"It definitely could be a pivotal game," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "You don't have many games like this."
No, you don't.
The game seemingly over, the Phillies made it to extra innings thanks to a Braves gift. Then, after scoring twice in the top of the 10th, Brad Lidge almost blew his first save of the season.
Thanks to Victorino, it didn't happen, however.
The center fielder ended the Phillies' 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field by throwing out Gregor Blanco in a bang-bang play at the plate Friday night.
"The Force was with us," said Lidge, referencing "Star Wars."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel prefers old Westerns.
"We dodged a lot of bullets," he said.
It should have been a 2-1 Braves victory, but it wasn't -- thanks to a dropped pop fly by Atlanta second baseman Kelly Johnson.
With two on and two outs in the ninth inning, Chris Coste popped up Braves reliever Blaine Boyer's first pitch to him.
"He catches that 10 times out of 10," Victorino said of Johnson.
"I thought it was the end of the game," Coste said. "I was really disappointed. You don't expect a ball like that to be dropped."
It was, however.
"That's why baseball is such a great game," Coste said. "Anything can happen, and a lot of crazy things did tonight."
The Phillies scored twice in the top of the 10th thanks to a pinch-hit double by Chris Snelling, Victorino's second triple of the game and a double by Chase Utley.
Lidge came in a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunites and made it 16-for-16. But only thanks to Victorino's arm.
With runners at second and third and two outs, Yunel Escobar lined a single to center field. Victorino, who has one of the best arms in the National League, charged hard and came up throwing.
Gregor Blanco has good speed, but Victorino gunned him down anyway as Coste slapped on the tag just in time.
Braves manager Bobby Cox didn't agree, but the game was over.
"His throw was fantastic," Manuel said.
The Phillies had a dramatic victory to start their road trip, and the Braves had a heartbreaking loss as their one-run miseries continued.
The Braves are 3-17 in games decided by a single run and 1-6 in extra innings.
"It was a big win for us and a really hard loss for them," said Manuel, whose team is 4-3 in extra innings.
The Phillies, who now lead Florida by 3 1/2 games, took over first place in the NL East with an 8-2 homestand. But they are also a very respectable 16-13 on the road.
"This game was mystifying," Lidge said, shaking his head. "But it's good to start off the road trip with a win any way that you can get it."
The Phillies scored a first-inning run off Tim Hudson, but then were shut down by the veteran Braves starter. Brian McCann, meanwhile, put the Braves ahead with a two-run homer, his 12th of the season, off Phillies starter Jamie Moyer in the sixth inning.
Atlanta could have had a comfortable lead heading into the ninth inning, but cost itself with baserunning blunders in the sixth, seventh and eight innings.
In the ninth, Boyer walked Geoff Jenkins and Pedro Feliz with two outs. But it looked like he'd get a save when Coste swung at the first pitch and popped up.
"I was mad at myself," Coste said.
Not as mad as Johnson would be. He had the ball somehow slip out of his glove near the right-field foul line and the game went to extra innings.
"It's one of those things that don't happen," Johnson said. "That aren't supposed to happen. It's probably the worst feeling that somebody can feel on a baseball field."
The Phillies have a difficult stretch going to the All-Star break, with the schedule loaded with winning teams and road games.
It doesn't look so daunting now, though.
"Sometimes you're the hero and sometimes you're the goat," Victorino said. "It's a lot nicer to be the hero."
Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less