Phils’ small ball skills shine in 5-4 win

By TIMOTHY PARKER
Staff Writer — tparker@highhopesblog.com
________

Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard applaud Wilson Valdez for his game-tying single in the 9th. (Courtesy Philly.com)

Two run deficit in the 9th, no home run, no extra base hits, no problem!

The Phillies have heard the cries of the Philadelphia faithful. “Small ball!”

Surely, true to form, they answered these cries in their usual heart-stopping fashion – the most dramatic way possible.

The Phillies made use of six singles to erase a 4-2 bottom of the ninth inning Houston lead. Of course, the ending result was a 1-0 start to the 2011 season and a victorious pie to the face of unexpected hero John Mayberry Jr.

Unfortunately, the power-bashers that of the last five seasons are no more. With the subtraction of Jayson Werth, and without Chase Utley for the foreseeable future, runs will have to be produced the old-fashioned way – timely hitting – precise base running – station to station baseball.

But, six singles to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth is a tad extreme. Yet, in a sense, the extreme has been the norm during Charlie Manuel’s tenure as manager.

What started out as a team centered on an extremely potent offense has slowly developed into a team based on pitching, with the most extreme pitching rotation in all of baseball.

The ace of that ace-filled rotation was good enough to win on opening day. However, for 7 innings, it seemed that the Phillies worst nightmare would come true. Could the offense really be so weak that it support the best pitching rotation in a generation?

It seemed that way, until the 9th.

That’s why the manufactured scoring was exhilarating and truly unexpected. The surprise was not the comeback itself. The shock and awe was in its delivery.

It was how Ryan Howard battled during his last at bat; to force a full count and then knocking one to centerfield for a base hit to move Jimmy Rollins to 2nd with no outs. It was how Ben Francisco, Carlos Ruiz, and Wilson Valdez all played within themselves to deliver big hits.

There was no over-swinging. There was no trying to hit the home run. There was no forced heroics. There was, however, good, professional at bats with the willingness to do what’s best for the team.

Unfortunately, for Roy Halladay, it came a three innings too late on Friday afternoon.

The fact is, though, that’s all this Phillies rotation will need from its offense in 2011.

Follow Timothy Parker on Twitter!

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