By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
PHILADELPHIA—After the New York Mets tied the game in the top of the ninth, Phillies pinch hitter Kevin Frandsen was hoping to just reach first base on a single or to get a ball in the gap for a double that would put him in scoring position.
With the Phillies on the verge of a monumental collapse after closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his third save opportunity of the week, Frandsen got a lot more than he was bargaining for and then some.
It was Frandsen’s walk-off home run off Mets reliever Carlos Torres in the bottom of the ninth that gave the Phillies 8-7 win over the New York Mets in a game the Phils thought they had wrapped up somewhere around the sixth inning.
“You get one chance,” Frandsen said. “I’m trying to get on base, you know that. You guys have seen my career numbers. I’m not a big home run hitter. Fortunately, I got a pitch to hit, I did something with it. Nine times out of 10, who knows what happens. That one time, I got him.”
For the first six innings, the Phillies had a 7-1 lead and it looked as if the competitive portion of the game was all but over.
Rookie Jonathan Pettibone was having a pretty good outing before hurting his back early in the seventh inning. He allowed just one while scattering five hits in six innings with a walk and two strikeouts.
Of course, the Phillies shaky bullpen gave this game more drama than it needed in the seventh inning. The pitching combination of Michael Stutes and Justin Da Fratus gave up four runs while allowing nine men to come to the plate to trim the lead to 7-5.
“I think we’re inexperienced. I like to see us be more aggressive where we attack hitters,” Manuel said. “I think we’re going to improve. It’s going to take a little while. They’ve got to get people out and improve their confidence.”
After Antonio Bastardo retired the Mets in order in the eighth, things fell apart in the top of the ninth. With one out, Mets second baseman Jordany Valdespin hit a home run to right off Papelbon to cut the Phillies lead to 7-6.
Mets third baseman David Wright reached on a fielding error by Michael Young. Papelbon then retired Marlon Byrd on a flyout to right fielder John Mayberry Jr.
With Wright running on the pitch, David Murphy hit a grounder to the spot vacated by shortstop Jimmy Rollins who was coming to cover second. The ball got past Rollins into left center field where Ben Revere inexplicably stepped in front of leftfielder Dom Brown to field the ball.
Taking advantage of Revere’s weak arm, Wright scored the tying run to force the Phillies to come to bat in the bottom of the ninth.
Without any fear of contradiction, it is safe to say that the man Phillies affectionately call the “Big Piece”-Ryan Howard-is back. At the very least, he’s dialed in.
In the last 10 games coming into this afternoon’s game against the Mets, Howard was batting .405 with six multi-hit games and seven runs batted in.
“It’s a long season,” Howard said. “I think people get so caught up in what it is you’re doing right now and you forget it’s 162 games. It comes when it comes. Over the course of the season, you’re going to have ups and downs and just about how you ride them out and just continue to work through it.”
Howard went 3-for-4 with four runs batted in with two home runs. Manuel had been saying throughout the season that Howard was going to eventually have one of those multi-hit, multi-home run games.
“He started getting more selective and started putting the fat part of the bat on the ball nice and easy,” Manuel said. “Usually when you do that, you get some timing. He did it and started do it consistently in games, especially against right-handers. You could see it today because he had good swings at the ball.”
The Phillies opened the scoring in the first inning on a singled by Howard to left scored Utley and Michael Young, who both reached singles and advanced to second and third on a passed ball.
In the top of the third, the Mets cut the deficit to 2-1 on an RBI fielder’s choice by Valdespin that scored shortstop Omar Quintanilla, who singled to begin the inning and advanced third base.
The Phils took a 4-1 lead on a solo homer to left center by Howard and an RBI single by Revere that scored Domonic Brown who reached on a double.
In the fifth, the Phillies got back to back home runs from Young and Howard. Revere, who was 2-for-4, scored the Phillies final run after he stole third and the throw from Mets catcher John Buck sailed over Wright’s head into left field.