Entering the 9th inning Tuesday trailing 5-2 to the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies knew that with closer Billy Wagner unavailable to pitch due to muscle spasm in his throwing shoulder, anything was possible. Six runs and four relief pitchers later, the Mets witnessed just how valuable a good closer can be.
The Phillies batted around sending 11 batters to the plate in the 9th inning rally that helped lift them past the division rival Mets and take a 1 game lead in the NL East standings. The devastating blow came from 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins when he clocked a go-ahead two-run double to propel the Phillies to their 54th victory on the season.
“It started last year,” Rollins said, referring to the Phillies’ comeback from seven games behind the Mets with 17 to play to win the division. “You never give up.”
New York had played the spoiler in Joe Blanton’s first start with Philadelphia since being traded from Oakland. Blanton allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings of work in his NL debut but did not factor into the decision because of the late inning heroics by his teammates.
Johan Santana also did not factor into the game’s decision after pitching very well for the Mets. Santana tossed eight solid innings allowing only two runs on eight hits but got nothing to show for it after his bullpen could not close the game out.
“After seeing that, you can’t help feeling that you want to be out there,” said the sidelined Wagner, who has 24 saves in 30 chances. “A lot of different things might have happened if I was out there. I’d rather be the guy standing here taking the blame instead of letting my teammates suck on this one.”
The loss puts the Mets 1 game behind the Phillies in the NL East standings and 4 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wildcard race.