Welcome to the end of an era, as I reach deep into my treasure chest of Philadelphia Phillies scorecards and pull out the final one, this time from a game played 20 years ago today during the last weeks of Veterans Stadium between the Phils and Florida (not yet Miami) Marlins on September 16, 2003. This will be a fun one to end on.
It's a Tuesday night in September, and the Phillies and Marlins are among the teams embroiled in hot pursuit of the National League Wild Card. This matchup features Carl Pavano on the mound for the Marlins, while Vicente Padilla takes the Phils' hill. And after Vicente retires the Marlins in order in the top of the first, the Phils jump all over Pavano immediately.
Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins each single to lead off the bottom of the first, and they're both brought home by a Mike Lieberthal single a few batters later to open the scoring. Then, Chase Utley plates another run with a double, and a Pat Burrell RBI groundout extends the lead to 4-0 by the end of the first inning. The rout is on.
Padilla continues to mow down the Marlins' lineup, which includes the potent leadoff combo of Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo, future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, and a baby-faced third baseman named MIguel Cabrera. It's still 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth, when Jimmy Rollins triples to right field to make it a 5-0 game. A few more scoreless frames from Padilla brings us to the bottom of the sixth, when Pavano is finally lifted with one out in the inning. Two batters later, Jim Thome launches a home run to right field, and it's 7-0 Phils.
But Padilla continues to be the story, ultimately tossing one of the best outings of his career by going eight scoreless innings, allowing five hits and no walks, and striking out six Marlins. With the Phillies comfortably ahead in the bottom of the eighth, Ricky Ledee pinch hits for him to lead off the inning, and it starts a barrage. Rollins and Bobby Abreu each collect RBI hits to make it 9-0, and the Phils then load the bases after that. Up to the dish steps Mike Lieberthal, and it's salami time. Lieby yanks one deep to left to make it a 13-0 game. He's tied his career high with 6 RBI in the game. Tomas Perez adds further insult to injury later in the inning with an RBI double to cap the scoring at 14-0. Carlos Silva, who I always confused with Padilla anyway, tosses a scoreless ninth inning, and the Phils win by two touchdowns. It's the final time they ever reach double digit runs scored in a game at the Vet, for what it's worth, and the last real blowout (winning by more than four runs) that they put up there.
I will conveniently ignore the fact that the Phillies went 3-8 over the remainder of the season after this game, finishing third in the Wild Card standings, which the Marlins won en route to a surprising World Series victory that year. Let's just enjoy what happened 20 years ago today before a raucous Veterans Stadium crowd of over 36,000 and leave it at that.
And that's all she wrote, folks. It's been my pleasure to take you on these dives into semi-recent Phillies history (here they all are, for the record) over the past five seasons. Thank you for indulging this passion of mine, and never forget to celebrate the history of the Phillies or whatever team you root for in basically any sport (unless it's the Cowboys or some garbage). When you're a fan, it becomes part of your identity. So whether you bust out some old scorecards, take a look at photos of days gone by, or just think back to the formative times of your love of sports, I hope that all those memories always bring a smile to your face. Despite all the aggravation that the Phillies have caused me for 30+ years, I'm proud to say that I've also loved every second of it. With any luck, we will all have cause for celebration as Phillies fans for many years to come. Keep those high hopes.