Jayson Werth strode to the plate, with the opportunity to do some serious damage. In the first half-frame of Sunday's game against the Mets, the Phillies' first two batters had reached base. Jimmy Rollins had left off the game with a double, on the eighth pitch from Mets' starter Oliver Perez. Shane Victorino had followed with another eight pitch at bat, working the erratic Mets' hurler for a walk. In recent games, the Phillies had often struggled to convert these early opportunities into runs. Werth fouled off six consecutive Perez offerings, in another epic at bat. On the twelfth pitch to Werth, Perez tried a four-seam fastball. Werth drove the 90 MPH pitch into the stands in left, a tremendous blast that gave the Phils an early 3-0 advantage.
Carlos Ruiz was just hoping to turn the lineup over. Pedro Feliz had worked a two-out walk, and Eric Bruntlett, starting at second base to give Chase Utley the day off, followed with a seeing-eye single. Ruiz was the eighth Phillies' batter to face Oliver Perez in the first inning. Perez was laboring, and Ruiz would have been happy to take a walk. Perez' second pitch, an 89 MPH four-seam fastball, got a little too much of the plate. Ruiz deposited the pitch over the fence in left. The Phillies had two homers, in the span of six batters, at homer-unfriendly Citi Field. The embattled Perez threw three balls to the opposing pitcher, Pedro Martinez. The third ball, his forty-seventh pitch, was his last, as Mets' Manager Jerry Manuel had seen enough. Martinez went down on strikes, but the Phillies had taken a 6-0 lead, before the Mets could even bat.
Brad Lidge was in trouble. It certainly wasn't the first time he had encountered difficulties converting a save opportunity. However, this time, Lidge had been the unlucky victim of a series of unfortunate, defense-deficient, events. The Phillies' closer had entered the ninth inning with a 9-6 lead, and had induced routine ground balls to the first three batters. Ryan Howard turned the first grounder into a three-base error, and Eric Bruntlett had converted the second grounder into a run-scoring, one-base error. The third grounder seemed destined to be a 4-6 fielder's choice, but Bruntlett had muffed it into a single. With the lead down to 9-7, the tying run on first base, and still no outs, Lidge wondered what more he could have done. Phillies' fans hoped Eric Bruntlett would be replaced by Chase Utley's Golden Glove. With the runners off on the pitch, Lidge delivered a slider to the Mets' Jeff Francoeur. The Mets' outfielder hit a hard line drive up the middle...for a GAME-ENDING UNASSISTED TRIPLE PLAY BY ERIC BRUNTLETT!!
Bruntlett's game-ending play, only the fifteenth triplet killing in MLB history, and only the second to end a ballgame, might not have been the strangest of the game's unlikely events. It wasn't even the most unlikely event involving Eric Bruntlett. The weak-hitting (on his best days) utility player not only had THREE HITS IN THE SAME GAME, but he came within a reversed call of a four-hit game. The three hits elevated Bruntlett's season average to .154, and the unassisted triple play placed the scraggly infielder in the same exalted corner of Phillies' history as the inimitable Mickey Morandini.
Phils' starter Pedro Martinez, in his third start with the team, picked up the 216th regular season win of his memorable career. But the future HOFer didn't do anything to merit installment in an exalted corner of Phillies' history. He looked very good at times, but the overall stats were rather, well, Moyeresque. Six innings, seven hits, four runs- this is the type of unimpressive line that Moyer produced on a regular basis. The glimpses of the talented Martinez were overshadowed by the replacement level results. Martinez needs to do better. Fortunately, the offense provided enough for Martinez to win on Sunday.
The Phillies will send Cliff Lee to the mound on Monday afternoon, as they try to win three of four from the Mets. Given that Lee has been pitching like Pedro Martinez, circa 2005, and that Eric Bruntlett's hot bat and glove will be in the lineup again, another Phils' win seems likely.