The Phils won in surprising fashion yesterday, with Jimmy Rollins stealing home with two outs in the ninth, beating the Cubs 4-3. Of course, that's what the box score said, but the actual winning play was quite different.
The score was tied with Mike Remlinger on the mound. Rollins had doubled and then moved to third when Kenny Lofton grounded hard to Derek Lee's right and Lee had to struggle to get to the bag before Lofton as Remlinger failed to cover first.
Remlinger then Chase Utley and Bobby Abreu to load the bases. Michael Wuertz relieved Remlinger with the hope that Wuertz could get Pat Burrell, the next batter, to strikeout. Burrell is wont to strikeout, and Wuertz had 50 Ks in 46.1 innings pitched.
He got his K but it wasn't what the Cubs expected.
After starting 1-0, Wuertz got Burrell to go after two very low and away sliders and then threw a third way too far outside. He missed his location by a good foot and a half, but a great play by Michael Barrett prevented the ball from getting away and Rollins scoring (until two pitches later when Barrett became the goat). The 2-2 pitch was a borderline low pitch that the homer Cub announcers really wanted. Then Burrell offered an "excuse me" swing, completely missing an outside, medium-high fastball, and then Barrett flat-out missed the ball (well, he deflected it).
Burrell was then out on the spot though he ran to first. This is covered by rule 6.05c:
A batter is out when (c) A third strike is not caught by the catcher when first base is occupied before two are out
There was one out and Abreu was at first at the time, so Burrell was already out, the second out of the inning.
However, when the ball eluded Barrett, Rollins broke for the plate. Barrett picked up the ball to the right and behind, though not far from, home plate. Barrett was running in a straight line toward Rollins, but then Jimmy played the ball perfectly. He feigned a retreat to third and then Barrett made a fatal mistake. Before he had reached home with Rollins about halfway to home, he threw the ball to third base. Rollins saw this and quickly switched gears for home, scoring the run before the relay to Barret could arrive.
What Barrett, of course, should have done is run Rollins back to third. Only if he was absolutely sure he could get the third out, should he have thrown to third. If he had run Rollins all the way back to third, the worst the Cubs could have had was a tie ballgame with the bases loaded two and two outs. It would have been the same result if the Cubs had gotten a vanilla Burrell K, which was their intention anyway.
So this was truly stealing defeat from the jaws of victory or at least the mandibles of tied-ballgame-ness. But Wuertz did improve his strikeouts per nine innings ratio.