Phillies rally in 9th to reach NLCS

Bring on the Dodgers!
DENVER - October 12, 2009

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 on Monday to reach the NL championship series.

Brad Lidge, bouncing back from a ragged regular season, earned his second consecutive save by again retiring cleanup batter Troy Tulowitzki with runners on first and second for the final out.

Tulowitzki, who flied out to end 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.

"I can't see and it hurts," Howard said. "But it hurts good."

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. "This is just step two of where we're trying to get to."

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 of their own against closer Huston Street.

Street was 35 of 37 on save chances this season, but took the loss in Game 3 when he allowed Howard's tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the ninth.

"We had gotten to Huston Street the night before, so we knew we had a shot to make some things happen," Howard said.

Colorado had lost just once all season when leading after eight innings, and Street started the ninth with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs.

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 to the right-field wall. 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 when Clint Hurdle was fired 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.

"We stood toe to toe with the defending world champions," Street said. "I take full responsibility for there not being a Game 5 and not keeping us alive."

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-all 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 right and mishandled for an error by Rollins.

"That was a football play," Rollins said. "That was like jumping over a defender trying to get to the end zone, and he made it."

Fowler, one of several promising rookies on the Rockies, said it was an instinctive move.

"I saw Utley coming, I saw the ball and I thought, 'Don't get tagged out.' I think I was going too fast for me to stop, so I just kept it going," Fowler said.

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 right-center for a 4-2 Rockies lead.

"No one got rattled and no one was worried," Werth said. "Going back to '07, we got swept by the Rockies and I think everybody learned a lesson. Everybody knew what we had to do."

With a crowd just shy of 50,000 going crazy, the Phillies bounced right back.

"Losing a game like this is tough," Helton said. "We showed a lot of heart out there today, the whole season for that matter. Tough way to go out."

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 strong innings that included seven strikeouts and six hits. He left trailing 2-1 after throwing 126 pitches, one shy of his career high.

Lee, who pitched a six-hitter to win the series opener, allowed three runs - one earned - and five hits in 7 1-3 innings. He repeatedly worked out of jams until the eighth.

The Rockies had hoped to rely on the resilience that helped them overcome an 18-28 start under Hurdle to finish with a franchise-best record of 92-70. They sent right-hander Aaron Cook ahead to Philadelphia on Monday morning to rest up for a Game 5, but he'll fly home instead.

The Rockies made it 2-1 in the sixth on an RBI double by Tulowitzki, but he was doubled up on Garrett Atkins' low liner to third baseman Pedro Feliz.

At 45-29, the Rockies posted the best second-half record in the National League, but they missed out on a chance to win the NL West and secure home-field advantage when they lost at Los Angeles on the next-to-last day of the season. Jorge De La Rosa, whose 16 wins after June 1 were tops in baseball, strained his groin in that game and was shelved for the series against Philadelphia.

"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.

His team is good and seasoned - and moving on.

NOTES: The Phillies are 50-33 on the road and 6-2 in their last eight road playoff games. ... Philadelphia won last year's NLCS in five games. ... Torrealba has 15 career postseason hits, one more than Kaz Matsui for most in Rockies history. ... Carlos Gonzalez's 10 hits tied a Rockies division series record set by Dante Bichette. ... It was 48 degrees after Game 3 was played in the mid-20s.

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