Phillies’ Shane Victorino, right, celebrates before touching home plate after hitting a grand slam. Waiting at the plate is teammate Pedro Feliz.AP photo
PHILADELPHIA — As his bases-loaded blast soared high over the left field wall and changed the whole direction of the night, Shane Victorino couldn’t help thinking it all seemed a little surreal.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, it was.
Victorino unloaded the first grand slam in Phillies’ postseason history, Brett Myers turned into a bulldog Thursday and the Phillies battered Milwaukee and the great C.C. Sabathia in a 5-2 victory that left them with a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five National League Divisional Series.
“Excitement,” is what Victorino said he felt while watching his slam break an early 1-1 tie. “When I first hit it, I said, ‘Did that really just happen?’”
Pinch the Phillies all you want, but it’s really no dream.
They’ll send Jamie Moyer to the mound at Milwaukee for Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. Game 3 in hopes of clinching a spot in next week’s National League Championship Series for the first time since 1993.
“First of all, this thing ain’t over yet,” Brewers interim manager Dale Sveum said. “We get to go home now. It’s one game at a time. These guys had their back up against the wall seven days ago and they came through in flying colors. So I’ve been there and I’ve seen it happen before.”
Except, it wasn’t supposed to happen to the Brewers again.
They sent their ace Sabathia to the mound in hopes of dousing the Phillies’ playoff fever. Instead, he ignited it.
Looking little like the pitcher who went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA after the Brewers obtained him at the All-Star break, the 6-foot-7 Sabathia surrendered back-to-back doubles to Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz to tie the score in the second inning. Then with two outs, Sabathia engaged in a tug of war with opposing pitcher Myers, who coaxed a walk in a nine-pitch at-bat after falling in an 0-2 hole.
“I was just caught up in the moment,” said Myers, who drew an appreciative roar from a record crowd of 46,208 fans at Citizens Bank Park for his stubbornness with the stick. “I wasn’t trying to be a hero in that situation. I was just trying to work him.”
Phillies leadoff man Jimmy Rollins followed the example, drawing another walk from Sabathia to fill the bases. Then Victorino sent the stadium into bedlam with a rocket into the stands, his first career slam that paved the path for Philadelphia’s 2-0 series lead.
“I was able to put a good swing on it,” Victorino said. “I didn’t change my approach at all. I tried to stay aggressive. It’s definitely big and nice to get that win off him (Sabathia). He’s been great for their team. Since they got him at the All-Star break, he’s been lights out.”
On the mound, Myers turned the night dark for Milwaukee.
The Brewers broke through against him in the first, when Myers struggled with an early stint of wildness. He issued his third walk of the frame to J.J. Hardy with the bags jammed, forcing home Ray Durham with a 1-0 Milwaukee lead.
But Myers escaped further danger by inducing Corey Hart’s bouncer right back to him, starting an inning-ending home-to-first double play.
“I wasn’t planning on jerking him right there,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, acknowledging some concern over Myers’ early struggles. “He had some leeway.”
But Myers pulled the strings the rest of the way.
He allowed just two hits and two runs through his seven innings of work, while retiring 19 of the final 21 batters he faced.
“First inning, I had a lot of emotion going through me,” Myers said. “The crowd was a little excitable. I let that get the best of me. I gave them an opportunity in the first inning. I just tried to relax myself a little bit. I was able to do that after the first.”
“Myers battled,” Victorino said.
So did his teammates.
Victorino also had two of the Phillies’ six doubles, which matched a team postseason record first established against Cincinnati in 1976. He also stole two of the Phillies’ four bases, which equaled a NLDS record held by four other teams.
Jayson Werth, dropped to the sixth spot in the batting order while Victorino moved up to his No. 2 spot, added two doubles and Jimmy Rollins also had two hits.
“We’ve still got one big one left,” Victorino said.
After knocking one big one down.
“Today was me not being able to finish innings, finish at-bats,” Sabathia said. “They made me work. So you can blame this loss squarely on me.”