Jul 132010

July 13 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin

“EIGHTY-SEVEN GAMES into the 1993 season, Jim Fregosi’s loose-as-ashes Phillies had it on cruise control. They had been in first place all but 1 day in early April and had turned the National League East into a rout.

They were 56-31 with a five-game lead that had been whittled down from 11 1/2 on June 14, when their epic, franchise-best start had exploded to 45-17. One year earlier, the Phillies were dead last after 87 games, 12 games back with a dismal 36-51 record.

When they clinched the division in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28, the lead was still six games. Those unruly Phils never played a series after the third week in April where their lead was at stake.

So here we are with the All-Star break bisecting Games 87 and 88 after a surreal four-game sweep of the Central-leading Reds that was part miracle and part World Cup football. Friday night featured one of the great ninth-inning rallies in franchise history and a 10th-inning walkoff win that followed the exquisite tension Thursday night that ended with a walkoff homer by Brian Schneider in the 12th. On Saturday, when Germany defeated Uruguay, 3-2, in the 82d minute for third place in the Copa Mundial, the Phillies defeated the Reds, 1-nil, in double extra time.

There was nothing unusual about the game other than rookie lefthander Travis Wood taking a perfect game into the ninth. It was broken up by Chooch Ruiz’ leadoff double; he doubled again in the 11th and scored the golden run on a single by Jimmy Rollins.

And while Spain and Holland were nil-nilling into extra time Sunday afternoon, Cole Hamels was replicating Roy Halladay’s magnificent no-decision Saturday. An encore of the Ruiz-Rollins Show produced the third-inning run that held up for six excruciating innings and a 1-nil win. The 84th consecutive sellout quietly pushed attendance closer to 2 million. Brad Lidge tightroped to the save.

All that neat stuff said, the Phillies will come back from the much-needed R & R looking at a bigger challenge than any of the club’s six pennant winners faced after 87 games.

Thanks to the Mets’ victory over the Braves Sunday, the Phils are just 4 1/2 games behind Bobby Cox’s well-rounded final edition. In 1950, the Whiz Kids never trailed the Dodgers by more than four games and enjoyed a 7 1/2-game lead on Sept. 20. But a staggering 4-9 finish left them needing a final-game victory in Ebbets Field to avert a playoff. Robin Roberts delivered the pennant – carrying it lefthanded.

The storm-tossed 1980 Phils were the same 47-40 as this injury-challenged ballclub. They were in third place, two games behind. It would get worse. After a doubleheader loss in Pittsburgh on Aug. 10 that featured a volcanic eruption by Dallas Green between games, the Phils trailed by six. They were 69-60 on Labor Day, tied for first, and clinched the division in Montreal in the 161st game of the season.”

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