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News » Stairs smacks another game-winner as Phillies beat Rockies

Stairs smacks another game-winner as Phillies beat Rockies

Stairs smacks another game-winner as Phillies beat Rockies
DENVER - It isn't easy to sit on the bench for eight innings, then head to the batting cage for a few swings, and then head to a batter's box to face a pitcher whose sole job is to retire hitters in key, late-inning situations. It isn't easy to face a guy who knows you are swinging for the fences because, hey, that's how you've done it for the last 15 years.In other words, it isn't as easy as Matt Stairs has made it look since joining the Phillies in August of last season."He amazes me because I had that job for 5 or 6 years," said manager Charlie Manuel, who hit .164 in 146 pinch-hit at-bats during his major league career. "That's a tough job to do."The decision to keep Stairs on the roster this season paid its first major dividend yesterday as the veteran lefthanded slugger belted a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to give the Phillies a 7-5 win over the Rockies.In hindsight, Stairs' presence on this year's team might have been a given, considering his performance in nearly the exact type of situation he faced at Coors Field. His blast off Rockies closer Huston Street was his fourth pinch-hit home run in 24 at-bats for the Phillies , including his monstrous, tiebreaking two-run shot against the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.As Manuel said later: "That's why Stairs is on our team, man.

Stairs is amazing. Absolutely unreal."While yesterday's home run paled in comparison to the one at Dodger Stadium last October in terms of both power and magnitude, it still carried a significant amount of both.Thanks to a 48-pitch first inning in which righthander Chan Ho Park allowed four runs, the Phillies appeared to be in danger of losing their first two series of the season and falling to 2-4. Although a base hit by Raul Ibanez that ricocheted off the backside of Rockies starter Aaron Cook in the top of the second pushed Ryan Howard home, Colorado moved its lead back to four runs in the bottom of the frame on a Dexter Fowler home run.Jayson Werth drove in runs with hits in the fourth and sixth innings, but the Phillies nevertheless entered the eighth trailing by two runs.That's when the Phillies , who have scored 18 of their 31 runs this season in the seventh inning or later, again displayed their propensity for come-from-behind victories. After Shane Victorino led off with a single, Chase Utley knocked a two-run homer off Rockies righthander Manny Corpas. Not only did it tie the game at 5-5, but it improved Utley's batting average through six games to .476."I was trying to hit the ball hard in that situation," said Utley, who scored three runs and continued to show zero ill effects from offseason hip surgery. "I wasn't trying to hit a home run, just hit the ball hard."He didn't, however, hit the ball as hard as Stairs did. Just ask Park, who watched the veteran's epic home run in last October's NLCS while standing in the Dodgers' bullpen."It was like deja vu ," said Park, who lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, in his first start since signing with the Phillies in the offseason.The deja vu actually started back in the seventh, with Rockies righthander Jason Grilli on the mound and lefthander Alan Embree warming in the bullpen. With one out and Pedro Feliz on second, Manuel knew that if he sent a lefthander to pinch-hit for the pitcher's spot, Colorado manager Clint Hurdle likely would call on Embree, forcing Manuel to replace the lefthanded pinch-hitter with righthander Eric Bruntlett. He had two options: burn Greg Dobbs, the team's top pinch-hitter, or Stairs.He chose Dobbs, who walked to the batter's box, then walked back to the dugout when the Rockies called on Embree. Although Bruntlett lined out to leftfield and the Phillies failed to score in the inning, the decision to save Stairs would prove to be a prudent one."We were trying to get back in the game," Manuel said. "We were trying to win it, but at the same time, I knew Stairs was going to get another at-bat because of where Dobbs was going to hit. I held Stairs back in case we needed a home run."The Phillies didn't necessarily need a home run when Stairs walked to the plate with one out in the ninth. Feliz had begun the frame by dropping a double inside the leftfield line. Chris Coste then moved him to third, getting a bunt down on a pitch that nearly hit him and putting it down the third-base line. That meant Stairs needed only a sacrifice fly to push the go-ahead run home."I just didn't want to make an idiot [of myself] and roll it over to second base," he said afterward.After taking a pitch for a ball and one for a strike, Stairs was looking for a changeup. Street, after all, had struck him out on a changeup the night before and had started out yesterday's at-bat with a changeup/fastball combination. Instead, the righthander delivered a fastball, which Stairs quickly adjusted to."It's the same way in batting practice: I try to hit every ball as far as I can," he said. "You ask anyone on this team. That's the same approach I have. Stay under control and wait for it. And I was lucky tonight, because I sat on a different pitch and reacted."Stairs' homer landed in the visitors' bullpen behind the wall in right-centerfield, giving the Phillies their first back-to-back wins of the season and evening their record at 3-3. Closer Brad Lidge earned the save - his second of the season and 46th straight in regular-season games going back to 2007 - and the Phillies headed off to winless Washington with momentum.Stairs, meanwhile, left Colorado with another chapter in his legacy."They're all special," said Stairs, who has 15 pinch-hit home runs in his career. "Especially tonight, when it's a pinch-hit home run that gives you the game-winner." *For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 13, 2009

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