ONCE THE TOP of the eighth inning ended, there was no official reason to stick around. The Phillies were trailing by seven runs, the Dodgers were looking toward a weekend series against the Braves, and the beer vendors were no longer selling their 16-ounce bottles of frost-brewed escape.
Even when Placido Polanco led off the bottom of the frame with a single to centerfield, it felt less like the start of something special and more like the postponement of the inevitable.
Then, of course, it happened. Joe Blanton might have come across as a bit too nonchalant when he shrugged later and said that he'd seen such a thing out of his teammates before, except for the fact that we've all seen plenty of such things before. And last night, that thing was an eight-run rally in the last two innings of a 10-9 victory that ended with a two-run, walk-off double from Carlos Ruiz in the ninth.
"That's baseball," manager Charlie Manuel said after the Phillies improved to 64-50 with one of their most improbable victories of the season. "That's what makes it good."
Except it is hard to believe that other teams make it this good, this regularly. A week ago, Ruiz lifted the Phillies to a 5-4 win over the Marlins with a solo home run in the 10th inning. A little more than a month ago, they rallied from a six-run deficit in the ninth inning to tie - and eventually beat - the Reds.
The Phillies, who have shaved their deficit in the NL East from seven games to two games in less than a month, will tell you they are resilient. Jonathon Broxton might pick a different word.
The Dodgers closer was once again on the wrong end of a Phillies rally. After Ronald Belisario allowed four runs without recording an out in the eighth inning, Broxton did the same in the ninth, loading the bases on a hit by pitch and two walks before a two-run error on Casey Blake pulled the Phillies to within one and set up Ruiz' drive to the alley in left-center.
Last year, in Game 4 of the NLCS, Broxton allowed a two-run walkoff double to Jimmy Rollins that gave the Phillies a 5-4 win. In 2008, again in Game 4 of the NLCS, Broxton allowed a go-ahead home run to Matt Stairs in the eighth inning of the Phils' eventual 7-5 victory.
Last night, it was a 1-1 slider that proved to be his undoing. Ruiz, who finished 3-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored, drilled the pitch off the top of the wall, setting off a massive celebration in shallow rightfield. He tried to elude teammates chasing him but to no avail.
"I was trying to make everybody miss," Ruiz said. "They got me."
And he got Broxton.
"I always like that moment," Ruiz said. "[Manuel] gave me the confidence to get a big hit right here in a bunt situation. I was looking for a pitch to hit and got a slider down the middle."
"He's probably the best clutch hitter we have on the team," said Ben Francisco, who hit the sharp potential doubleplay ball that Blake missed to allow the first two runs of the ninth to score. "I don't think there's anybody else on the team we want up there late in the game like that."
The Phillies got off to an early deficit, although Blanton hardly seemed on the ropes in the three-run first inning. Instead, the Dodgers hit a succession of balls that sneaked into open patches of grass, and, after four straight two-out singles, the Phillies were down, 3-0.
In the seventh, Chad Durbin allowed a two-run home run to Matt Kemp that gave the Dodgers a 6-2 lead, which, by the end of the eighth, had swelled to 9-2.
That set the stage for the Phillies' most improbable rally of the season. Last year, they won four games when trailing after eight innings. Last night was their fifth of 2010.
"I've seen it before," Blanton said with a grin. "It's good to see again."
Raul Ibanez' 18-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-5 night.
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese. Follow him on Twitter at