PHILADELPHIA -- Before Game 6 on Saturday, righty Ryan Madson was Mr. Reliable for the Phillies in the postseason. Five relief appearances, no runs, three hits -- all of them singles -- and eight strikeouts. He was one out away from another gem of an outing in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, just when the Phillies needed it most -- on the brink of elimination and locked with the Giants in a 2-2 tie. And with one cut fastball, Madson's year turned sour. Giants infielder Juan Uribe connected for a tiebreaking two-out home run that propelled San Francisco to a 3-2 win and the World Series, and sent Madson and the Phillies packing for the winter. "It was shocking for me," Madson said.
Not shocking that Uribe hit a home run -- he belted 24 of them during a renaissance of a 2010 season. But shocking that it happened at that moment, and on that one low-and-away pitch.
"I know it wasn't terrible," Madson said of his pitch. "He hit it good. I have to give him credit. He hit it good enough to just get it in the front row there. I didn't expect that. ..."Give those guys a lot of credit. They did everything they had to. I wasn't expecting it to be a homer like that, late in the game. You're always taught that if they beat you that way, you tip your hat. And he beat me that way. Obviously, he a great hitter. I'm just saying I didn't think it was going to be a home run. It was." Uribe said what hitters almost always say after hitting game-changing home runs, that he was just trying swing hard and make contact. When he connected, he knew the baseball had a chance to clear the fence. So did Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "When that ball goes up in this ballpark, and [right fielder] Jayson Werth goes to the fence with his back to me, I go 'Oh no,'" Manuel said. It did clear the fence, and Uribe had the biggest hit of his career. "This is a lot of big," he said. "This is big like me!" Uribe's blast spoiled what had turned into a brilliant season for Madson, who was in danger of going in the opposite direction in May, when he broke his toe kicking a folding chair. That was during his stint as the Phillies' fill-in closer for rehabbing Brad Lidge, and Madson was upset after a blown save against these same Giants. By the time he returned in July, Madson had turned 30. Perhaps he mellowed in his old age, because he put up a 1.64 ERA over the rest of the regular season and allowed only one home run in his final 42 appearances. Madson's run continued into October. He pitched a scoreless inning in the NL Division Series before appearing in four of the first five games of the NLCS. He threw seven of his nine pitches for strikes in the Phillies' Game 1 loss to keep his team within one run. He finished a 6-1 win in Game 2 with a scoreless ninth inning in relief of Roy Oswalt. He worked 1 2/3 innings in Game 4, inducing a bases-loaded double play from Pablo Sandoval to avert one threat in the seventh inning, then striking out two batters in a scoreless eighth after the Phillies tied the game. His most dominant outing may have been Game 5 on Thursday. Madson faced the meat of the Giants' order -- Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross -- and whiffed them all on 13 pitches, 10 of them strikes. The Phillies won, 4-2, to force Game 6. It was going well until Uribe strode to the plate with two outs in the top of the eighth. Madson took over with the game tied at 2 in the seventh inning and struck out the first two hitters he faced, his sixth consecutive strikeout going back to Game 4. He then allowed his first extra-base hit of the postseason, a double, but intentionally walked Aubrey Huff to induce a Posey groundout. In the eighth, Madson retired Burrell on a groundout and Ross on a fly ball to left field before facing Uribe. That's when his season turned south. "He threw the ball great this postseason -- there's just no room for error," Lidge said. "It's one of those deals where every game we came in, if any run scored, it was going to be a big deal. He threw the ball great." At some point, Madson should be able to look back and consider 2010 a success. Not yet. "I haven't thought about it yet," he said. "Obviously, what's fresh in your mind is what you're going to remember. It's going to push me in the winter. It's going to push everybody for next spring."