It appeared as if the clock was about to strike midnight on the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies worst-to-first Cinderella season. After splitting the first two games in Toronto, the Blue Jays had won the next two games at Veteran’s Stadium to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the World Series.
In Game Three, the Jays’ powerful lineup had laid waste to the Phillies, demolishing them by a 10-3 final. But what happened in Game Four was even more debilitating to the Phils’ collective spirit.
After the Blue Jays scored three times in the top of the first off Tommy Greene, the Phillies bats decided that they were not going to let Toronto run away and hide again, answering with four of their own off Jays’ starter Todd Stottlemyre.
Through four innings, the Phillies led 8-7 in what was developing as a slugfest. Little did the fans that night at The Vet know, they hadn’t seen anything yet. Over the next three innings, the Phils powered their way to a 6-2 advantage, taking an overall lead of 14-9 on the scoreboard.
Up by five runs going to the top of the 8th inning, the Phillies were just six outs away from tying the World Series at 2-2. And then the Blue Jays’ bats, silent for most of the previous four innings, finally awoke, and with a vengeance.
Toronto scored six times in that top of the 8th to re-take the lead at 15-14. Just as suddenly, perhaps demoralized by the unrelenting pressure, the Phillies’ bats went silent and scoreless. ESPN would rank this 9th on their “10 Greatest World Series Games” list. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they ended up on the losing end, and so entered Game Five needing to win just to stay alive.
Phillies’ manager Jim Fregosi would send Game One loser Curt Schilling to the mound, where he would be facing off in a rematch with Toronto’s Juan Guzman. In that series opener at SkyDome, Schilling had been staked to leads of 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3, but he was unable to hold any of them.
During the 2013 regular season, the 26-year old power righty had finally begun to emerge as the big-time starting pitcher that he would become over the next decade or so. He led the Phillies’ staff with 34 starts, 7 complete games, 235.1 innings, and 186 strikeouts in what was the second of nine seasons in red pinstripes.
On the exact 13th anniversary of the only World Series championship clincher in Phillies’ franchise history, Schilling would deliver the next chapter in our TBOH Phillies Fall Classics series.
On a damp, unseasonably mild night in South Philly, Schilling was in command almost from start to finish. He would get in a bit of a jam in the top of the 8th innings, but pitched his way out of it. Almost single-handedly, he would will the Phillies back into this series.
With their young ace firing on all cylinders, it was up to the Phils’ offense to find a way to get to Guzman. In the bottom of the 1st, they manufactured a run for an early lead. Lenny Dykstra, the team catalyst all season, led off with a walk and then took off to steal 2nd base. When Toronto catcher Pat Borders threw the ball away, Dykstra ended up on 3rd. He would score one batter later on a ground out by John Kruk, and the Phillies had a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Darren Daulton led off with a double into the left center gap, and came around on a two-out RBI double off the bat of rookie shortstop Kevin Stocker. That lead held, and held, and held, as Schilling and Guzman battled into the 8th with that same 2-0 sitting on the scoreboard.
In that top of the 8th, the Jays’ bats, held to just three scattered hits and three walks to that point by Schilling, finally got to him. It was the bottom of the order that got the big righty in trouble, as Borders and Rob Butler each singled to start things off. Jays’ skipper Cito Gaston had sent speedy Willie Canate in to pinch-run for Borders, and he had zipped to third base on Butler’s hit.
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Now the top of the order came up in the form of future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. With runners at first and third and nobody out, Henderson grounded back towards Schilling with Canate breaking for the plate. Schilling quickly threw home to Daulton, and Canate was caught in a rundown, Daulton exchanged throws with 3rd baseman Dave Hollins, and Canate was out at the plate.
Schilling still had the tying runs on base. But he first struck out veteran center fielder Devon White swinging, and then got another future Hall of Famer, 2nd baseman Roberto Alomar, on a grounder to Phils’ 2nd baseman Mariano Duncan to end the threat.
In the top of the 9th, with the score still just 2-0 in favor of the Phillies, the Blue Jays would send a trio of dangerous hitters to the plate. With Schilling already having thrown more than 130 pitches, Fregosi chose to try to ride his big horse all the way home.
Schilling began by getting Joe Carter on a fly ball to short center field that was handled easily by Duncan. Then he retired John Olerud on an easy grounder to short, Stocker firing to 1st baseman Kruk for the second out. The last chance for Toronto was yet another future Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor, and Schilling got him to punch a liner to Dykstra for the final out of the ball game.
The Phillies had cut the Toronto Blue Jays lead in the World Series down to 3-2. They were back in the series, but were still kicking themselves over the big blown 8th inning lead a day earlier. Had they put that one away, they would now lead the series. Instead, despite this Schilling gem, the Jays would go home to Toronto just a win away from a 2nd consecutive world championship.
These never-say-die Phillies would not simply shrink away in that Game Six, and would in fact take a lead into the bottom of the 9th. However, as every baseball fan now knows, Joe Carter beat Mitch Williams, and Toronto beat the Phillies in the World Series.
But before that happened, Curt Schilling delivered the first in what would be a career full of memorable postseason performances that may some day help him become the only member of that wonderful 1993 Phillies team to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame.