Thursday, May 12, 2011

I See You Pete Orr (and J-Roll and Shane and Dane)

Just one short day ago, I blew my top on Pete Orr, declaring, "I can't wait for him to be back in the minors whenever this roster gets healthy." And wouldn't you know it, hours later he would be the offensive star of the night in a game in which he didn't even start.

While I'm still stewing over the fact that he swung at the first pitch and grounded out to the end the inning after Josh Johnson had just walked the bases loaded, Orr did his best to totally redeem himself. I have to admit, I didn't see it coming at all.

After Cliff Lee spotted Florida a 1-0 lead in the first by throwing an absolute meatball right down the middle to Hanley Ramirez and then watching the Phillies make Ricky Nolasco's job incredibly easy for 6 innings by swinging at every damn thing — especially YOU, Jimmy Rollins — I thought the game was pretty much over when Lee did that thing he's been uncharacteristically doing quite often this season, giving up four straight singles and two runs in the 6th to make it 3-0 Marlins.

Despite the fact this team has shown time and time again over these past four-plus seasons that they're never really out of it until that 27th out, the Phillies gave absolutely no indication they were capable of rallying last night. Their at-bats were appalling, literally flailing away at damn near everything … or watching called third strikes go by (am I right, Ryan Howard?). It was quite a frustrating first 6 innings of baseball. The frustration level hit a pinnacle when Cliff Lee smoked a hot shot toward second for a single that looked like it was going to plate Brian Schneider, who doubled two batters earlier, only to have Schneider pull up lame rounding third, grabbing his hamstring and having to leave the game. Not only did pinch-runner Dane Sardinha not cross home thanks to Rollins grounding to end the inning, but the Phillies saw yet another player go down to injury. Great. It was as if the Phillies were destined to continue to not score any runs for Cliff Lee.

But then suddenly the bats were awaken by Raul, who led off the 7th with a double. Then after Ben Francisco lined out, Dane Sardinha reached on an error by Gaby Sanchez, his first error of the entire season. I hate to do it, but I gotta give Tom McCarthy credit for the jinx on that one, saying earlier that Sanchez had made every play in the series and not had an error all year. Well done (for once), T-Mac.

That set the stage for Orr to make me eat my words. With runners at the corners and one out, Charlie decided it would be wise to pull back double-play machine Wilson Valdez in favor of Orr, which certainly makes sense. And Orr delivered, smoking a double to plate Raul. Ross Gload followed with the single best at-bat of the game for the Phils after Nolasco was relieved by Ryan Webb, spoiling good pitch after good pitch before pulling a grounder to first to plate Sardinha. Of course, J-Roll again grounded out on a piss-poor at-bat, but the two guys I absolutely killed yesterday — Sardinha and Orr — were responsible for the two runs the Phils scored to pull within one.

And they weren't done yet.

After J.C. Romero pitched a 1-2-3 7th, Shane Victorino played his own hero role, tying the game with a solo blast just over the high wall in left-center, finally getting me excited. But then Charlie Manuel did something unusual. In a tie game in the 8th inning against the team directly behind the Phillies in the standings, Charlie called on Kyle Kendrick. That's when my Twitter timeline really started to blow up. Every Phillies fan under the sun questioned why Charlie was bringing in Kendrick in that spot, virtually all of them anticipating Kendrick to give the Marlins the lead right back.

That's exactly what looked like was about to happen as Kendrick started things off by walking the speedy Emilio Bonifacio and then after getting Hanley to fly out, surrendering a single to Gaby Sanchez. But all Kyle Kendrick did from there was give everyone on Twitter a giant middle finger, getting John Buck to ground into the inning-ending double play with the game still tied.

Cue my two whipping boys from the night before. After the increasingly useless Ben Francisco popped out to lead off the 9th (though he did make a sick catch last night), Dane Sardinha improbably singled. The Orr, who didn't even start the game, followed with a double, putting runners on second and third with one out. Sadly, John Mayberry struck out pinch-hitting for Kendrick, meaning it was all on J-Roll's shoulders.

Now, we as Phillies fans know this is the time Jimmy shines. He likes nothing more than to be the hero, to come through in the big moments. I mean, just ask Jonathan Broxton. But, you know, Jimmy was enemy No. 1 on Twitter last night, getting killed for continuously swinging at the first pitch and getting out. He was 0-for-4 on the night prior to this at-bat, and he didn't have a single good plate appearance. So naturally, Jimmy cranked his Swag-O-Meter on high and delivered, plating both Sardinha and Orr with a single to right.

That was all she wrote as Ryan Madson had a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Mike Stanton and some meaningless pinch hitter in the process. Great job by the bullpen, by the way, with Kyle Kendrick pitching a scoreless 8th to pick up the win and Romero and Madson both having perfect innings in the 7th and 9th respectively.

While Jimmy Rollins was the man who went from goat to hero on this night, it was Pete Orr and Dane Sardinha who went from whipping boys to standouts for me. The two men I couldn't wait to be sent back down to the minors were involved in four of the five runs the Phils needed, with Sardinha scoring twice, including the game-winning run, and Orr going 2-for-2 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI.

I may not ever forget those terrible at-bats that cost the Phils game 2 of this series, but I also won't forget how instrumental both Orr and Sardinha were in helping the Phillies win the series.

Oh, and seriously Cliff, I know you're all sorts of awesome and all, but stop throwing pitches right down the middle of the plate. That would really help all of us out. Thank you.

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