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Howard, Ibanez hit grand slams in Phillies' wild win over Nationals


Howard, Ibanez hit grand slams in Phillies' wild win over Nationals
Raul Ibanez said he felt like he was floating.

And why wouldn't he? The leftfielder had just smashed a grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning to give the Phillies their latest-come-from-behind victory - this time, a 13-11 heart-stopper over the Nationals - and as he trotted out to his place in the outfield for the top of the ninth, all of Citizens Bank Park erupted into what is becoming a familiar and defining chant.

Ra-oooooooooooooo-lll. quot;I'm definitely appreciative of that,quot; Ibanez said. quot;It was a great feeling to help out the club and the fans were great. I could barely feel the ground when I was running back to the outfield.quot;

It was a night filled with home runs and curtain calls, of leads seized and leads blown, and at the front of it all was a middle-of-the-order that has carried the Phillies throughout the first 18 games of this season.

Ibanez and first baseman Ryan Howard drove in eight of the team's 13 runs on a pair of grand slams, the first time two Phillies have hit bases-loaded home runs in a game since Sept. 9, 2003, when Tomas Perez and Jason Michaels did it against Atlanta.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel likes to call nights like these - mid-80s with a light breeze - quot;hitting weather,quot; and the meteorological conditions lived up to their designation.

The two teams combined for 24 runs, 26 hits and seven home runs.

With closer Brad Lidge sidelined due to inflammation in his knee - a postgame revelation whose impact will outlive the fireworks of last night - Manuel was forced to put lefthander Scott Eyre into a tie game in the eighth inning in order to save normal setup man Ryan Madson for the ninth. Eyre has been reliable since the Phillies acquired him in a trade last August, but he struggled mightily last night, failing to retire any of the five batters he faced while allowing a pair of gargantuan two-run homers to Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn.

Eyre had inherited a tie game thanks in large part to Howard's grand slam in the fifth inning, which tied the game at 6-6. It was Howard's sixth career grand slam, and it - like all of the other homers last night - left no doubt, disappearing into the shrubbery behind the fence in centerfield.

The Nationals and Phillies swapped runs in the sixth - righthander Clay Condrey pitched 1 1/3 pivotal innings of relief after Jack Taschner loaded the bases - leaving the feeling that whichever team scored last would claim the win.

After Eyre allowed homers to Johnson and Dunn and the Nationals took an 11-7 lead, it appeared Washington would be that team.

But as they have done all season, the Phillies rallied. Jimmy Rollins' one-out double to the gap in right-center put runners on second and third and set up a sacrifice fly by Shane Victorino that cut the Nationals' lead to three runs. Chase Utley then singled home Rollins, and after Joel Hanrahan walked Howard and Jayson Werth, Ibanez stepped to the plate.

quot;I was looking for a fastball, not trying to do too much,quot; Ibanez said.

But he did a lot, sending a fastball screaming to the left of the foul pole in rightfield and sending the stadium into a frenzy.

quot;I saw him play when he was in the American League,quot; said Manuel, who managed the Indians before coming to Philadelphia. quot;I've seen him have some good nights against the Cleveland Indians. I've seen him hit balls hard.quot;

Ibanez' grand slam was his sixth home run this season and gave him 16 RBI.

The Phillies needed all of those runs, thanks to shaky pitching.

After striking out the side in the first inning, righthander Joe Blanton went on to retire just 10 of the next 21 batters he faced, only one of them by strikeout.

By the fourth inning, Manuel's confidence in Blanton had eroded and he pulled the starter with one out, despite the fact that the pitcher's spot was due to lead off the bottom half of the frame.

Blanton allowed three homers in 4 1/3 innings. Phillies starters have allowed 28 home runs in 18 starts.

quot;It looks to me like those balls are on the good part of the plate,quot; Manuel said. quot;Those balls went a pretty good ways. I think when they hit balls that far, they are getting to swing freely at the ball.quot;

But the lasting memory will be Ibanez' blast, not to mention the chants that filled the stands afterwards. *


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 28, 2009

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