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Philadelphia Phillies cite character, attitude as reasons for success

Jimmy Rollins puts the Phillies a game away from a repeat NL title with a winning two-run double in the ninth Monday.

Associated Press

Jimmy Rollins puts the Phillies a game away from a repeat NL title with a winning two-run double in the ninth Monday.

PHILADELPHIA — The rally started mildly, with Matt Stairs drawing a walk, and ended wildly, with a massive celebration after Jimmy Rollins' two-run double moments before midnight Monday completed a comeback for the ages.

But the roots of the dramatic 5-4 victory — which put the Phillies in position to clinch their second straight NL pennant as soon as tonight — go back much further.

Certainly to last October, when the Phillies say their confidence blossomed as they beat the Dodgers in the NLCS and the Rays in the World Series. And even three years ago, when they enabled their young players to assume leadership roles and encouraged them to immerse themselves in manager Charlie Manuel's play-for-the-moment mentality.

It takes resiliency, confidence, cockiness and — of course — good players. All traits the Rays and all other teams talk about having, but that the Phillies have shown the ability to put into action.

"Every team says that," reserve infielder Eric Bruntlett said, "but on this team everyone believes it."

Listen to Manuel explain, and he makes it sound so simple.

"We play the whole game," he said Tuesday. "We play 27 outs, we think we can win. We're never down, and that's a tribute to those guys. That's how we play. That's how we've been playing. We do it all the time. That's our thinking, every day's process."

No matter the score, the Phillies insist they are always looking for a way to come back. It usually starts around the seventh inning, Rollins said, when they'll assess the situation, reminding themselves a turnaround can start with just a few good at-bats, and to trust the next hitter to do the same: "You're not going to get yourself out." And Manuel will manage that way, too, making seemingly unnecessary pitching changes designed to keep the deficit manageable.

That's how it worked Monday, against overpowering Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth. Stairs walked with one out, Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch and after Greg Dobbs lined out, Rollins laced a double — on a 98.8 mph pitch that was the hardest he'd faced all season — into the rightfield gap, scoring pinch-runner Bruntlett and Ruiz.

How stunning was it? "Total excitement," Game 5 starter Cole Hamels said. "There's nothing else to explain."

How significant? It was only the third time in baseball's first 1,251 postseason games, according to ESPN, that a team one out away losing won with a walkoff extra-base hit.

All three, it turns out, have involved the Dodgers.

In the 1947 World Series, Yankees pitcher Bill Bevens was one out from a no-hitter and a 2-1 win but, having walked two, allowed a two-run double to Brooklyn pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto.

And in the 1988 Series opener, Kirk Gibson hit his famous two-run limp-around-the-bases homer off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley.

How does it happen?

"It's hard to answer that question," centerfielder Shane Victorino said. "I think there's two parts to that. One, being the manager that Charlie is, you give him credit for letting us go out and play. And two, I think the individual characters on this team."

"It really does show the type of personalities we do have," Hamels said. "We're very free and easy, but we know what to do and we know how to get the job done when it really matters."

As much as the Phillies talk about what it takes to stage these type of dramatic rallies, as they did twice in the division series at Colorado, the reality is they're not exactly sure how they do it, either.

"If we sat down and figured it out," Stairs said, "then we probably wouldn't do it anymore."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Philadelphia Phillies cite character, attitude as reasons for success 10/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 10:06pm]
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