Phillies rookie-of-the-year candidate lefthander J.A. Happ pitched 2 run, 7 hit ball into the sixth inning on Tuesday to up his season record to 12-4. 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz broke up a 1-1 game with a none out fourth inning grand slam, his 2nd slam of the season, off of Houston starter Wilton Lopez following 2 singles and a walk. With the Phils up by 5-2 in the fifth inning, rightfielder Jayson Werth followed a 2 out walk to leftfielder Raul Ibanez by belting a 2 run shot off of lefthanded reliever Wesley Wright which provided insurance as Feliz, Werth and Happ led the Phillies past the Astros by a 7-4 margin and to within 1 Game of clinching the NL East division title for the 3rd time in 3 seasons.
With the win, the Phils’ NL East division lead bumped up again to 5 games with 5 games remaining as Atlanta was nipped by Florida on Tuesday. The magic number for clinch is 1 — another Phillies win and/or another Braves loss.
Manager Charlie Manuel called a team meeting a few hours before Tuesday’s game in light of the recent inconsistent offense and relief pitching as well as the offensive snooze which saw them beaten in the Houston opener by a pitcher they cut in spring training who possesses an 8.23 ERA in 3 starts and 6 other relief outings.
It looked, for at least Wednesday’s game 2, as if the meeting had the desired impact on the team. Holding a 7-2 lead in the sixth inning, Happ coughed up a 2nd homer in the gamr, a 2 run shot by 2nd baseman Kazuo Matsui, to cut the Phils lead to 7-4. But then relievers Jamie Moyer and Ryan Madson barred the door on the Astros the rest of the way, with Madson recording a two inning save going clean on 9 pitches in the eighth before getting into a 1st and 2nd pickle with 1 out. Madson came on strong to strike out both leftfielder Carlos Lee and rightfielder Hunter Pence; Lee swinging and Pence looking, to end the game. Madson recorded his 10th save in 16 opportunities.
Wilton Lopez made a huge mistake by hanging a slider to Pedro Feliz. Feliz took advantage and sent the pitch into the left field seats.
J.A Happ pitched better than his line indicated. In 5.2 innings, he allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits. He struck out six. Happ became the first Phillies rookie to win 12 games since [Jim Owens in] 1959. Happ made two mistakes: a down and in fastball to Lance Berkman and a middle-in fastball to Kaz Matsui. Both pitches resulted in home runs.
Jimmy Rollins’ 42nd double of the season put the Phillies on the board, but it was Feliz who provided the big blow. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Feliz jumped on the first pitch and took it for a ride. The grand slam put the Phillies ahead, 5-1. It was Feliz’s second grand slam of the year, and it extended the franchise record for most grand slams in a season (11). The rally towels proudly waved and it was loud for the rest of the night.
In the fifth inning, Jayson Werth added insurance with a two-run home run. The runs proved to be key since the ninth inning is always nerve-racking.
Jamie Moyer ate 1.1 scoreless innings in relief. However, on the last pitch he threw, he fell to the ground with a groin injury.
Ryan Madson threw nine pitches in the eighth inning, and returned to the mound in the ninth to a standing ovation. Madson allowed two singles, but struck out Hunter Pence to end the game. Madson did a perfect job of mixing his pitches.
For the scores of all of Tuesday’s games, click here.
In Wednesday’s game 3, Pedro Martinez will start, in what the Phils hope is the division clincher, opposing Brian Moehler for the Astros. Ace lefthander Cliff Lee, whose recent starts have been mixed bags, had his start pushed back until Thursday’s final with the Astros where he’ll oppose 2-11 Felipe Paulino. AP sports writer Rob Maaddi reports:
The move also puts Lee in position to pitch Game 1 of the NL division series.
For all of Wednesday’s games, click here.