Sep 28, 2011, 11:42 PM EDT
Should they fail to capture another World Championship this year, 102 wins will be nothing more than a consolation prize, but by virtue of that total, the Phillies have already ensured 2011 will be remembered as a special season.
With a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in 13 innings, the Fightins have once again soared to new heights, setting a franchise record for regular season success, and eliminating their division rival from playoff contention in the process.
And the icing on the cake? Charlie Manuel shares a personal milestone with the club’s milestone, surpassing Gene Mauch as the organization’s all-time winningest manager on the same night.
While it took Mauch nine seasons to reach 645 wins, Charlie eclipsed
that in just seven during this unprecedented era.
Congratulations are in order to a manager who has earned the right to be
called the best in franchise history.
Atlanta led the game for much of the night, but closer Craig Kimbrel couldn’t finish the job in the ninth. The rookie entered with 46 saves for the season, but he only managed one out while loading the bases on a single and two walks. Chase Utley tied the score with a sac fly, bringing across Pete Orr, who was running for Placido Polanco after the third basemen led off the inning with a base hit.
The Phillies bullpen kept the game knotted up long enough for Hunter Pence to hit the game winner in the top of the 13th.
After drawing a free pass, Brian Schneider was on the move with the count full and two outs when Utley slapped one past a diving Dan Uggla, advancing the runner to third. Atlanta opted to pitch to Pence with second base open and Michael Martinez on deck, and the right fielder nubbed an infield bloop between second and first that left the defense no chance for a play.
As impressive as 102 wins are though, the Phillies have more baseball ahead.
Unlike the Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals took care of their business on Wednesday night, defeating the Houston Astros 8-0 to secure the Wild Card berth. They earned the right to face Philadelphia in the NLDS, which begins on Saturday.
While the regular season achievements are ultimately meaningless to most fans, there should be genuine enthusiasm about how they finished. They could have packed it in at any point tonight, but instead they fought back from a deficit, as they so often do, and took their opponent to the limit.
In fact, any discussion of a late season collapse looks to have been premature. The Phillies ended on a high note, taking a road sweep against a desperate ball club that needed every one of these games.
Let’s hope they are ready to make even more history.
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