PHILADELPHIA -- Watching the ball land wasn't necessary. Ryan Howard knew where it was headed. So, while Moises Alou pursued to the left-field wall, perhaps convincing himself that the Phillies hadn't just beaten the Mets, 4-2, in 10 innings on Tuesday night, Howard turned to the home dugout and gestured to his teammates. His lips moved, but he later said that he couldn't hear what he said.More
"I have no clue," he said, likely not to reveal. "Yay, maybe? Yeah!" Howard echoed the sentiments of the Phillies' faction of the 40,508 fans at Citizens Bank Park, to see Philadelphia take the first two games from New York, the team directly in front of them in the National League East. The Phillies can do no worse than split the four-game series. When Howard leans into a pitch they way he did Guillermo Mota's fastball, the slugger's home ballpark doesn't have a chance at containment. The ball carried the Phillies to a 10-inning win and within four games of the NL East lead. Howard tossed his helmet as he arrived at home plate and prepared to get swarmed by the mob. Before the mob formed, the Phillies needed a fortuitous eighth-inning roll which allowed them to tie the game. That came in the eighth, when 102 pitches from Tom Glavine forced manager Willie Randolph to his bullpen, with the Mets leading, 2-0. Reliever Pedro Feliciano was first and surrendered a leadoff home run to Jimmy Rollins. Pat Burrell worked a one-out walk and was pinch-run for by Shane Victorino. After Howard flew out, Aaron Heilman relieved. Victorino stole second on the first pitch and raced to third when catcher Paul Lo Duca threw the ball into center field. "Stealing that bag and getting to third was the biggest play of the game," said Aaron Rowand, who minutes later would have the hit of the game, for lack of a better term. Rowand took a full swing and skipped a ball up the third-base line. Lo Duca pursued, hoping to grab it once it crossed into foul territory, something that never happened. The ball hugged the line for an instant, then ventured toward the grass. When the 45-footer stopped inches away from the third-base line, it might as well have been miles away from Lo Duca. "It went further than that, at least 50 feet," Rowand said, with a laugh. "That was a smash. I don't care what anybody says. Over the course of a season, you hit a lot of balls and they're outs. It doesn't even out, so I'll take them as I get them." From a catcher's perspective, Chris Coste conjured up memories of Kansas City's Kevin Seitzer unsuccessful attempt to blow a ball foul, while older baseball fans remember Seattle's Lenny Randle doing the same thing on May 27, 1981, albeit successfully. "You want to get down there and blow it foul," Coste said. "As fast as it develops, a million things go through your head. 'If I pick it up, who's running?' Rowand runs fast enough to where we got to let it go foul. With a slow runner, you're more apt to give it a shot. Then it depends on the spin. With a huge run like that, I can imagine how amplified your prayers are for it to go foul. "When the crowd erupted, if I'm [Lo Duca], you're so mad. Even though there's nothing you can do about it, you feel like an idiot." And Rowand and the Phils took full advantage. "It's demoralizing on their end," Rowand said. "Having that happen, you just go ahead and say, 'No way.' I've been part of that before. When you can get things going your way, you have to use that momentum. After we tied the game up in the eighth, there was a feeling that we were going to win this game. You saw the rest."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less