Well, I can’t say that I’m surprised about the sixth inning skirmish of Friday night’s game between the Phillies and Giants. I can say, however, that I’m somewhat surprised it took this long for an HBO pay-per-view type incident. Now the Phillies and Giants haven’t reached the hatred level of the Hatfields and McCoys, but it’s clear to see there’s no love, like or toleration between the clubs.
The tensions had been boiling for a while, going back to last year’s NLCS. In Game 6, Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez hit Chase Utley on his upper back in a 2-2 game in the third. The ball bounced off Utley and while heading down to first base, Utley took the ball off a hop and flipped it back to Sanchez. Sanchez didn’t take too kindly to Utley’s flip. The two engaged in a quarrell. Benches emptied, but with a pennant on the line cooler heads thankfully prevailed.
Now as we fast forward to Friday night, or fight night. Reasons are unclear what exactly was the tipping point for the bench clearer. The Giants were very unhappy that Jimmy Rollins stole second with the Phillies up six runs in the top of the sixth. San Francisco apparently didn’t take too kindly to Victorino’s bat flip after connecting for a home run in the fourth. And the fact that the Giants were getting their breakfast, lunch and dinner handed to them likely factored in as well.
Here’s the rundown: Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez drilled Victorino square in the lower back (Giants catcher Eli Whiteside called for a fastball inside; clearly that somewhat too far inside). Victorino started walking to mound to get some answers, but Whiteside cut off Victorino. Placido Polanco rushed in to come to Victorino’s defense, but then was wrapped up and tackled by Whiteside, and the party started.
Predictably, Victorino was a man on a mission attempting every which way but loose to get after anyone in orange and black, particularly Ramirez. Victorion, incensed, pushed home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski out of the way several times in an attempt to shake free and help is teammates in the fracas. At one point, Victorino was able to escape the grasp of Phillies hitting coach Greg Gross and re-enter the melee in which he unintentionally tackle Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens in an effor to aid Carlos Ruiz who was down near the bottom of the pile in all the action. Ramirez, Whiteside and Victorino were all ejected from the game and will await to hear of impending suspensions.
Okay, so on to the game now.
Not to be overshadowed by the fight is another terrific outing by Vance Worley, who won his sixth consecutive decision. The righty went seven innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and striking out six. The Phillies gave Worley and relievers Michael Stutes and David Herndon plenty of run suppor to play with. Philadelphia plated nine runs on 13 hits. Every Phillie starter had at least one hit, including Worley. Polanco, Victorino, Hunter Pence and John Mayberry (starting at first base for Ryan Howard) each had two hits.
The Phillies opened the flood gates with four runs on four hits in the top of the fourth. Victorino tied the game 1-1 with one-out solo homer. After singles by Chase Utley and Hunter Pence, Raul Ibanez’s RBI fielder’s choice gave the Phillies the slight advantage, 2-1. The very next batter, Mayberry smacked his second home run in as many days, a two-run blast deep over the left field fence to make it 4-1.
San Francisco and Philadelphia exchanged runs in the fifth. After the the dust settled and testosterone subsided, the Phillies had effectively put the game out of reach. Brian Schneider’s RBI single made the score 6-2 and a two-run, two out single by Rollins gave the Phillies full command 8-2. Hunter Pence, also homering in back-to-back games, went deep with a solo shot in the seventh to finish off the scoring for either team, 9-2. Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez was, well, not very good. The lefty lasted just 4 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits, including two home runs. Sanchez was starting in place of another ineffective, struggling lefty Barry Zito. Sanchez hasn’t won since June 2 and has pitched six innings or more just once in his last six starts.
The Phillies has assured themselves a split at the very least, outscoring the Giants 12-2 in the first two games of the four-game series.