CHICAGO – Regardless of the vantage point at Wrigley Field, it did not look good for the Phillies.
Brian Schneider was rounding third base, and leftfielder Tyler Colvin’s throw after a two-out, ninth-inning single by Placido Polanco was headed home.
The Phillies’ reserve catcher, like most players at his position, is not known for his speed, and Schneider was definitely going to lose this race with the baseball to the plate.
“I was hoping the leftfielder made a bad throw,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Off-line – make it be off-line.”
Colvin threw a one-hop strike to catcher Geovany Soto, and a third straight defeat loomed for the Phillies in the searing heat Saturday.
But Schneider dived safely into home because Soto could not hold onto the ball. That evened the score and led to three more runs as the Chicago Cubs gift-wrapped a 4-1 Phillies victory.
Jimmy Rollins, who was on deck during Polanco’s at-bat, confessed that he did not give Schneider great directions about where he could slide safely because he did not think such a place existed.
“I told him, ‘You were just out by so much, I didn’t know what to say,’ ” Rollins said.
Manuel, asked to describe a top of the ninth inning in which the Phillies scored four times on two hits, five walks, and one wild pitch, said, “It went our way. It just goes to show the game’s not over until it’s over.”
Manuel refused to say his team was lucky, but the Phillies have to feel fortunate that they will have a chance to split this four-game series Sunday night if their staff ace, Roy Halladay, can beat the Cubs.
For eight innings Saturday, the Phillies’ slumbering bats continued to snore. Cubs righthander Randy Wells, who finished the first half with a 4.61 ERA, pitched seven scoreless innings, and lefthanded reliever Sean Marshall worked a scoreless eighth.
The Phillies had seven hits and did a lot of little things wrong through eight innings.
Raul Ibanez, after leading off the second with an infield single, made the second out of the inning when he was caught stealing third because he broke from second base before Wells had released the ball.
Shane Victorino opened the next inning with a single, but there was nobody on base when the next batter stepped in because the Phillies’ centerfielder was thrown out at second trying to stretch his hit into a double.
By the time the Phillies arrived at the ninth, they were on the verge of wasting a strong pitching performance by lefthander Cole Hamels, who allowed one run on eight hits in seven innings. The Cubs’ only run scored on a one-out squeeze bunt by Ryan Theriot in the seventh.
“When we get pitching performances like that, we’ve got to win,” Manuel said.
To do just that, Manuel went to his bench in the ninth, sending up three straight pinch hitters to start the inning against Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who had struck out the heart of the Phillies’ order to pick up a save Friday.
Schneider and Ross Gload provided hope with consecutive one-out walks before Marmol struck out Victorino on a checked swing for the second out.
Up stepped Polanco, who had been activated from the disabled list before the game after missing 19 games with an elbow injury that had dogged him since late April.
“Get a hit. Please get a hit” was Polanco’s thought process after he had failed to reach base in his previous four at-bats.
Polanco smashed a single to left field.