Because the Brewers' bullpen suddenly couldn't throw strikes or field in the ninth inning, the Phillies mounted their best comeback this season, roaring back from a five-run deficit and getting the final three runs with two outs and nobody on base.
"Ninth inning, we're losing by five, do you think we have a chance to come back?" reliever Jose Mesa asked, rhetorically. "The team was down from the first inning. In the ninth, somehow they picked it up. I don't know what happened, but we did it."
The Brewers' bullpen gets a big assist, starting when Matt Wise committed an error on a grounder by Wes Helms to lead off the inning, then surrendering a two-run homer to Jayson Werth. Manager Ned Yost lifted the struggling righty and inserted Francisco Cordero, giving him his third straight day of stressful work.
Cordero had saved the first two games of the series, running his mark at Miller Park to 22-for-22 in save opportunities (with one run allowed in 30 innings). He quickly retired the first two Phillies before the fun began.
Not willing to end the afternoon, Jimmy Rollins walked and advanced to second on defensive indifference. Tadahito Iguchi squibbed an infield single and Pat Burrell walked, loading the bases. Cordero hit Ryan Howard on the foot, forcing in a run and putting the tying run at second base.
Rowand, who came to the plate in a 2-for-25 skid, lined a ball just foul down the right-field line, and fell behind 0-2. He battled back to 2-2, then was nearly struck out, but
first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that he checked his swing.
Still breathing, Rowand hit the next pitch -- Cordero's 40th offering of the inning -- toward rookie third baseman Ryan Braun, who earlier had clubbed his 20th home run. The play was scored a single, then changed to an error, which is how Braun saw it.
"I should've had it," Braun said. "I think the last hop stayed down or something. I put my glove down. I haven't watched [the replay] yet, but its definitely a play I should've made."
"He was facing the same guys that he faced three nights in a row," Brett Myers said of Cordero's ineffectiveness. "You can trick 'em the first night. You can try something different the next night, but then what are you going to do the third night? There's only so many things you can go to."
The Phillies survived until the 11th, then again turned a two-out, none-on situation into a two-run go-ahead rally. Howard walked and Rowand singled, bringing up Helms, who for three days was the favorite target of Milwaukee fans. The former Brewer, lustily booed every time he came up, gave the fans a legitimate hit reason when he doubled in two runs.
The ball landed three feet in fair territory.
"They do it to every player who comes back who used to play here," Helms said. "The fans don't realize that [booing] actually pumps a player up. It makes me want to beat them. It feels that much better to do that, not to the Brewers, but to their fans. It's like, 'OK, are you going to boo me now?' Gary Sheffield put it perfectly when he said it motivates him. You can use it as it's embarrassing, or you can use it as a confidence booster."
Consider the Phillies' confidence boosted.
Since nothing could be easy, destiny forced Mesa to struggle in recording his first save as a Phillie since Aug. 1, 2003, and first overall since April 30, 2006, with the Rockies.
Braun drove a ball deep to center field that Rowand snared at the fence for the first out. Considering it was those two guys and that Corey Hart stole a game-tying home run from Iguchi on Saturday, was that catch poetic justice?
"I don't believe in poetry," Yost said.
Mesa loaded the bases with two outs before escaping when Iguchi -- fittingly -- snared Craig Counsell's line drive for the final out.
"He hit that ball 300 miles per hour," Mesa said. "I was lucky he was in the right place. I had good stuff, I just that I left it in the middle of the plate. Today, it was better to be lucky than good."
"We got two pretty good pitched games and lost both of them, then today we got behind and ended up winning," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It's good to win one. We definitely had some luck at the end."