Obviously, he didn't stay retired. He came back from a serious nervous disorder to rebuild his baseball career and arrive at his moment in baseball history last night. His three-run home run off Dave Stewart in a five-run third inning made the difference in a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 at SkyDome.
So, Stewart isn't invincible after all. He had built a reputation as the best big-game pitcher of his era, but a little bad luck and one high fastball allowed the Phillies to even the 90th World Series at a game apiece.
"I guess even a blind squirrel finds the acorn once in a while, but I'll gladly take it," said Eisenreich, who entered the game with two hits in 19
There was more to it than that, of course. Eisenreich had excellent career numbers against Stewart, including two home runs, but he was down 0-2 on the count when he lined the ball over the center field fence for his first career homer in postseason competition.
"He just made a bad pitch and it cost him," Eisenreich said. "For some reason, I see the ball real well off him. He's always around the plate and he always gives you something to hit."
Stewart always seems to win when it counts, too, but that did not hold true last night. He hurt himself with a couple of no-out walks and got hurt by a couple of no-clout singles before Eisenreich delivered the big swing that would hold the game together until reliever Mitch Williams recorded another suspenseful save.
The victory was critical for the Phillies, who now go home for three games at Veterans Stadium, beginning with Game 3 tomorrow night. They came here hoping to get a split and they go home with a long-shot chance to win the world championship without returning to SkyDome.
"It just comes down to a best-of-five series now," said manager Jim Fregosi. "We have played well at home, just as Toronto plays well here. We got out of here with a split, which is good for us."
Left-hander Terry Mulholland pitched a solid 5 2/3 innings to record his first career postseason victory, but he wouldn't have gotten it without a lot of help. Roger Mason and Williams came on in relief and Lenny Dykstra added his seventh career postseason home run in the seventh inning just to be sure.
Nothing ever comes easy for the Phillies. The game remained in doubt right into the final inning, but what do you expect with Williams on the mound?
The Blue Jays kept scratching back. They had the tying run at the plate in the eighth, until an inexplicable base-running mistake by Roberto Alomar took them out of the inning. Alomar stole second base without a throw, but Williams caught him leaving too soon for third and threw him out to end the inning.
There was no reason to steal third base in that situation. The base didn't mean anything, but the runner did. By getting thrown out, Alomar took the Blue Jays out of an opportunity and assured that the bottom third of the Toronto batting order would hit in the ninth.
"Robbie normally doesn't do things like that," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "Normally, you don't have to bother with ** Robbie. He's what I call a low-maintenance player."
Williams recorded his first World Series save in characteristic style. He walked the leadoff batter in the ninth before getting out of trouble with two sharp ground balls. The victory went to Mulholland, but the save also preserved Eisenreich's place in the sun.
Nearly a decade after giving up on the game because of a debilitating case of Tourette's syndrome, he turned in the best season of his career in 1993, batting .318 in his first season with the Phillies. He had two hits in his first 19 postseason at-bats, but singled in a run in the ninth inning of Game 1 and delivered the big blow last night.
His story is an inspiring one -- a long and difficult journey to achieve a lifelong dream -- but Eisenreich was hesitant to cast his performance as a story of human triumph.
"I don't look at it as a long journey," he said. "It's just the journey of life. Everybody has ups and downs. I hope I've had my downs. This is a moment that I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
Stewart had every right to curse the fates after the five-run third inning. He walked the first two batters to set himself up for the fall, but what followed was more bad luck than poor pitch selection.
John Kruk hit a pop fly to center that fell in front of Devon White for an RBI single. Dave Hollins followed with a similarly soft fly ball to center that dropped in to score a second run. Darren Daulton moved both runners up with a bouncer to first before Eisenreich jumped on an 0-2 fastball and drove it over the center-field fence.
Tough break. Stewart threw enough good pitches to get out of the inning without giving up a run, but it took just one bad pitch to turn the inning into a disaster.
"I allowed two walks, two soft hits and then I gave up the biggie," Stewart said. "You just can't do that. I gave up five runs. I'm not ashamed of anything I did out there. I didn't win, but I did a lot of things out there. When I see them again, they'll know it will be a tough game."
It had to be a shock to the system for the Blue Jays, who -- like everybody else -- had come to expect Stewart to perform a
miracle in every postseason game. He is 8-0 in playoff competition, but he has not been a dominant pitcher in the World Series.
Still, he retired 10 of the next 12 batters he faced to give the explosive Toronto lineup a chance to regroup.
The Blue Jays inched back in the fourth when Joe Carter launched a towering home run to left that was hit so high the sellout crowd didn't even react to the possibility that it might clear the fence until it did. That cut the deficit to three, but the game might have been closer if the
Blue Jays had been a little more resourceful in the first inning.
They had a chance to pick up right where they left off in Game 1, when they battered Phillies starter Curt Schilling for seven runs on the way to an 8-5 victory.
Mulholland walked leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson and only threw one ball in the strike zone to White. Then he walked Paul Molitor.
The situation at that point? Bases loaded? No. Two on, one out? Wrong again. There was no one on base when Molitor took his base on balls. White took a called strike and then fished for two balls out of the zone. Henderson tried to steal second with a 2-0 count on Molitor and was thrown out.
It was not exactly a clinic on how to work a struggling pitcher. White was coming off a big performance in Game 1, but he was too anxious to build on it. Henderson apparently didn't take into account that Mulholland is one of the toughest pitchers to steal against in either league. He didn't pay any attention to the count, either, or he wouldn't have run on a fastball count in a take situation. Who said all the bad base-running was in Baltimore?
Mulholland accepted their kindness and settled down to work into the middle innings. He shut out the Blue Jays out until Molitor opened the fourth with a single and Carter delivered his third career homer in World Series play.