Phillies take 2-1 lead over Rockies
AP Sports Writer
DENVER – No blown save this time for Brad Lidge. Just another blown call by the umpires.
The Philadelphia Phillies are on the verge of winning their NL playoff series with the Colorado Rockies after their 6-5 win that ended in the early morning hours Monday after a four-hour game played mostly with temperatures in the mid-20s.
They can wrap it up Monday afternoon when they send Game 1 winner Cliff Lee against Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez.
“Tomorrow will be a good day to celebrate. The sun will be shining,” Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino said.
Lidge, who struggled all season, recorded his first save since Sept. 20 when Troy Tulowitzki got underneath his last pitch and flied out to left, giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five series.
Ryan Howard’s sacrifice fly off Huston Street in the top of the ninth broke a 5-5 tie but came after Chase Utley’s check-swing infield single that should have been ruled a foul ball because it hit him while he was in the batter’s box before rolling fair.
“The ball might have caught me,” Utley said. “Nobody said anything so I ran hard.”
Might have nothing, Street said.
“He told ‘Tulo when he got to second it hit him,” Street said. “You can see on the replay it clearly hit him. It was a close play at first. On the replay Todd’s foot is pretty clearly on the base.
“I didn’t get too excited about it at the time because the game has to go on. You have to try to get out of the inning. That’s part of the game and you understand that, but tonight it was frustrating, especially when the fly ball (by Howard) would have been the third out.”
Crew chief Gerry Davis said blown calls like this one bother the umpires as much as they do everyone else.
“We’re judged not by excellence, but by perfection,” he said. “Our job is to get every call correct. That’s what we aspire to do. Perfection is very tough. That’s a tough aspiration.”
Home plate umpire Jerry Meals told The Associated Press after the game that he missed the call. He said replays showed the ball indeed hit Utley.
“I just saw a ball hit and rolling out there and that’s it,” Meals said.
Umpires have had a rocky first week of the playoffs, including an admitted missed call in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the Yankees-Twins series.
With runners at first and second, Utley tried to check his swing, only to dribble the ball up the first-base line. Street thought for sure it grazed Utley, but played the ball anyway.
“I saw it hit him. I hesitated,” Street said. “But Chase took off and then I thought in my mind it’s a free out. It turned out to be a tougher play … but I still made the play.”
Street fielded it on the run and lobbed the ball over Utley’s head to Todd Helton at first.
The ball appeared to beat Utley to the bag – and Helton looked to have kept his foot on the bag – but first base umpire Ron Kulpa ruled Utley safe. Rockies manager Jim Tracy briefly argued before retreating to the dugout.
“The response I got was he came off the base and he was safe anyway,” Tracy said.
Rollins took third on the play and then broke the tie game as he tagged up on Howard’s fly to deep center.
The save was surely sweet redemption for Lidge. He converted all 48 save chances last year, capped when he struck out Tampa Bay’s Eric Hinske in Game 5 to clinch the Phillies’ World Series title. But he lost his perfect touch this season – he led the majors with 11 blown saves, went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and briefly lost his job in September.
“He’s had ups and downs,” Howard said. “Right now he’s here to finish games. That’s what matters. I was glad to see him out there.”
“When the postseason starts, it’s a completely clean slate,” said Lidge, who is from Denver. “It’s definitely a treat to be able to play here right now, get a chance to pitch in front of family and friends.”
The temperature when Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel threw his first pitch at 8:08 p.m. was a crisp 35 degrees, tying the record low set when Cleveland hosted Florida in Game 4 of the 1997 World Series. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was the Indians’ hitting coach.
It was so chilly the players’ breaths swirled around them like smoke as the mercury dipped into the 20s.
At least there was none of the icy mist, bitter wind, freezing rain and snow that blanketed the downtown Denver ballpark a day earlier, when the gametime temperature would have been 26 degrees.
“That might have been difficult for the Broncos to play in that yesterday, much less a baseball game,” Tracy said.
Winning pitcher Chad Durbin threw a 1-2-3 eighth.