The Fightin’ Phils showed up on a rainy night at Citizens Bank Park, using the longball to rally from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game late, and then a walkoff hit from Darin Ruf in the bottom of the 9th to register a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
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Closer Jonathan Papelbon (1-0) picked up his first win of the season after pitching a perfect top of the 9th, including striking out a pair of batters in what continues to be an excellent season from the man whose time appears to be running out in Phillies pinstripes.
Paps was the 5th Phillies hurler of the night, as starter Sean O’Sullivan turned in yet another mediocre effort. The righty lasted 5.2 innings during which he was rocked for 9 hits, including 4 doubles, and allowed 4 earned runs. He walked one and struck out one as well.
Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, and Luis Garcia all then tossed shutout innings, a rare occurrence in this season, allowing the team a chance to rally from the deficit into which O’Sullivan had sunk them. And rally they would.
Reds’ ace starter Johnny Cueto, a pending free agent who has been the subject of nearly as many trade rumors as Phils’ lefty Cole Hamels, was making his first start in nearly two weeks after battling a sore elbow. Cueto went 6 solid innings, allowing just 5 hits and no walks while striking out 4 batters. He left with a 4-1 lead, but his bullpen couldn’t hold it in the end.
Let’s back up to the start, where the two teams swapped runs early. The Reds got to O’Sullivan right away, with Brandon Phillips leading off the game with a single and then coming around to score when Joey Votto followed with an RBI double.
The Phils’ tied it in their half of the 2nd. Maikel Franco started it when he led off by reaching on an error by Reds’ 3rd baseman Todd Frazier. Cody Asche followed with a double, moving Franco to 3rd, and then Odubel Herrera grounded to first, scoring Franco with the tying run.
The Reds got the lead right back with a solo run in the top of the 3rd, and it was again Phillips and Votto doing the damage. The former led off with a double, and scored on an RBI single by the latter to make it 2-1. In the top of the 4th, back-to-back doubles by Marlon Byrd and Zack Cozart made it 3-1, with Cozart scoring later in the inning on a sacrifice bunt by Billy Hamilton, pushing the Reds lead out to 4-1.
The Phillies got one back in the bottom of the 6th when the suddenly surging Chase Utley led off by ripping a solo homer off Cueto to make it 4-2. The Phils’ veteran 2nd baseman has raised his average nearly 100 points in the last few weeks, and is finally over the ‘Mendoza Line’, hitting .207 by the end of the night.
Reds skipper Bryan Price turned the game over to his bullpen after the 6th, and Ryan Mattheus gave him a clean inning to keep their lead into the 8th. In the bottom of the 8th, the Phils gained the tie off new reliever Jumbo Diaz. Again it was the longball, as Franco crushed a 2-run bomb deep into the left field seats, tying the game at 4-4.
That set the stage for the 9th inning dramatics. After Papelbon took care of business in the top, the Reds brought on Tony Cingrani (0-2) for the bottom. Herrera immediately greeted him with a double and Carlos Ruiz sacrificed him to 3rd base, putting the winning run 90 feet away.
At this point, Phils’ manager Ryne Sandberg turned to Ruf as a pinch-hitter for Papelbon’s spot in the order. The big righty delivered, fighting off a pitch and dumping a single into right field to score Herrera with the game-winner. The Phils mobbed one another at the plate, perhaps as much out of relief for the end of their frustrating 7-game losing skid as much as anything else.
The two teams will be back in action on Wednesday night with a 7:05pm start down in soggy South Philly. It will be Cole Hamels (5-4) taking the mound to continue his trade auditions, taking on Cincy’s Mike Leake (2-4) at Citizens Bank Park.