The old saying goes that the only important part of a basketball game is the last three minutes. The start of the game is just filler until the game goes into overdrive in a final flurry. The Phillies are Major League Baseball's equivalent as it doesn't matter what happens in the early innings. Just tune in to the last three innings. And doesn't it seem that it's been this way for the Phillies for the last three years?
So far this season, seven of their ten wins have occurred from the seventh inning on. Six of those were come from behind wins. And they have done it all different ways with walks, singles, stolen bases and of course, home runs. Let's recap those seven games:
- April 8, 2009: Victims - Braves. The Phillies had lost their first two games of the season and were headed to a third and were down 10-3 going into the seventh inning. They scored eight runs in the seventh inning with four of those runs coming on walks. They score another in the eight and win 12-10.
- April 12, 2009: Victim - Rockies. The Fighting Phils were behind 5-3 going into the top of the eighth. They hit a two run homer off of Corpas in the eighth and a two run homer or of Street in the ninth and win 7-5.
- April 14, 2009: Victim - Nationals. The Phillies had given up two leads themselves in this game and were tied 4-4 going into the seventh inning. They scored four runs in the seventh and another run in the eighth and then hang on for dear life and win 9-8.
- April 19, 2009: Victim - Padres (who were very hot at the time). The Phillies were down 4-2 going into the eighth inning. They scored two runs in the eighth and a run in the ninth and won 5-4. The Padres regular closer, Heath Bell was gassed from the previous couple of nights and was given this day off as rest. Too bad for the Padres, but great for the Phillies.
- April 24, 2009: Victim - Marlins (who were very hot at the time). The Phillies were just shooting blanks for eight innings against Josh Johnson and were down 3-0 going into the ninth inning. Unfortunately for the Marlins, they have a weakness in closing games with Matt Lindstrom. Three walks, a grand slam and a solo homer later, they scored seven runs and shocked the Marlins, 7-3.
- April 25, 2009: Victim - Marlins (who are not hot any more). The Phillies were in their favorite position and were down a run, 4-3 going into the ninth inning. The Marlins decide against Lindstrom. Didn't matter. The Phillies scored a run in the ninth and then two more in the tenth and win 6-4. In the ninth, they scored their run on a walk, a single, a wild pitch and a ground out. In the tenth, they hit four singles.
- April 27, 2009: Victim - Nationals (again). The game was tied, 7-7, going into the top of the eighth and the Nationals scored four runs to go ahead 11-7. By this point, the Nationals had hit five homers including two from Zimmerman. Game over right? Not! In the bottom of the eighth, they start the inning with a strikeout. Pedro Feliz (he's still playing??) hits a single. Rollins doubles. Men on second and third. Victorino hits a sacrifice fly. Two outs. No problem. Utley singles. 11-9. The Nationals pull Mock and put Hanrahan in there. Wild pitch. Utley goes to second. Ryan Howard is walked. Jayson Werth walks. Bases loaded. Raul Ibanez, who everyone said was a stupid signing for the Phillies, hits a grand slam (his sixth homer of the young season). 13-11, Phillies win.
Amazing stuff, eh? But the Phillies did this last year and the year before. They are a bookie's nightmare. You think the Phillies will lose and they don't. There doesn't seem to be a way to close them out.
Granted, they have hardly faced the cream of the league's bullpens, but even so, they have hit 14 of their season's 24 homers in the last three innings. That works out to be 58% of their season's homers in 33% of the game. They have hit 11 of their season's 24 homers in the eighth and ninth innings. That's 45% of their season's homers in the last 22% of the games.
The Phillies have a .990 team OPS (before tonight's game) in the eighth inning this year. Think that's good? They have a 1.136 team OPS in the ninth inning this year. Holy Cow! So it doesn't matter that they have a .540 OPS in the fifth inning or a little over .600 in the sixth. All that matters is the end of the game. And that's when they just find a way to get the game won.
After watching the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the third game of that series, the one thought the Fan had while watching it unfurl is that the Red Sox simply wanted it more than the Yankees. The same can be said of the Phillies. They just want to win the game at the end more than the other team wants to close them out. Seven out of ten wins in the last three innings. Six of those come from behind games. That's a team that simply wants to win and it doesn't matter what the obstacle is or how deep the hole.