Howard, Phillies rally to reach NLCS
Ryan Howard hit a two-run double with two outs in the ninth inning and scored on Jayson Werth’s single as Philadelphia rallied past the Colorado Rockies, 5-4, in Game 4 Monday night to reach the NL championship series.
Brad Lidge, bouncing back from a rugged regular season, earned his second consecutive save by again retiring cleanup batter Troy Tulowitzki with runners on second and first for the final out.
Tulowitzki, who flied out to conclude Game 3, struck out this time, and the Phillies celebrated on the infield at chilly Coors Field before retreating to the clubhouse to spray champagne.
Next, the World Series champions play Thursday night against Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium in an NLCS rematch from last season. This marked the fourth straight year that none of baseball’s first-round series went to a winner-take-all Game 5.
“These couple of games have been kind of character builders,” Howard said.
After Dexter Fowler’s hurdle of Utley sparked Colorado’s three-run rally in the eighth, Howard and the Phillies responded with a three-run rally against closer Huston Street.
Street was 35 of 37 on save chances this season, but took the loss in the ninth in Game 3 when he allowed Howard’s sacrifice fly to break a 5-all tie. He came in again to face the Phillies, and trouble ensued.
Jimmy Rollins singled with one out and Utley drew a two-out walk on a full count. Howard tied it with two strikes when he doubled up against the right-field wall and Werth followed with a soft single to right-center.
“We were a strike away from making a trip to Philadelphia,” lamented Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who went 74-42 after taking over from Clint Hurdle on May 29.
The Phillies, the NL’s best road team, swept both games at Coors Field, where the wild-card Rockies went 44-17 under Tracy’s tutelage.
The Rockies looked as if they were going to send the series back to Philadelphia when Yorvit Torrealba’s two-run double broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth. That came after Fowler scored the tying run on pinch-hitter Jason Giambi’s two-out single.
Fowler hurdled Utley, who stepped into the basepath to field Todd Helton’s slow grounder, and his quick flip to second base was wide and mishandled for an error by Rollins.
That put two on for Tulowitzki, and Ryan Madson relieved starter Cliff Lee in a double-switch that also brought in left fielder Ben Francisco to replace Raul Ibanez.
It paid an immediate dividend when Francisco raced in and made a diving catch of Tulowitzki’s bloop to left for the second out. But Francisco couldn’t get to Giambi’s single fast enough to keep Fowler from scoring the tying run from second base.
Then, Torrealba sent a two-run double to the gap in right-center for a 4-2 Rockies lead.
The Phillies led the National League in homers for the second straight season with a franchise-record 224 but they had only gone deep twice in this series before Shane Victorino sent a 99 mph fastball from Ubaldo Jimenez into the Rockies’ bullpen in the first. Werth sent an 85 mph changeup into the Phillies’ bullpen next door in the sixth for a 2-0 lead.
Those were the only runs Jimenez allowed in seven otherwise spectacular innings that included seven strikeouts and six hits. He left with the Rockies trailing, 2-1, through seven innings after throwing 126 pitches.
Lee, who gave up six hits in his complete game win in the series opener, allowed three runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings, and only one of the runs was earned. Lee repeatedly worked out of jams until the eighth.
The Rockies made it 2-1 in the sixth on Tulowitzki’s RBI double, but Tulowitzki was doubled up on Garrett Atkins’ sinking liner to third baseman Pedro Feliz.
“I’m sure they’re going to be back here in years to come because they’re good and they’re young,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of the Rockies.
Last updated: 11:45 am Thursday, December 13, 2012