Floyd pitches Phillies to victory

Floyd pitches Phillies to victory

PHILADELPHIA -- Last month, Aaron Rowand pointed out to center field at Citizens Bank Park and made a prescient remark to the Phillies' brass: "I want some padding on that fence, because I'm going to run into it."

The Phillies immediately ordered padding for that section of the fence, and it arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday. The team planned to install it this weekend, while the Phillies are away in Cincinnati.

On Thursday night, the Phils center fielder made a remarkable over-the-shoulder, Willie Mays-esque catch in preserving Philadelphia's 2-0 rain-shortened victory over the Mets, slamming into the chain-link fence in center field and breaking his nose.

After a one-hour, 37-minute rain delay, the Phillies won for the 10th time in their last 11 games, pulling them to within three games of the National League East-leading Mets. Gavin Floyd recorded his first career Major League shutout, albeit a truncated five-inning victory, to improve to 4-2. Chase Utley smacked his eighth homer of the season and David Bell singled home a run in the fourth.

But all anyone will remember from this game, played before 28,224 and at times under a torrential downpour, was Rowand's impressive grab that closed out the first inning. Floyd had walked the bases loaded with two outs, when Mets right fielder Xavier Nady stepped to the plate. Nady pushed the count to 3-2, then turned on a Floyd fastball, driving it to deep center field. Nady's blast would have easily cleared the bases, but Rowand kept running after it, rain pelting him in the face as he pursued the ball.

Just after he caught the drive, Rowand crashed into the chain-link fence, just below the padded crossbar in front of the bullpen. Rowand's nose took the brunt of the collision, and he fell to the dirt holding aloft his glove after recording the third out of the inning. Phils outfielders Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu quickly ran to Rowand's aid, desperately motioning to the dugout for some help.

"I've seen a lot of great catches, some close to that, but I don't think I've seen anything quite like that," said Dallas Green, a Phillies advisor, during the 97-minute rain delay. "Aaron's a great, hard-nosed kid, the type of kid that I love. When he first came here, he sat down with our people and he told us that, 'I want some padding on the fence [in center field], because I'm going to run into it.'"

"That play won the game for us," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's three runs, and that definitely changed everything in the game."

Phils reliever Aaron Fultz witnessed Rowand's catch firsthand from the bullpen.

"It was the best catch I ever saw," said the left-handed reliever. "There's a big dent in the fence where he hit it. Aaron was going full speed after the ball, and you can almost see it in his face that he was going to hit the wall. I didn't think he had a chance to catch the ball. When he hit, his nose bled like a faucet. He was pretty dazed."

Rowand was eventually led off the field under his own power, escorted by emergency medical technicians, a towel draped over his bloody face. As Rowand walked along the warning track to leave the park amid a raucous standing ovation, he motioned to one of the EMTs, asking if he could return to the dugout. One EMT shook his head and they led Rowand off the field.

The catch seemed to fire up the Phillies.

"It has to," Abreu said. "A play like that pumps you up. It shows you sacrifice everything to win a game."

After Rowand's catch -- which will be talked about for years -- Utley cranked up the offense. He hopped on a 3-1 pitch from Mets starter Steve Trachsel and sent a high, arcing drive into the right-field stands for a quick 1-0 Phillies lead.

Floyd, meanwhile, regained his control after his shaky first, retiring 12 of the next 15 batters he faced. He surrendered a one-out double to Ramon Castro in the second and a two-out double to Kazuo Matsui in the fourth. Nine of Floyd's 12 outs from the second through the fifth innings were ground balls.

Floyd averted some mild trouble in the fourth, thanks to a fine defensive play by Bell. After it appeared Floyd would post his second straight 1-2-3 inning, he left a pitch up to Matsui, who roped the double to right. Castro was intentionally walked, bringing up Trachsel. Floyd got Trachsel to ground sharply to third, where Bell had to make a diving stop to finish off the Mets.

The Phils added another run in the fourth, when Bell singled home Shane Victorino, who tripled and doubled playing in place of Rowand.

Floyd then ended the Mets' chances in the fifth with a perfect inning, catching Carlos Beltran looking at a called third strike. That's when the rains came, prompting home-plate umpire Jim Joyce to call out the grounds crew at 8:54 p.m. ET.

Ninety-seven minutes later, the game was called. Floyd posted his first career shutout, and Rowand will wake up Friday morning with a headache and two black eyes -- but a memory to savor forever.

Joe Santoliquito is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.