This is No. 3 in a series recalling the "It" moment for the teams that have clinched postseason berths, the episode that filled everyone with the same thought: "Hey, we can do this." July 22, St. Louis: The juggernaut's wheels are wobbling, about to fall off. The three-time National League East champions had shot out of the gate, but for the last two months had only been shooting themselves in the foot. Since May 21, when they held a 4 1/2-game lead in the division, the Phillies are 22-31. They are barely above .500 (48-46) and seven games below the Braves. This road trip had begun with six losses in seven games and can finish only worse -- today they have to deal with Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who has already made 10 starts in Busch Stadium and won every one of them.
Sure enough, Wainwright keeps pitching out of trouble. Funny thing, though: Cole Hamels, the Philadelphia left-hander, doesn't even get into trouble, striking out the first five men he faces and retiring 12 in a row before Matt Holliday leads off the bottom of the fifth with a single to left-center. Holliday doesn't stay on base for long. When Allen Craig follows with a fly ball to center, Shane Victorino makes Holliday pay for straying too far off first -- his throw doubles him up. No one else reaches base against Hamels until Yadier Molina draws a two-out walk in the eighth. After that inning, Hamels is done, but the stranglehold of Phillies pitchers isn't. Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin take over and brush aside everyone they face. Predictably, the Phillies can't do anything either against Wainwright, but they do wait him out, and after six innings, he is gone. Still, the game wears on, scoreless.
Until the 11th, which Placido Polanco begins with a home run off Kyle McClellan. A little while later, Jayson Werth doubles in an insurance run off Fernando Salas.Brad Lidge closes out the 2-0 victory uneventfully. He and his four predecessors faced 35 men across the 11 innings -- two over the minimum. For the Phillies this game is like a Heimlich maneuver to someone with a bone stuck in his windpipe. "We could be going home 0-8 real easy," says manager Charlie Manuel, to which Hamels adds, "We have to take this game and momentum into tomorrow." Tomorrow, and beyond: The Phillies go home and put up a perfect 7-0 homestand. They win 32 of the next 46 games to return to first place, and 46 of 63 to officially punch their return ticket to the playoffs.