Pence recovers quickly to spark Phillies' win
PHOENIX – Hunter Pence had a Kirk Gibson moment with Kirk Gibson in the other dugout.
Pence couldn’t lift his left arm above his head on Monday night. He had hurt his shoulder diving for a ball in San Diego the day before and was forced to sit out Monday’s game. Conventional wisdom suggested that there was no way he would play Tuesday. After all, he was scheduled to have an MRI that morning.
By now you know that Pence surprised everyone – even manager Charlie Manuel – in being ready to play Tuesday night. Back in the lineup, Pence was a difference-maker, swatting a two-run home run in the fourth inning that got the Phillies’ offense cooking and headed to an 8-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks (see Salisbury's Instant Replay)
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak.
“We needed a game where we got a good lead and sustained it the whole game,” Laynce Nix said.
Pence reported to the ballpark early in the afternoon and told Manuel he thought he could go. Manuel told him to test his shoulder in the batting cage.
“I felt good swinging,” Pence said. “I really felt in my gut I was ready. If I’m good to play, I’m going to be out there.”
Even though his shoulder felt better when he awakened Tuesday morning, Pence had the MRI anyway. It showed a bruise, but the inflammation had dissipated. Plenty of athletes have had big games after getting up off trainer’s table. (In Pence’s case, he went from the MRI tube to the spotlight.) One of the best examples is Gibson, who smacked a pinch-hit, game-winning home run on one leg (he was suffering from knee and hamstring injuries) for the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Gibson, of course, is the D’backs’ manager.
Pence’s homer was one of several big hits in support of Vance Worley, who held Arizona to a run over six innings for his second win of the roadtrip.
Ty Wigginton had a double in the fourth, raising his hitting streak to 10 games, and that was followed by a two-run homer by Nix. Later in the game, reserve infielder Pete Orr, getting a start at second, rocked a bases-loaded triple and Shane Victorino homered for the second straight game.
“I’ve been waiting for us to get some hits and we did,” Manuel said. “We hit some balls hard. The game seemed better, didn’t it?”
The Phils actually have 11 extra-bases hits in the last two games. Three of them came in the ninth inning Monday night when they rallied for five runs after being down, 9-0. The Phils lost that game, 9-5, but the ninth-inning rally helped build some momentum heading into Tuesday’s game. Before that five-run ninth-inning Monday, the Phils had been held to just two runs in 26 innings.
“I really think [Monday night] helped,” Orr said. “It gave us some confidence. It’s that old saying – hitting is contagious. I, for sure, think it carried over.”
It didn’t hurt that the Phils were facing a struggling pitcher. Josh Collmenter carried a 10.22 ERA into the game and allowed nine hits and six runs.
Jimmy Rollins had none of those hits. Manuel’s choice as Chase Utley’s replacement in the No. 3 hole is 3 for 33 on the roadtrip, hitting .229 overall, and looking very much like a candidate for a day off Wednesday. Rollins has just two extra-base hits and three RBIs in 70 at-bats. In 11 at-bats, Orr has three extra-base hits and three RBIs.
Manuel would not reveal any lineup secrets for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale. Will Orr play second again with Freddy Galvis getting a day at shortstop?
Manuel said he would think about the lineup when he returned to the team hotel.
“It’s nice of you guys to give me suggestions,” he told reporters.