner or later, the law of averages catches up with you, I guess," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Philadelphia appeared to be in trouble Tuesday, when the Yankees rocked Roy Halladay for six runs in six innings in an 8-3 loss.
The pitching matchups seemed to favor New York the rest of the series. Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer, who had the worst start of his career Friday in Boston, was 4-7 with a 7.39 ERA in 11 games against the American League since he joined the Phillies in 2006. He faced Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett. But the Phillies roughed up Burnett and Moyer allowed just three hits and two runs in eight innings in a 6-3 victory Wednesday.
Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick was 0-3 with a 9.95 ERA in five appearances (three starts) against the AL East. He faced Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who was 8-1 with a 2.46 ERA this season. But the Phillies scored three runs in seven innings against Pettitte, and Kendrick allowed just four hits, one run and two walks and struck out three in seven innings. It was just the third time in 121 games at the new Yankee Stadium, including the postseason, that the Yankees had scored fewer than two runs.
Kendrick has pitched a few gems this season, but this might have been his best performance of the year because it meant so much.
Kendrick is 4-1 with a 3.20 ERA in his last eight starts.
"I feel like I'm getting better every time I'm out there," Kendrick said. "I think it's just learning and maturing."
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Ryan Howard singled to score Shane Victorino from second base. Victorino then hit a two-out, two-run home run to left field in the fifth inning to make it 3-0.
The crowd roared as the ball sailed over the fence. There were lots of Phillies fans in the house that Steinbrenner built.
Kendrick just needed to hold the lead. He had retired 13 of 14 batters he faced when he walked Mark Teixeira with two outs in the sixth inning. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano followed with a pair of singles to cut the lead to 3-1. Kendrick could have been one bad pitch from the game blowing open when he threw a 1-1 sinker to Nick Swisher.
Swisher popped up the ball down the left-field line. It kept fading toward the seats when Placido Polanco sprawled over the rolled-up tarp to make a fantastic catch to end the inning, potentially saving the game.
The Phillies have made their share of highlight-reel catches this season, but it might have been the most important catch of the year.
Kendrick said it reminded him of some of the catches he has seen Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter make over the years.
"It wasn't that good," said Polanco, referring to Jeter's famous catch in 2004 when he dove into the stands. "He dove like in the third row and broke his face and all that stuff. It was a good play, but not that good."
But it helped. Kendrick jumped up and high-fived Polanco as he walked off the field. He got so excited he actually ran into Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, who politely moved Kendrick to the side.
"Everybody on this team competes," Polanco said. "Moyer showed it yesterday. He's a competitor and he pitched a great game. Kendrick. Everybody. You look around at everybody's face. Everybody competes. That's what this game is all about. We compete and it gives ourselves a chance."
But the losing certainly had weighed on the Phillies, who were 8-17 since May 17 before winning Wednesday and Thursday. The stress could be felt in the clubhouse.
An unlikely teammate has tried to break up the tension. Chase Utley has made a few half-serious, half-joking attempts to awaken the Phillies from their slumber. He arranged bats, fruits, batting gloves, vitamins, a can of Red Bull and a tin of chewing tobacco in a crop circle-like pattern next to his locker before Wednesday's game. Then in a nod to the movie "Major League," a Darth Maul bobble head, a miniature bottle of rum and a shot glass full of rum sat in the locker next to his before Thursday's game.
"I think it was like a couple years ago [in the 2008 World Series] when Charlie put the rubber ducks in everybody's locker," Howard said. "Just try to loosen everybody up and play. Right now, it's whatever works."
More than the rum and the Jobu substitute, it has been timely hitting, excellent pitching and some fantastic defensive plays. The Phillies know the next trick is keeping it up.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less