Monthly archives: October 2008
I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.
The last few days have been like Christmas. People mill about on the streets greeting others in Phillie jerseys, T-Shirts, hats, or in just plain red. The center city Modell's was so backed that when I went out to buy a souvenir or two yesterday, there was an hour wait to check out. I wisely chose to procure my memorabilia from the many street vendors, who themselves were so inundated that they couldn't unload their ill-gotten booty (or ill-booten gotty) from the trucks.
I am working from home today even though the parade goes right by my office. I am relying on Comcast SportsNet to fill the gap. I have a more important parade to witness, my daughter's Halloween parade at school. Anyway, they start with a half-hour intro narrated by Hall-of-Famer Harry Kalas, not bad.
The Phanatic is leading the parade. Suddenly Mark McGraw, Tug's other son, arrives on a bike and a retro #45 jersey ahead of the meandering flatbeds. Larry Christenson appears in Citizens Bank Park to embody the ghost of the 1980 team. He looks pretty good. LC compares #45 Tug McGraw's leap upon winning the 1980 Series and #54 Brad Lidge's dive in a similar pose upon clinching this year.
Michael Barkann relays a Tug McGraw-Larry Christenson story: McGraw would ask Christenson, "Are you pitching today?" When he was told "yes", he would respond, "Then so am I."
Pat Burrell is riding ahead of the team on a wagon pulled by Clydesdales and piloted by little men in green suits. I guess it's from Budweiser, but why the green suits? I hope they can keep this guy. For someone who had a reputation as a dour, unemotional player, but he has been so emotional this year especially in the playoffs.
Charlie Manuel is in a suit?
The streets are lined with fans, confetti is flowing. The police are riding on cars, motorcycles, and Clydesdales or on foot following each flatbed or double-decker bus like the secret service.
Boy this is moving slowly. Chad Durbin and Cole Hamels passed, but they are apparently still in the "staging area".
Now they are on Market Street and the parade proper can commence.
Pat Burrell has his dog Elvis, who is apparently a member of the clubhouse, on the Clydesdale truck. Barkann calls Elvis a world champion in his own right. In There's Harry the K standing on a truck. Give the guy a seat like B.B. King now does in concert.
Most of the players are in casual attire wearing World Champs paraphernalia and therefore, seem almost indistinguishable from the crowd. The oddest thing is how the players now use video cameras all the time. They are filming the crowd that is watching them.
They are finally turning onto Broad, which they will take all the way down to the stadium. Citizens Bank Park appears to be just half full.
Sorry, I have to go to my daughter's parade. I will have to rely on CSH and my DVR for the rest.
Tom Petty was Right
First, I just read that red is sexy, a little news tidbit that I see as a good omen for the Phils.
Also, Vegas awarded game five to the Phils. There is apparently honor among gamblers, but not among Bud Selig and his cronies.
Manuel sends the little used Geoff Jenkins to lead off the resumed game, an option I instantly dismissed. And it works! Jenkins doubles to left.
Next Manuel has Rollins bunt, something I rarely agree with but I am OK with it here since 1) the top of the order is up instead of the bottom (Manuel loves to bunt #6 man Victorino) and 2) one run could loom large here since the Phils will counter with a well-rested Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge (whose Hero T I am wearing in anticipation, in anticipation mind you).
The Rays look shaky again letting a fly ball drop between the outfield for the lead. (Enter Madson.) Then they misplay a pickoff to let Jayson Werth get to second. Utley and Howard go meekly so it looks like we will have another nail-biter.
So as Buck points out, Hamels is now in line for the win, and could become the first man to go 5-0 in a postseason.
Scratch that, Rocco Baldelli just tied it on a hanger from Madson. Dang. Actually it was a fastball that missed its spot. Another fastball, very straight, for a hit from Bartlett. What's with all the fastballs?
The Rays are having Howell bat for himself. He is able to sacrifice Bartlett over.
That's it for Madson, boy did he look flat. This guy can't start even when he isn't starting.
Romero will come in to face Iwamura. He hits a grounder that Chase Utley can flag down deep behind the bag, but he wisely does not throw to first since he has no play on Iwamura. Bartlett not so wisely assumed Utley was throwing to first, but he throws home and gets Bartlett by a good three feet to end the inning. Great play.
Burrell leads off the seventh with a double on a hanger that looked like it was gone when it left his bat. Bucks fils says that the wind kept it in. Manuel is lefting Burrell for a pinch-runner? I don't know if I would toss Burrell's bat without a lead. How many postseason dingers does Bruntlett have in him?
Howell is gone.
Timmeh is chiding Burrell for not getting a triple on that hit. Yeah, he should be at third, but is this atypical for Burrell? That could be his last hit as a Phil and imagine if it were a triple?
Chad Bradford? Hmm, I wonder when Maddon is going to bring in Price. Ugh, Victorino is bunting again. Hit away!
Odd, Maddon came out to argue about something. Now, Charlie Manuel.
Victorino swings through on a rising submarine ball. Moves him to third on a grounder to the right side.
Boy, Buck and Timmeh hate Feliz. They want Manuel to pull him every time he steps up to the plate. Feliz hits a nice little ball up the middle for the lead.
Ruiz hits a nice little liner up the middle but a very nice play by Iwamura gets Feliz at second.
Manuel has Romero bat for himself. They list his career batting average as .250, but it's really just a 1-for-4 over ten years, the one hit coming seven years ago though it was a double. Dribbler to second.
Let's hope keeping Romero in was a good idea. If he can get through the eighth, Lidge can close it out. Two of the next three are lefty batters.
Crawford gets a hit up the middle. Upton hits a soft roller to Rollins and he and Utley turn the double play nicely to get the speedy runner at first. Two of their remaining six outs on one play--that was big.
Romero goes to 3-0 on Pena. That's why Romero has not been the same pitcher this year as last, gets too wild. Pena hits a soft liner to Bruntlett in left. Inning over, Lidge will be coming in to win the Series and continue his perfect season. Let's get him an insurance run, top of the lineup, OK?
Doesn't Maddon have to turn to his secret weapon Price to keep it close now?
And he does. Another double-switch for Maddon. That took Manuel about three seasons to master.
Rollins flies to left, right in front of the warning track.
They just went through the last Philly champs. I hate that they do not mention Villanova in 1985 and the USFL Stars in 1984. People forget but they were bigger than the Eagles back then.
Werth K's after almost getting hit by a ball near his shins.
Oh god, they have the useless Chris Myers talking about the Willy Penn silliness. They are jumping on the bandwagon.
Buck fils is second-guessing Maddon for allowing Howell bat for himself though he said nary a word when it was in progress. It should be mentioned that Howell did his job and bunted the runner over though they did have Madson on th ropes and could have pressed the issue with a pinch-hitter.
Now, the FOX idiot twins praise Price right before he walks Utley who was not able to hit his stuff. Great stuff is meaningless if this kid can't find the plate.
Speaking of which, 3-1 to Howard and Price let's Utley stroll to second.
Timmeh bloviates on why the Rays should fear Eric Bruntlett. It's not the beard. It's the lightning-in-bottle homer he hit off Price in game 2.
Howard Ks. Lidge time.
By the way, the title refers to Petty's "The Waiting Is the Hardest Part". But knowing Lidge, the ninth might be the hardest part.
I wonder what Mitch Williams is thinking.
Lidge gets ahead of Longoria 0-2 on two sliders. But he won't chase again. 1-2. High heat misses.
Fox starts doing the "winner cam" with closeups of each Phil fielder. Why can't they just watch the game?
Slider for a soft fly ball. Two more outs.
Beatiful change for strike one, dipping slider for strike two.
Timmeh, shut up about blocking in the dirt.
Damn Navarro breaks his bat but lifts a soft liner to right.
Local hero Perez pinch-runs at first.
Zobrist replaces Baldelli who homered in his last at-bat. High and tight, strike one. Way away, 1-1.
Lidge lets Perez steal second in his sleep. In scoring position and removes the DP.
Maddon is pulling out the stops: Hinske is on deck.
Lidge gets away with one, a hanging sliding. But Zobrist lines it softly to Werth. Thank god.
Hinske who homered hios last and only time up in the Series steos up.
Ground softly down the first baseline, foul.
Strike two on a slider away. The home plate up says he went around, but he didn't. Strikes out on a slider!
That's all she wrote.
Lisge does his Tug McGraw impersonation. Where's Schmidty to jump into his arms?
I hate how they hand out the hats and T-shirts right during the celebration. Save the commercials for later, guys.
Boy, this scrums get more and more dangerous each year. It's fun until somebody loses an eye.
These amateurs at least know to turn to Harry The K's replay, "Swing and a miss, struck him out!" I love that guy.
Bud Selig? Booooooo! Give us the trophy and make like a tree.
Dave Montgomery showing off his horrific Philly accent to the world. Montgomery's been drinking, hasn't he?
Pat Gillick can go out on top. Jeannie Zalasko tries to coax him out of retirement. They already named Amaro, Jeannie.
Here comes Chowlie to frighten the world with another horrific accent. Jeannie, don;t ask him about his dead mom.
Jimmy Rollins brings in a copy of the Inquirer with a "Champs" headline.
Selid is back!?! Oh, the MVP goes to Hamels. I love this kid.
Great, we get a Camarro ad in the midst of the celebration.
Comcast is showing shots of the fans outside the ballpark, who are going batty. I pity the camera man.
Ricky Bo is in the studio but apparently no Mitch Williams. I wanted to hear what he was thinking.
Back to Fox: why do they make the losing manager come out for a public wake. Leave Maddon alone.
By the way, I was hoping for Ruiz to get the MVP though he and all of the batters really were uneven throughout the Series. Hamels had one of the greatest postseasons for a pitcher ever. I am OK with him getting it.
Comcast has yet to go into the locker room, and Fox goes back to Zelasko and Kennedy. Moyers is on the field with it looks like three generations of Moyers taking a pitcher. Can they just make that guy the pitching coach now?
Fox is showing the celebration, but no interviews. Come on!
Myers interviews the ever-humble Ryan Howard on the field. Boy, is that guy due for a big paycheck!
Comcast is now in the clubhouse as Buck fils is thanking their crew (who cares?).
Utley is spraying champagne all over the place. There's Mitch. God bless him. Now we can put that ghost to bed.
There's a guy dressed up as Batman parading around the stadium with an over-sized flag. I don't get it.
Press conference with Charlie Manuel. This guy winning a ring with the Phils is as if they won with that doof Danny Ozark. His philosophy is "excellence over success", huh?
They cut Manuel off to interview Milt Toast Thompson on the field. Another ghost from 1993 put to bed.
Ryan Madson strides up to the mic. Ask him why he threw some many fastballs tonight. Where's the change? Mitch is pouring on the praise for Madson's job this year as the setup guy. I love that guy.
Utley's being interviewed in th clubhouse. He looks wetter now than during the deluge in the first half of game five.
The parade will be at noon on Halloween.
Banner in the outfield: "Mitch, you're off the hook!"
Every Phillie is wearing a lei a la the Flyin' Hawaiian.
I couldn't be happier how every player almost to a man seems very humble and understated. Hamels, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Feliz, Moyer. It's just pure joy.
Moyer is now posing with what looks like the pitching rubber with a subset of his family.
Lelsie Godell asks Cole Hamels if he's happy about going to arbitration this offseason, and the guy almost blushes.
The Comcast crew mentions the late John Marzano who died earlier this year.
Jayson Werth has lost his voice.
Here comes the trophy. Werth holds it over his head.
An Eric Bruntlett sighting. This guy went from J-Roll's replacement to Pat Burrell's caddy. Poor Bruntlett, the security guy took the trophy away from him.
Ricky Bo also mentions Phils long-time coach and 1980 team member John Vukovich, whom the Phils lost this season.
Mayor Nutter isn't happy with won World Championship and is altready talking about more. Maybe he thinks mor rings we get him reelected.
The Daily News headline for tomorrow AM will read, "We Win", which if I remember correctly was the headline after the 1980 championship.
We Wuz Robbed…So Now What?
A day later a few things have become clearer as the mist clears from the Fox TV cameras. Yes, the Phils were robbed of an abbreviated clincher. Yes, the culprit was Bud Selig. Commissioner Bud couldn't cotton to a world champion muddily celebrating after a umpire's signal rather than after a Tug McGraw-esque ninth inning-two out strikeout. So who cares about the rule book anyway?
Selig may have come to this decision before the game as he claims, but if so, he should have informed the players and media, who would have in turn alerted the fans when the situation became a reality.
Also, Selig should have suspended it earlier, clearly by the end of the fifth if not earlier (maybe after the Rollins lazy fly-cum-egregious error). If he is going to ignore the rules, why did they have to orchestrate the tie before suspending the game? They should have suspended after five with the Phils leading 2-1. Waiting for the tie calls into question Selig's supposed higher motives to avoid an abbreviated clincher.
The initial reaction by Phils fans was to bemoan the apparent loss of Cole Hamels for apparently the remainder of the Series unless MLB keeps the travel day between the completion of game five and the start of game 6 in Tampa (which is currently TBD).
But the news is not all bad. Of course, the Phils get one additional half-inning of offense in the resumed game: they lead off and get last ups.
The leadoff hitter will be Cole Hamels' spot meaning a pinch-hitter, and the Phils have a wide-range of options. Maddon, if he's smart, and given his moves so far in the World Series that is hardly a certainty, will send back out righty Grant Balfour to "start" the resumed game. The Phils will most likely counter with a lefty bat. Given Manuel's moves yet far, I would think Matt Stairs will get tabbed. He prefers to save Dobbs and Stairs can regain the lead with one swing. Of course, that will bring lefty J.P. Howell to the mound and then a right-handed bat for the Phils.
Manuel may just avoid the whole mess and go with a righty bat from the start, probably So Taguchi, who could set up the top of the lineup if he gets on and who was a better hitter (and was a better hitter vs. righties this year)though he is likely a wasted AB. But they do get to pick the matchup they prefer and get to keep the extra lefty bat for later.
The Phils also do not have to announce their "starter", again if they are smart. Hamels should be their pitcher until they pinch-hit for him, and a new pitcher does not have to be announced until the start of the seventh. I am thinking they will go with Chad Durbin (or dare I say, J.A. Happ?) unless they grab a lead in the bottom of the sixth, in which case, they might try to cover the last three innings with Madson and Lidge.
So unless Bud decides to add a new home team must swig a beer at each base rule, the Phils have a clear advantage going into the resumed game. Let's hope they put the Rays away. The Cubs have the curse of Bartman, but the Phils do not need to be handcuffed with the curse of Bud-man.
"In my own boorish way, I'm only suggesting that if you two gentlemen continue to work from a script with cues and stage directions, these proceedings take on all the dignity of a very bad Gilbert and Sullivan."
Baseball witnessed its first suspended World Series game tonight. The game went into rain delay after many stops and starts, with the score tied 2-2 in the middle of the sixth. It will resume presumably after forty days and forty nights and after Joe Maddon builds an ark that is 8 cubits long and 9 cubits wide, which he will of course pronounce square. The Phils get the ups in the bottom of the sixth when play does resume but unless that diluvial prediction comes true, Cole Hamels will no longer be the pitcher for the Phils.
There were three previous modern World Series games that ended in ties but they were all extra-inning games before the advent of lighted stadiums that resulted in replayed games. They were on October 8, 1907 with the Tigers and Cubs tied 3-3 in the twelfth; October 9, 1912 with the Red Sox and Giants tied 6-6 in the 11th; and October 5, 1922 with the Giants and Yankees tied 3-3 in the tenth. In the last game, umpire George Hildebrand called the game due to darkness even though the sun had not yet begun to set which outraged the local faithful and called for his head. In response, MLB donated the gate to local charities.
This, however, is the first suspended postseason game, and I just found it very curious how the umps and MLB orchestrated the game to end in a suspended tie. The game conditions were already getting embarrassingly hazardous in the fifth. Jimmy Rollins couldn't track down a routine Rocco Baldelli pop up to lead of the top half of the fifth but Baldelli was erased on a great double play started by Chase Utley. The Phils flied out three times with men at second and first in the bottom of the fifth and each play seemed like it could bust the game wide open with another rain-induced misplay. The inning ended with the Phils ahead 2-1.
Then with the camera becoming as glossy as a Liz Taylor White Diamonds commercial and two outs in the top of the sixth, Another slick ball eluded Rollins, this time a grounder off the bat of B.J. Upton. It ended up a single and Rollins may very well have not had a play had he fielded the ball cleanly. The game became tied as Carlos Pena singled to left and Pat Burrell gingerly tossed the ball toward home. After a Longoria fly out to end the inning, the umps delayed and finally suspended the game.
As I watched these same umps and their master, commissioner Bud Selig, a man who comes off just slightly more compassionate than Dick Cheney, dance around reporters in the postgame wake, I wondered how relieved they all were that the Rays had achieved a tie so that they could suspend the game cleanly. I wonder how long they would have let the farce of a game continue had the Phils retained the lead.
A perusal of the rules points to the problem. The general rule seems clear enough:
4.12 SUSPENDED GAMES.
Per the rules, the game could have been called at the top of the sixth after conditions had become unplayable with the Phils winning the game and a splashy title. You see, the rules set up for postseason games were just for games that had not yet become official:
(7) The game has not become a regulation game (4½ innings with the home team ahead, or 5 innings with the visiting club ahead or tied).
I expect that this rule will be expanded to accommodate suspended regulation games next year. However, with no rule to handle the situation, as Bud Selig alluded to later at the press conference, they were not prepared to award the Phils the crown without having played nine innings.
Ergo, the Rays tying the score in the sixth let the MLB off the hook. Now, if the Rays come back to win the Series, I wonder how MLB look back on what they wrought. Then again, the woefully poor umpiring throughout the Series (let alone the entire postseason) is embarrassment enough.
“We Owe You One. We Owe You 1!”
The Phils pummeled the Rays tonight 10-2 in game four of the World Series to take a commanding three-games-to-one lead. And the game wasn't even that close as the Phils' inability to score within the red zone continued to handcuff them in the early innings. They left the bases loaded in the first and third innings and left seven men on base in total. Meanwhile the Rays could do little more than hit two solo home runs.
The Phils equaled their run output in games one through three tonight. This has happened just three times when ten or more runs were scored in the fourth game. The most was by, guess who, the '93 Phils who coughed up game four of the World Series 15-14:
If The Phils win behind Cole Hamels tomorrow, it would quite an historic night. Of course, there's the second Phils World Championship in 126 years of existence, which would garner most of the press. But Hamels (as previously mentioned) would become the first pitcher to record five wins in a postseason without a loss. And the Phils would become just the ninth team since the advent of divisional play and the first since 1999 to win a World Series without a postseason loss at home.
Here are all the others:
The Phils are beating the Rays 6-2 in the middle of the sixth inning of game 4 of the World Series, and Joe Blanton, besides pitching an inspired game so far, has been an unexpected hero at the plate. Blanton went deep for the first time in his career in the fifth and established a little corner of history for himself.
Blanton is now just the fifth man, and the first in forty years, to hit his first career home run in the World Series. Here are the rest with their previous regular-season ABs:
Blanton is also the first pitcher to hit a World Series homer in 34 years. Something that has been done no more than 18 times in baseball history:
Note that I list the primary position for the 19th century players who may have hit a home run in the Series as a position player or a pitcher. The record is incomplete. That's why I say that it has been done no more than 18 times.
The Wee Small Hours
Hell of a game. It's too late to say much more.
The Phils now lead two to one. This series is so close at this point that a couple of miscues can turn the tide. Ryan Madson allowing B.J. Upton to steal second and third and then Carlos Ruiz's throwing error which led to the tying run seemed as if it would be the turning point. And then suddenly the Rays have their own problems with a wild pitch and a throwing error by Dioner Navarro on an ill-advised attempt to correct miscue #1, left Eric Bruntlett at third and a dribbler by newly minted Series hero Carlos Ruiz gave the Phillies a win.
The two teams are now separated by four runs in three games. It looks like this could go seven games even though ESPN reports no one is watching.
Here are the other Series that had the first three games decided by four or fewer runs (ignoring ties). Note that only three went the seven full games:
Cole Hamels has a chance to have demonstrably the greatest postseason pitching performance of all time. He is currently 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts. Should he get one more starthe is tabbed for game 5he could become the first pitcher in baseball history to win five games without a loss in a postseason.
Here is how he currently falls among the greatest postseason in history based on a minimum of four games won and sorted by most games won, fewest lost, and then best ERA:
The Phils won game one of the World Series tonight, edging out the Rays at home, 3-2. The game started off looking like the offenses could break lose at any minute, but after some wasted opportunities by both teams (but many, many more by the Phils), the game ended like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed eyeing and measuring each other up in what looks like it could be a classic bout.
My prediction was that if the Phils won tonight behind Hamels, then they would win in seven, and I see no reason to gainsay myself.
The big story was the pitching, with Hamels making a few less mistakes ( two walks to Bartlett?!?) than Kazmir and with both pens dominant. However, the first storyline might be a few struggling bats.
Ryan Howard continued his postseason miseries going 0-for-4 with three Ks and four men left on. The Rays even walked Utley to get to him. Howard looked like he had finally broken out of his slump with a 3-for-4 in the NLCS clincher, but now each of his at-bats have become as enjoyable to watch as the Bataan Death March.
On the Rays side, Upton went 0-for-5 with a strikeout and two grounded into a doubleplays with 5 men left on. Soon Tim-may will start talking about how the youngster is getting overwhelmed by the jitters. The same might be said of Longoria who went 0-for-4 with 3 Ks.
Jimmy Rollins, after jump-starting the Phils in the clincher, like Howard is back into his deep postseason slump. He went 0-for-5 with 2 Ks and five left on while Iwamura, the Rays leadoff man, went 3-for-4 and drove in a run. Maybe someone should again start chanting in his ear, "Remember Jose Reyes. Thou art mortal."
A couple of other notes: Was the pickoff of Pena in the sixth by Hamels a balk? It was close, but it did look like he was more than 45 degrees away from first. Manuel had some curious moves. First, he DH'ed Coste, which meant that the Phils had their backup catcher in the game and if he had to come in to replace Ruiz then the Phils would lose the use of the DH, but then again, he never managed in the AL. Oh, wait Anyway, they also couldn't pinch hit for Coste since then they would have no backup catcher. And Coste went 0-for-4. He should not continue this experiment.
Manuel also pinch-ran Eric Bruntlett for Pat Burrell in the seventh as the trailing runner with the Phils leading 3-2. Essentially, it was to have Bruntelett, Burrell's caddy, PR and then replace Burrell in left for defensive purposes. However, when Burrell's spot came up in the ninth with two runners on (first and second at first and then second and third after a double steal), the Phils couldn't get the much needed insurance runs.
Tim-may (who had just pointed out that it would be helpful for the Rays for Crawford to get on base when they were doen to their last out and losing?!?) or Buck Fils pointed out that the Phils had won the first game of the 1980 Series, the only one they have ever won, by one run. It should be pointed out that they won by one run in 1983 and lost in five, and that one was on the road while 1980 was at home. They won by two runs in 1915 and lost. Here are their previous game one results:
As far as rust, it was much discussed that the Phils had a six-day layoff while the Rays had but two, but it didn't seem to make a difference on the field. It was the fourth time that two teams had that great a disparity. The team with the longer layoff won two out of three of those series:
Don’t Take The World Serious
My first Phillies playoff experience was a three-game sweep at the hands of the Big Red Machine in the 1976 NLCS. I remember listening to the game on the radioI don't know if it was broadcast on TV, but I listened on my blue plastic transistor radio with real leatherette case. I sadly switched it off and went outside after the last game, an afternoon one, to wallow in a game of stoopball for one.
The Phils had gotten the first lead in each of the ballgames, but the Reds, seemingly toying with the playoff newcomers, quickly too the lead in and kept it in the first two games. In the third game, the Phils led 6-4 in the middle of the ninth but surrendered the lead, the game, and the series in dramatic fashion. Ron Reed gave up back-to-back homers to George Foster and Johnny Bench, and after two pitching changes, the bases were loaded with two out. Ken Griffey singled down the first base line and just like that, my first playoff experience was kaput and I went to sulk with a tennis ball on the front stoop
That was a disappointment, but the Reds were monolithic, like the Soviet hockey team and Frank Rizzo. The next season, they had an even better team and were playing the Dodgers but the result was the same. I was in attendance when Burt Hooton was rattled by the Vet faithful into surrendering three straight bases-loaded walks. Hooton was pulled but the Phils lost anyway. 1978 was a repeat of 1977.
The Phils finally broke through in 1980. The fact that the team had been around for almost a hundred years and had never won a World Series was not even an issue, not nearly the issue that not winning in 28 years is for this year's club.
1983 was the last gasp of the remnants of that 1976 team with the death knell being rung by some of the same old Big Red Machine mates that did in the original team (Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez). I was entering college at the time and had other priorities not to mention having become used to postseason appearances by the team.
In 1993, I was living in New York after having relocated from Boston. Like much of the country, I was intrigued by the lightning-in-a-bottle Phils, but hadn't been folllwoing them on a daily basis for some time.
That's what makes this one special. I haven't had that childlike feeling of pure joy of following a team on a daily basis since the 1980 team.
That's why it's difficult to listen to my head that says the Phils rotation behind Hamels is suspect. That the offensive had trouble getting more than a couple of players going at a time throughout the playoffs. I think instead that Joe Blanton can keep up the postseason magic, Jamie Moyer's yet-far awful postseason has to end, and Brett Myers can keep up the Babe Ruth two-way-player act. I think all the offensive components worked out the kinks and now can fire as a unit.
Then I think that the Phils were walloped by the AL in interleague play, 11-4, and that the National League was totally outclassed by the junior circuit throughout. The Rays have been forged in the crucible of the AL East, have beaten the world champion Red Sox, and are poised to become one of the stronger young clubs in the game in beating the Phils four games to one.
I instead hope, as a Phils fan and a baseball fan in general, for a close Series. As a Phils fan, since a close series, I think, will go to Phils while a lopsided one means a dominant Ray victory. And as a baseball fan, since seven more intriguing games would have to be preferable to four lopsided ones no matter the result.
So my prediction? Game one is the key. If Hamels is dominant and the Phils win, they will win the Series in seven. If they lose, the Phils are done in five. Either way, I am going to soak it in and hope for the best.
First Ray of Light
So what does the fact that this is the Rays first World Series mean to the possible outcome of the series? Do first-timers exhibit jitters and end up losing? If history means anything, it means nothing at all.
Of the 26 franchises to go to their first World Series, 13, exactly half, won the series and 13 lost. Though the last two newcomers lost (2005 Astros and 2007 Rockies). Here are how each franchise faired in their firs appearance:
David Price became the first pitcher in baseball history to record a win and save in a postseason before recording either in his career leading up to that postseason. There have been pitchers who won their first career game in the postseason and ones that recorded their first career save in the postseason, but Price is the first to do both.
Here are the ones that accomplished either of these feats:
Red Sux, Part III—CANCELED!
After almost a three-game hiatus, almost their entire stay in Fenway for this ALCS, the Red Sox offense returned and with a vengeance, pillaging the previously sparkling Rays bullpen for eight runs in three innings (actually 2-2/3 since they never did get that final out) as the Sox overcame a seven-run deficit to win, 8-7, tonight. The series now returns to St. Pete with the suddenly momentum-challenged Rays leading three games to two.
Joe Maddon will be questioned for his staff maneuvers. First, he pulled Scott Kazmir, who had thrown 111 pitches, to start the seventh, but Kazmir had just completed a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.
Then his bullpen moves were utterly puzzling. He had nine outs to get and, one would assume, the entire staff (besides game 3 starter James Shields) available. Maddon kept right-hander Grant Balfour to groove a pitch to lefty David Ortiz, that scored three of the four runs he allowed.
Next, Maddon turned to Dan Wheeler, who still seemed tired from pitching 3-1/3 in the 9-8 game two win. After Wheeler ended the inning 7 rally, he walked Jason Bay on four pitches to lead off the 8th. Then, again, Maddon left his righty in to face a lefty, and J.D. homered to cut the lead to one. Even though Wheeler looked like he was pitching BP, Maddon left him in to soak up the final, tying run. Also, to set up the tying run, Mark Kotsay hit a double over B.J. Upton's head even though Maddon should have had his outfielders playing back to prevent exactly that.
The Rays look like they were in disarray from Ortiz's home run on. And when Papelbon pumped his fist upon completing a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the eighth, you would have thought the were ahead by three runs instead of trailing by three.
So the Red Sox and Rays start up again Saturday in that baseball purgatory, Tropicana Field, and as a Phils fan, I revel in these two teams bludgeoning each other. If the Rays fold, I would welcome them into the fold of teams whose tradition is to torture their fan base.
However, I have to point out that if the Red Sox had lost, it would not have been their worst three-game stretch (as far as run differential) in the playoffs. They were beaten by the Indians in last year's ALCS by 25 total runs in games 3-5 of a series, you might recall, the Red Sox won. It would have ranked as the third worst three-game stretch in playoff history, however:
Phils Win! The Phils Win! The Phillies Win!
The Phils wrapped up their sixth National League championship of all time tonight with a resounding 5-1 win in game five of the NLCS. However, the difference between the two teams' performances is not completely captured in that score.
The Phils dominated in every aspect of the game: starting pitching, hitting, defense, relief pitching, even managing. They led from pole to pole getting it started on 3-2 hanger converted into a Jimmy Rollins leadoff homer. The only criticism of the Phils was that they left so many men on base (9).
Some great defensive plays were turned in by the Phils. Chase Utley started two doubleplays, one of which required him to turn around to make the throw to second, and made a diving, stretching catch on a broken-bat liner to start the bottom of the seventh. Shane Victorino snared a basket full of catches in center including a couple in the seventh as Cole Hamels was starting to fade. Pat Burrell even contributed with a grab running toward the wall just prior to the home run.
This is in stark contrast to their opponents whose shortstop had an extremely unfortunate nightmarish series of errors (three to be precise) in the fifth that led to two runs, the first coming on a ball that could have resulted in an inning-ending double play. Aside from the errors, there were many miscues throughout by the Phils' opponent.
Their catcher attempted a backhanded stab on a ball with Ryan Howard at third but luckily for him he so slightly deflected the ball that it bounced back to him before Howard could score. The catcher also tried to pick Shane Victorino in the seventh and made a horrific throw that, again luckily for him, was trapped under the returning runner.
The opponent's first baseman, who had been lauded throughout by the continually execrable Fox crew as a great defensive player, made some miscues that he was lucky not to be tabbed with an error. He misplayed the errant throw from short that led to the final error and threw wild to home but was, again, luckily backed up the pitcher. He also made a miscue on an earlier play to start what should have been a double play.
The lone run allowed came on a mistake pitch up high on 1-2 count to their opponent's best hitter. I have to say that I have been very impressed with Hamels who won the MVP on two uncharacteristic starts. He did not have his best stuff early, and I mean for two to three innings, in either game, but somehow pitched well enough (and made either got lucky on some mistake pitches or threw them at the right time) to get by until his better stuff showed up.
There were some very positive signs throughout. First, two major much-needed offensive contributors, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, both break out of major slumps in a big way. This is a team that never seems to have all of their offensive cylinders firing at the same time, but they are as close now to having everyone contributing at the same time as they have been throughout the postseason.
Next up, the rep from the other league, the one that whipped the Phils 11-4ouch!this year in interleague play. If it's the Red Sox, they are a team that is ready to collapse under its own weight at any time. The Rays are the ones that bother me. They have been a much more well-balanced team this postseason. And how can you dislike them: it's like kicking a puppy.
Whoever it is Hamels will be rested for game one but will probably get just one more start in the series unless they break their interdiction on his starting on three days' rest. And that exposes another Phils weakness, their starters behind Hamels. Jamie Moyer, who had been a rock down the stretch and pitched the division clincher, has been abysmal. Brett Myers has been mercurial, and his buzzing of the other team's best hitter turned game three into a circus, in which their opponents needed to win to show their mettle, helping the Phils avoid their first playoff series sweep in franchise history. Joe Blanton has been great in the postseason, but given his regular-season performance, cannot be relied to heavily upon.
One postscript: I have not mentioned the opponent the Phils defeated nor anyone on their roster since oddly it seems to enrage their fans. As to the issue of the game three wackiness, I just want to point out that Victorino, whom I defended, went on to play a stellar series, defensively and offensively, and even said a kind word to the opponents' beleaguered shortstop tonight. He showed his mettle while the catcher integral to the incident went on to strand a flotilla of runners, was erratic defensively, and hurt his team by arguing balls and strikes with home plate ump Mike Winters (who was admittedly awful throughout the night) after being called out on strikes to end the sixth. He was very close to being thrown out of the game (I question why he and the second baseman who did the same thing in the eighth were not ejected), not to mention doing his best to poison the ump against his team. He fully earned the appellation with which I anointed him after game three. Now, let's never speak of them again.
Red Sux, Pt. II
The Rays pounded the Sox at Fenway, 13-4, tonight and now are set to take the series Thursday night in a replay of game 1 with James Shields again matching up with Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Sox now join the Dodgers as teams in 3-1 holes with two of three games on the road.
The difference is that the Sox have been devastated by the Rays on two consecutive nights. These two losses constitute the Sox worst performance in consecutive playoff games. Boston lost the last two laughers by a combined 17 runs. The worst they had ever been outperformed in two consecutive playoff games was 13 runs, done twice, one of which was the famous comeback from 0-3 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.
Here are Boston's worst two game performance in their playoff history:
So this begs the question, was it the worst two-game performance in playoff history? No, but it's close. Oddly that honor falls to the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, who got their proverbial clocks cleaned by 23 collective runs in games 2 and 3 only to win in seven games.
Here are the most lopsided consecutive playoff games in baseball history. Note that the Red Sox in the last two nights come in tied for fifth:
Never stop, never stop fighting till the fight is done Here endeth the lesson.
The Phils extracted victory from the duodenum of defeat tonight, winning 7-5 over the Dodgers to go up three games to one in the NLCS. In the process, the Phils overcame their own manager's proclivity to small ball them to death and their own defensive blunders.
Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel set the tone in the bottom of the first intentionally walking Manny Ramirez with a 2-0 lead and one out which set up a James Loney double (on a GD 0-2 pitch!) to cut the lead by one.
Next with the Phils trailing 3-2, Manuel did his best to thwart a Phils rally. After A Ryan Howard walk and a Pat Burrell single, the Phils had men at first and second and had none out. Shane Victorino, the man who would eventually tie the game with a home run, sacrificed. This was a move so bad that even Tim McCarver could tell it was bad. Let's kill a rally by handing the other team an out and bring up the caboose of my lineup.
Next, he brought in righty Pedro Feliz to bat for lefty Greg Dobbs against shaky lefty Clayton "Don't Call Me Nik" Kershaw. Torre easily countered this by bringing in right Chan Ho Park, that was sort of a push. Feliz flied out but Park gave up a wild pitch to Carlos Ruiz, tying the ballgame. After Ruiz walked, Manuel forced Torre to lift the abysmal Park for Joe Biemel, by pinch-hitting lefty Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins was then lifted for So Taguchi. I might prefer letting the pitcher bat against Park than Taguchi bat against Biemel. Whichever you prefer, two bats off the bench were wasted.
With the Phils having just tied the game 3-3, Manuel stuck with Chad Durbin in the sixth after he gave up two monster shots, a homer to Casey Blake and a gapper double to Juan Pierre of all people. Durbin next walked Matt Kemp on four pitches. Kemp did not end up scoring, but the next batter, Rafael Furcal with Scott Eyre relieving Durbin, bunted and after a Ryan Howard throwing error to first to get Furcal, Pierre scored.
The turning point was Chase Utley's great unassisted doubleplay to end the inning. Crybaby Martin lined to Utley and he won a foot racesomehowwith Rafael Furcal to get back to the bag for the final out.
Then Torre's ill-advised moves came to the fore. Earlier in the game, he made some questionable calls first putting a slight lead in the young Kershaw's hands when Derek Lowe had just had a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. Next, Torre turned to Park. But his worst move may have been to lift Hong-Chih Kuo, who had been dominate but gave up a walk to Howard, in favor of Cory Wade. Wade then gave up the game-tying home run to Shane Victorino and what turned out to be the winning run in the form of a Carlos Ruiz single to left. Finally, Torre turned to closer Jonathan Broxton, who promptly lost the game on a tremendous shot by Matt Stairs to the right field bleachers in Long Beach.
Manuel then turned to closer Brad Lidge with two out in the eighth, and suddenly it looked like the Phils would fall apart again. Ramirez doubled next and a wildpitch strikeout left Crybaby Martin on first and Ramirez at third. But Lidge get the next four men out to save it.
The Phils now go into game five with Cole Hamels who has looked completely the ace this postseason against Chad Billingsley, who the Phils plastered last time out. Also, teams leading three games to one in a seven-game series have historically won 83% of the time (54-11), and that's including teams who did not have the last two games at home.
I just hope the put the Dodgers away early in Wednesday. I'm going to have a heart attack if they have another one like tonight's ballgame. I just hope he doesn't bunt Victorino again.
The Rays dominated the Red Sox today, 9-1, regaining homefield advantage in the series and taking a 2-1 lead. The 8-run loss ties for the team's fifth worst in playoff history and ties for their third worst at home:
The Phillies and Dodgers resume playing baseball after Buzz-gate, the much ado about two total hit batsmen on two soft breaking balls in three games. For some reason saying that apparently offends Dodger fans like stealing Chad Kreuter's cap.
Here's a quick tally of where we are as I gird my loins for another postseason Joe Blanton start. All of these are based on 7-game postseason series:
Teams that start 2-0, win the series 81% of the time (54-13).
Teams that start 2-0 at home, win 76% of the time (32-10).
OK, I feel pretty good, but let's add game three in
Teams that start 2-0 at home and then lose game three on the road, win 67% of the time (18-9).
Now, to game four
Teams that start 2-0 at home, lose game three on the road, and win game four on the road, win the series 82% of the time (9-2).
Teams that start 2-0 at home, lose game three on the road, and lose game four on the road, win the series just 56% of the time (9-7).
So where does this leave us? Joe Blanton better pitch one heckuva game especially with the pen hurting after Moyer's meltdown yesterday. So far, aside from a fastball to Loney with way too much of the plate (Ruiz was standing to receive it for god's sack), he's been okay.
Fox really wants a Red Sox-Dodgers Manny World Series. They can take a little temper tantrum by crybaby Russell Martinboo hoo, I got hit by a 75-MPH Jamie Moyer junkball in the leg and now I will have my pitcher throw at a player's headand turn that tempest in a teapot into a series-defining moment.
It's not bad enough that the umpiring has been awful throughout the game, truly throughout the playoffs. Look at the Jayson Werth check-swing third strike call in the midst of a Phils' comeback. Tim-may and Buck Fils wouldn't even look at that one or the worst ball-strike calls that plate ump Mike Everitt made. And the way they lauded the Dodgers individual players as if Matt Kemp had suddenly become Jay Buhner and Rafael Furcal, whose range factor was below the league average for a shortstop, were Ozzie Smith.
But McCarver has to call on the ghost of Bob Gibson, he's favorite touchstone when his blovio-meter is low, and demand that the Dodgers throw at a Phils to make up for the latter's proclivity for hitting batters. Did McCarver even do his homework? The Phils were 13th in the majors in hit batsmen in 2008. Their 57 HBP were just one more than the major-league average. Meanwhile, the Phils batters were hit by a pitch 67 times, tied for seventh in the majors and 13 more than the NL average.
The Phils do not throw at people. They got hit by a pitch 10 times more often in 2008 than they hit their opponents. Note that none of the myriad Phils relievers even came close to brushing back Kuroda as a statement. But never mind the facts, when the Rovian Fox broadcasters are trying to create a story.
Meanwhile, during the game I heard Joe Torre admit to these same Fox broadcasters that Voctorino was intentionally thrown at. After the game Russell Martin admitted the same. At least Kuroda had the sense to mimic Brett Myers and say in the post-game press conference that the ball just slipped. Doesn't that demand a suspension, if not an arrest warrant, for the manager and the catcher?
And now that we mention Brett Myers, you may have noticed that as the Phillie Phanatic pantomimed the Phils lineup before game 2, he pointed to his head and twirled his index finger around to indicate that Myers is a crazy head case. To think that Myers has the consent of the team when he threwif it was intentionalat many Ramirez is flimsy at best. And to lump Moyer's obviously unintentional plunk of Martin, is ludicrous.
The Phils have never swept a playoff series. Realistically, they need to win one in LA to stay comfortably ahead. One loss far from breaks their back. They could loss all three and return home and take the series.
However, McCarver said something in the waning innings of tonight's game that unless Howard and Rollins picked up the offense, there was no way that the Phils could win this series. Really?!?
My biggest worry is Joe Blanton going tomorrow night against Derek Lowe. If Lowe comes out as flat as he was at the end of game 1, the Phils should be fine. Given that he is going on three day's rest that will be a concern. But Blanton is a real wildcard. He can look great as he did against the Brewers or he can look like the ill-advised pickup he had been most of the season.
I just hope that nobody throws a pitch close to Crybaby Martin or we'll be back in this mess again.
Oh, one P.S., it was extra-bush of the Dodger faithful to continually harangue Shane Victorino, one of the most easy-going players on the Philshe is Hawaiian after all, for protesting when a ball is thrown at his head. I thought Victorino acted completely appropriately. He didn't mind the intentional buzz: it was the location. And all he did was protest. He didn't charge the mound. Nor did he demand a retaliation as Crybabies Martin and Ramirez had done.
Brett Myers turned the Brewer series around with a well-earned walk against CC Sabathia, but topped that with a 3-for-3, 2-run, 3-RBI effort in winning game 2 yesterday over the Dodgers, 8-5. Indeed his batting line far surpassed his pitching line: 5 innings, 6 hits, 4 walks, 5 runs (all earned), six strikeouts, and a homer allowed. The win was the only thing that counted, however.
It made me wonder how unique was Myers' feat. I looked up all pitchers in a playoff series who had 3 hits, 2 runs, 3 RBI and at least one win. The last pitcher to accomplish all this was Dutch Ruether for the Reds in the 1919 World Series, and he may have had help from the hapless Black Sox.
The only other pitchers to match Myers' feat were from before the advent of the modern World Series. Here is the complete list:
Rays-Sox Game 2: Highest Scoring Extra-Inning Playoff Game in Baseball History?
The Rays and Red Sox have just completed nine innings and are locked in an 8-8 tie in game two of the ALCS. This marks just the fifth time in baseball history that two teams have scored 16 runs or more in an extra-inning playoff game.
The last time was game 2 of last season's ALCS which the Indians won of the rather unique score of 13-6 in 11 innings. A grand slam would make this the highest scoring extra-inning playoff game of all-time:
Phils-Dodgers NLCS Game 1
Pregame--Damn we're back on FOX. Bowa doing the Dodger lineup--what a slap in the face.
Furcal--nice play by Howard. He looks pumped.
Ethier -- Soft grooved fastball, liner over Rollins, double with Burrell lumbering over to cut it off.
"Hot"--McCarver says this is a hip term.. Yeah, maybe in Chicago in the mid Twenties.
Ramirez--Went around on high heat--strike one. Damn, another grooved fastball this time in the middle of the plate. Wow, hit a fence in center and would have been a homer if about two feet right. Dodgers 1-0.
McCarver is bloviating about walking Manny in the first. God, I am sick of him already.
Martin--wait this is their cleanup hitter. Maybe they should have walked Manny. K's on three pitches. Hamels doesn;t look good, change on strike 2 had decent movement but nothing like his usual stuff.
Loney--Wait, where's Tracy Woodson? Damn, loses him after being ahead 1-2. First and second, 2 outs.
Kemp--Ruiz just dropped one, location not great, but PB. 2nd and 3rd. 2-0, change, 2-1. Flies out, but Ruiz set up way outside, and Hamels was off toward the plate. he does not look good.
Harry Kalas is announcing the Phils lineup--Nice
Victorino--grounds out to second.
Utley--wide first strike. Nice punches low and outside up the middle. Single.
Howard--Had 56 RBI more than the Dodger leader (Loney). 2-0. Lowe didn't 2nd pitch, but looked low. Howard ground foul the third slider from Lowe. 2-1 pitch way outside, called a strike. Same pitch--full count. Howard grounds into the shift.
Blake--Strikes out on three pitches.
DeWitt--Flies to Burrell.
Burrell--Full count. Liner down in left field. How can he not get a souble out of that. Manny backhands it.
Werth--McCarver explains why Torre and Honeycutt are happy that Lowe is wild low. 3-0. Strike. Doubleplay ball to second. Burrell is so slow, DeWitt does not need to toss, he runs to second and throws to first. Burrell should been on 2nd anyway.
Feliz--McCarver says Lowe "can intice the doubleplay ball." I think he means "induce". Full count again. Walks him. Lowe looks rusty too.
Ruiz--oustide--call strike since Martin pulled it back. Ruiz swings at a ball way inside, grounds out.
Furcal--Change on 1-0, way ahead. Another, grounds to short.
Ethier--another change, high and inside. Another for a called K. Way inside, down the line, Howard misses the backhand on in betweener--eats him up. Single.
Ramirez-- 1-0 misses big change inside. Nice pitch. Fatsball outside, misses. Goind inside, a little too high but jams him. Pops out.
Martin--Hamel gets away with a balk on a pickoff throw to first. 2-0, forget about Ethier. Nice change down broadway. Strike one. Low, 3-1. Way low, walks him.
Loney--Mariano Duncan's the 1B coach, cool. Way inside and up, 1-0. way outside, 2-0. Go back to the change. back door, 2-1. Chaneg over plate, 2-2. K's on change in the dirt, Loney just stands there. Ruiz runs about 15 feet away to retrieve it, gets him.
Hamels--grounds to Loney.
Rollins--ground to 2nd.
24 commercial. God, I miss TBS already.
Victorino--another groundout to the right side. Trips up Lowe after the play. Both OK. God, what a useless inning for the Phils.
More GD commercials within the game.
Kemp--Fists a fly just inside the line in right. Automatic Double.
Blake--Fastball K at the knees. High fastball, foul. McCarver now explaining who Jason Bay is. Why not explain who the Red Sox are, Timmy? Fouls two more off. Tim-may talking about Blake's home town. Way oustide, nice play by Ruiz to stop it. way inside. 2-2. Groundout to short, runner to third.
DeWitt--Flies to Victorino. 2-0 Dodgers.
Lowe--grounds to first.
Utley--Trying to bunt?!? Ball. 1-2. Replay shows Lowe hurt hand on stinger in last half-inning. In dirt. Ks on tip into the glove. Man, the Phils bats look dead.
Howard--Way outside, but not a slider. 1-2 on slider at ankles. 2-2, another slider too low. Tips in dirt after Diamond cam useless view. Howard soft grounder to right side again. Close play at least at first.
Burrell--Hols up 2-1. They call that a swing? Bad call. Tip into Martin's glove. Another awful inning.
Furcal--Bunts foul 1-2. Close pitch not called 2-2. Bouncer, full count. ground to short.
Ethier--Need to get him this time. Big change--Ks.
Ramirez--Fists into center. single.
They need to do something here.
Werth--Ground to third on 1-1. Bad start.
Feliz--ground to short, 0-1. They are doing nothing with Lowe. No patience.
Ruiz--shows bunt, called K. Grounds foul off the ground. One way too far oustside. Grounds past second. Single.
Hamels--At least they got the pitcher up here. Lines to right on a low, outside slider. Wow, first and second.
Rollins--full count way outside. Flies to left.
Loney--lines to left. single.
Kemp--One hopper, hard to rollins, shuffles to Hamels, DP. McCarver compares ir to division-clinching play and I have to admit I was thinking of the same thing.
Blake--ground to short. Nice inning.
Victorino--2-2, grounds to short, throw gets past Loney. Victorino goes to second. E6.
Utley--Martin goes out to talk to Lowe again. Utley deep to right. Over the wall. 2-run homer. tie ballgame.
That was a slider again. Hung a bit but nice way to go it by Utley.
Howard--Another groundout to first.
Burrell--two more low sliders 2-0. Another 3-0. Another, called strike 3-1. Turns on one, homer to left. 3-2 Phils.
Torre is pulling Lowe.
Burrell takes a bow. Nice.
Chan Ho Park is in. What is this, an old-timers game?
Werth--Flies to center.
Feliz--chopper to third. Nice bare-hand by Blake.
DeWitt--Nice inside change, 0-1. Big change misses, 2-1. Maddux in the pen, Kent on deck. Lines down the right field corner, foul. Ks on big change.
Kent--Ks on high heat. Looks like Durbin and Eyre up in pen.
Furcal--change, 0-1. Another, pops foul. Grounds 1-6-3, off Hamels glove.
Ruiz--Maddux in. McCarver has to tell us he's a good pitcher. Thanks, Tim-may. Grounds to Furcals right, another bad throw. Ruiz safe, probably a single.
Taguchi--Tim-may actually says something sensible about using a decent bat and not bunting. And Taguchi helps him by popping to first.
Rollins--grounds right into Dewitt's glove. DP.
Ethier--Madson in. Nice change on 1-1. Misses 1-2. Again, Ks.
Ramirez--Manuel to mound. Lines on first pitch low change to Feliz.
Martin--High change over the plate. Lines down third. Too fast for Feliz, past ball girl. Held to single.
Loney--Madson keeps shaking off Ruiz. Goes with oustide change. Inside, grounds to Utley.
Victorino--Kuo is in. Lidge in pen. Victorino lines to 2nd.
More in-game commercials.
Utley--two way outside. Low and inside, grounds to first.
Another commercial, for Blackberry with Burrell's homer replayed. Gotta squeeze every dime out of the last innings.
Howard--Tim-may loses track of the pitch count. Flies to center.
Three stiffs due up vs. Lidge.
Lidge in. Bruntlett in left for Burrell.
I'm glad the Dodgers have so many stiffs in their lineup since Lidge has been worrying me.
Kemp--flies to deep right-center. Victorino has it.
Blake--1-0 inside. Change right over the plate, called K. Four-seam, ball. Loked close but was inside. Low slider 2-2. Bouncer--full count. Foul. Pierre is set to run for Blake--this is an old-timer's team. Deep to center. Victorino in front of teh warning track. 2 outs.
Dewitt--Why isn't Torre PH'ing for him? Nomar on deck. Fox doing winner cam and loser cam on Phils/Dodgers players. Slider, misses miserably, 1-2. McCarver and Buck are replaying the Jets game in which the announcers say nothing. Nice change of pace. Ks on bouncer in dirt. Ruiz throws to first. Phils win! The Phillies win!
Good, close ballgame. Hamels looked good after not having great stuff at start. Utley broke out of funk. Burrell homered again. Need to get Howard and Rollins going.
Boy, is Ken Rosenthal short, Burrell is about two feet taller than him.
Now, which Brett Myers shows up in game 2?
What a Difference 8 Games Make
With the Phils facing off against the Dodgers tomorrow just after the shofar is blownI hope they don't fill up on noshI have to think that the Phils' significantly better, though still somewhat modest, record has to weigh in on the final outcome of the series.
Keep in mind that the Dodgers with an 84-78 record would be the third worst team to reach the World Series behind the '73 Mets (82-79) and '06 Cards (83-78). The 92-70 would just be tied for 16th worst (better than the '80 and '83 teams, mind you). Even so, the Phils are 8 wins better than the Dodgers.
So the question is whether being 8 games better than your opponent in a playoff series really matters.
To answer this, I looked at all such playoff series. I found that teams that were 8 or more wins better than their opponents won the series 58 times and lost the series 32 times for an overall series winning percentage of .644.
That's a pretty good winning percentage, but maybe it makes no difference if the team is one game better than their opponent or eight. So I ran the numbers for the series in which fewer than 8 games separated the two opponents. The results were that in this case the teams with the better record won 68 times, the team with the worse record won 79, and 11 times the teams had the same number of wins. So when the teams are close, apparently, having a slightly superior regular-season is no advantage and may even be a disadvantage.
Now, you might say this can be explained by World Series opponents who have may have similar records but have wildly divergent talent given the, by and large, non-interlocking records. That is, you could have a team with a great record in a weak league that loses to a team with a so-so record from a tough league.
If we remove these series, looking at series in which one opponent was 8 wins better than the other, we find the "better" team won 33 times and the "worse" team won 15 times for a .688 winning percentage. Looking at the series where teams were within 8 wins of each other, the "better" team won 40 times, the "worse" team 43 times, and seven times the two teams had the same number of wins. That's a .482 winning percentage.
So I have to think that the Phils being eight wins better than the Dodgers has some significance. It's not the be-all end-all, but how many Kirk Gibson moments does this team have up its sleeves, or maybe more significantly, how many Joe Carter moments do the Phils have up theirs?
The Worst of Series? Pt. 2
As Cliff requested, here are the worst ten postseason series based on combined team record per playoff era.
First, before the advent of the League Championship Series, i.e., pre-1969. You'll note that aside from a couple of clunkers, these are pretty good teams. That's what happens when you only let two teams into the postseason:
Next the middle era, 1969 to 1993 when there were four playoffs teams, two per league, and two rounds (LCS and World Series) of playoffs (except for the strike shortened 1981 season when we had basically the current system of eight teams albeit decided by split season). You'll note a dropoff around here:
So how did the average series change over time? Here are the average per playoff era and round:
The quality of World Series teams has dropped dramatically as the number of playoff teams has expanded. This is may be due to lower caliber teams based on regular season records slipping farther into the postseason. There are, of course, other factors such as improved competitive balance (due to free agency, the draft, etc.) and a lower threshold to reach the playoffs in the first placewhy invest to win 100 games when 90 will get you to the postseason?
Still, better teams tend to go further into the postseason though the combined winning percentage difference between each round is getting smaller.
Now, let's look at the average per era. You'll note that the difference between the last two eras is less than one would expect:
Finally, here are the averages per playoff round. Again expanding to 8 teams has not tended to weaken the field substantially, That was accomplished when they opened Pandora's box by adding divisional play in 1969:
I never expected that the arguments against the wild card and an additional round of playoffs would boil down to a matter of preference, but Selig be damned, it has not been the bane that I anticipated.
Now the best-of-five playoff series, that's another story
As for Cliff's other question, it's odd to see Larry Bowa in a Dodgers uniform, but probably equally odd to see Davey Lopes in a Phillies uni. How about Zimmer as a Ray?
The Worst of Series?
The Phillies-Dodgers League Championship Series is not set to begin for another few days and already it has made history.
The Phils and Dodgers will have the worst combined record ever for two opponents in either an LCS or World Series. They will match the 1973 World Series for least wins (176) but will have a slightly worse winning percentage (.543 vs. .545).
The previous LCS with the worst collective winning percentage for the two combatants was the 2000 ALCS between the Yankees and M's.
Here are the LCS's and World Series with teams with the worst collective winning percentages all time. I am leaving off the Division Series since we expect one or two ridiculous teams to sneak into those annually:
I know many will blame the lowly NL West for bringing down the overall winning percentage, but it should be remembered that the AL beat up on the NL pretty soundly in interleague play this year (over .600 winning percentage).
All this makes me, an NL fan as well as a Phils fan, dread the outcome of the World Series all the more. As the Red Sox finally put away the disappointing Angels, I have to root for the Rays to prevail to stop another apocalyptic Boston championship. Say Tampa Bay a few times fast and it does sound a bit like Tyree.
Like Deja Vu All Over Again
Today the Phils advance easily past the BrewersCraig Counsell, really?!?and now take on the once lowly Dodgers for the League Championship. While many analysts spent the season explaining why the Dodgers should not even be allowed to appear in the postseason while lauding the unbeatable Cubbies, somehow LA swept Chicago with nary a Billy Goat, Bartman-esque moment. They just got plan beat.
So I am left reminiscing over all of the Phils-Dodgers matchups in the late Seventies and early Eighties. I remember helping to boo Burt Hooton off the mound in 1977, even though the Phils went on to lose the game. I remember the Phils besting the Dodgers (finally) in four games in the 1983 NLCS after going 1-11 against them during the regular season. I still can't stand Davey Lopes even though he is now the Phils first base coach. And Steve Garvey definitely isn't my Padre, er, Dodger.
I would say this is a coincidence except for the fact that after the Phillies clinched the division, I sauntered over to Modell's at lunchtime to purchase an NL East champs T-shirt, thinking this might very well be the only opportunity for a cherce souvenir this season. Little did I know that "Mo's" would have a sale on a 1980 Phils retro windbreaker with the 1980 World Series logo on the sleeve and with the back emblazoned with the championship trophy. Hey, it was just nineteen smackers after all. And now guess who was my favorite player back when I was akid? Greg "The Bull" Luzinski. Number 19.
Anyway, back to the Dodgers-Cubs. The Cubs have now become only the third team to be ousted by sweeps in the first round in two straight postseasons. Here are the other two:
[Note: the Braves were also swept out of the playoffs in two straight years (1999-2000), but the first year was in the World Series, not the first round.]
As for the Phils-Brewers, there were a few eccentricities of note.
First, CC Sabathia pinch-hit and struck out today in a strange move given that he was to be the starter in game five in two days. It would be one thing to pinch-hit Randy Lerch, but this is the Brewers ace/only legitimate starter. How could Sveum have such disregard for game five? Well, maybe looking down the bench, he realized that the stiffs he had with him, given all of their injuries, would do no better. Did I mention that they have Craig Counsell?
Sabathia becomes the 65th pitcher in postseason history to appear in the game without pitching. Here are the last ten:
If you missed it, in Saturday's ballgame, the Phils started a rally in ninth, trailing 4-1. With the bases loaded and none out, Pedro Feliz hit a ball to third for an apparent double play scoring Ryan Howard from third. The score stood 4-2 with a man at third, two out, and Carlos Ruiz representing the tying run striding to the plate. Then Dale Sveum strode out of the dugout chatted mildly with the umps and the runners were returned to second and third thereby taking a run off the board.
Charlie Manuel complained, but the replay clearly showed that Shane Victorino failed to slide attempting to take out Craig Counsell at second and break up the double play. It also showed that the ump clearly called interference immediately on the play. At the time of the interference, the runners had not yet reached the next base.
Given the rulesee belowthe ball was dead and the runners were barred from advancing. It sucked, but the umps did get it right. Or at least they did when Sveum told them.
Finally, in another odd play, in the top of the sixth with the Phillies leading, 5-0, Jayson Werth hit what looked like a home run to left, when suddenly the ball apparently careened off a cable in the Miller Park infrastructure and was caught by third baseman Craig Counsellhe is scrappy after all (Did the TBS announcers say that enough?).
It seemed like a homer call, but I looked up the Miller Park ground rules, and there it was:
Jamie Moyer, about a month shy of the ripe old age of 46, takes the mound tonight for the Phils. He opposes playoff first-timer Dave Bush in what might be the last game in this series and the last game in the Brewers season.
By the way, the Brewers have still not won a playoff game since October 17, 1982 when they beat the Cards in game five of the 1982 World Series to go ahead three games to two. They lost 13-1 two days later and lost the series a day after that.
On the other hand, the Phils with a win will complete their first postseason sweep. Isn't that just nutty? The Phils have only won a handful of playoff series to begin with, but they have yet to sweep. Their playoff series wins are as follows in reverse chronological order: 4-2 over the Braves in the 1993 NLCS, 3-1 over the Dodgers in the '83 NLCS, 3-2 over the Astros in the '80 NLCS, and 4-2 over the Royals in the '80 World Series. That's just four postseason series won in, what, 125 years of existence.
Anyway, Moyer will become the second oldest starting pitcher in postseason history. Jack Quinn had just turned 46 when he started game four of the '29 World Series for the A's. The next in line right now is Roger Clemens, who was a few months older than Moyer, and therefore, already 45, when they both started games in last year's playoffs.
Here are the oldest postseason starters all-time. Note the age reflects the season age, not necessarily the age at game time:
If Moyer wins the game tomorrow, it will not only be historic as the Phils first playoff sweep, it will be the first game in the postseason won by a pitcher 45 or over. Here are the current oldest winning pitchers in the postseason:
If Moyer wants to become the oldest pitcher to ever appear in a postseason, he will have to stick around for at least two more seasons. Jack Quinn came back to pitch in relief for the 1930 A's in the World Series after turning 47. Here are the oldest to make a playoff appearance.
Myers Defeats Sabathia with His Bat (And I Don’t Mean Bodily)
Brett Myers pitched a very fine game tonight2 hits and 2 runs in seven inningsallaying fears, at least mine, that his post-Triple-A-demotion mini-renaissance was over. But his most significant contributions might have been at the plate rather than the mound.
At two key junctures in the game, Myers came to the plate and, even though he delivered just a walk and a fly out, changed the direction of the game, once jump-starting the two-out rally that gave the Phils' the only lead they would need and once wearing down Sabathia just prior to another rally that removed him from the game.
After the Phils tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the second, Pedro Feliz was ninety feet away from giving the Phils their first lead when Myers came to the plate with two outs. After appearing overeager lunging at the first two pitches, Myers became suddenly defensive at the plate, fouling off three pitches and drawing a nine-pitch walk.
To that point (8 batters), Sabathia had not gone deeper than five pitches into any count. He promptly walked Rollins on four pitches, and then the turning point came as Victorino homered on a hanging 1-2 pitch.
Sabathia seemed to settle down, retiring five of the next six batters. After Carlos Ruiz grounded out on the first pitch in the fourth, Myers again came to bat. At first, his new-found patience almost did him in as he watched the first two pitches go by as strikes. After four fouls, Myers flied out on the tenth pitch.
After Sabathia threw three straight balls to the next batter, Jimmy Rollins, he lined a double down the leftfield corner. Sabathia then walked the next two battersVictorino intentionally and Utley, not so much (Actually, 3-1 ball in the dirt allowed both runners to advance and then Utley got the free pass). Before Ryan Howard stepped up to the plate, Sabathia was gone and apparently so was any possibility that the Brewers would get themselves back into the game or the series.
The Brewers now go back home relying on the ever-mediocre Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan to get them to another Sabathia start. And now the Phils know they can get to Sabathia, and if they can't maybe that can pinch-hit Myers to jumpstart a rally.
Burying Joe Carter—Now What About Myers?
The Phils finally won a their first postseason game since the 1993 World Series, and they did it with such almost mind numbing insouciance that you would think they did this every year with a 3-1 win over the Brewers in game 1.
Cole Hamels lulled the Brewers' lineup of mostly Punch-and-Judy .240 hitters for eight scoreless innings while the Phils almost equally sonorous bats connected for a three-run third and quickly went back to sleep. Suddenly Mitch Williams-esque Brad Lidge made the ninth interesting allowing the Brewers' sole run and ending the game on a strikeout to one of the Brewers best hitters, Corey "Eyeglasses at Night" Hart, with two runners on and the tie run at second.
The third inning was something to see, however. A rally started by the weak-hitting Carlos Ruiz. A two-out rally to score three runs. A few key misplays and three walks by the Brewers to go with the Phils lonely two hits on the inning.
One of those two hits was a nice slicing drive to center by Chase Utley that the usually trusty Mike Cameron misplayed into a double, scoring the first two runs of the inning, the only two the Phils would need with Hamels.
There were many positives: the ease of the win in general, Hamels' dominating change that reminded me of Lefty Carlton's buckling slider, and a big hit by the team's best player (Utley) to exorcise the demons from last year's three-and-out series against the Rockies. Also, Milwaukee's misplays in the field, their rag-tag rotation, and the overall lackluster performancefive walksof the still rehabbing starter "Don" Yovani Gallardo gives one the impression that they might not put up much of a fight.
However, the Phils bats did collect just four hits and looked particularly overmatched by middle reliever and potential starting pitcher, Carlos Villanueva. Jason Werth went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and three men left on base. Pedro Feliz went 0-for-4 with six men left on base. Lidge's recent lackluster performance though they have not resulted in a blown save as yet, might mean that the long season has started wearing on him.
I am cautiously optimistic, however. A decent performance by Brett "Meat" Myers against Brewer ace CC Sabathia might end this series after two games. Myers was 2-3 with a 5.24 ERA in September which makes one wonder if the resurgence he experienced after his Elba-like exile to the Triple-A Iron Pigs is over. He might be back to his old, incredibly exasperating self.
A win tomorrow means that the all that stands between the Phils and the NLCS is the ever-mediocre Dave Bush, the game three starter, and Jeff Suppan in game four. Of course, the Phils would be wise to finish Milwaukee off early as Sabathia looms large in game five.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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