The Phillies really needed to win tonight. It didn’t happen. Now it will take three straight wins to take the series. Tonight’s game was everything postseason baseball can be. There were lead changes, swings in momentum, and a dramatic finish in the 9th inning.
While in the pit of despair it is easy to focus on the negatives. As I watch the Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia post game show I’m hearing all sorts of criticism. Sure, there were some questionable decisions, but in the end the Giants put together a few hits and won the game. When two teams compete one of them has to lose.
I do not fault Charlie Manuel for not starting Halladay. I do not fault Sam Perlozzo for sending Ruiz in the 5th. I do not fault Jimmy Rollins for not bunting in the 8th (though he had to pull the ball in that situation).
Credit is due to the Giants for coming up big.
Now the Phils are against the wall. It’s win or go home from here on out.
The 2009 NLCS just ended. The Philadelphia Phillies have advanced to the World Series, and I am thoroughly enjoying the moment. Game 5 was relatively comfortable from the bottom of the 1st inning on, which was a nice respite after Game 4. Here are a few thoughts about the game and the series as a whole:
- Cole Hamels had another rough start. He struggled to locate his pitches at times. On the plus side, his curve seemed much better tonight than it has in weeks. But after being staked a nice lead he couldn’t get through five innings. That’s a problem. I’m holding out hope that he has a stellar start left for the World Series.
- Chase Utley didn’t get a hit, but he did walk. That walk means he has safely reached base in 25 consecutive postseason games, which ties the MLB record held by Boog Powell.
- In Game 5 the Phillies’ 3 and 4 hitters (Utley and Howard) combined for an 0 for 6 night with no runs batted in. Despite this the Phillies put up 10 runs. That makes me feel pretty good.
- Jimmy Rollins had a huge hit that dramatically won Game 4. In Game 5 he was hit by pitches twice. Coincidence? Rollins had never been hit twice in one game before. For the record I do not think the Dodgers were throwing at Jimmy.
- Chad Durbin pitched 1.1 innings of solid relief to get the win. He faced Manny, Kemp, Loney, and Martin at a critical time in the game and got three ground balls and a strikeout.
- I must bring up my favorite commentator from TBS once more. In the 5th inning Ron Darling made two contradictory statements. Statement 1 = A three run lead in this ballpark is nothing. (This is a stupid comment regardless of what was said after it. A three run lead is something in any ballpark.) Statement 2: How many times do you see a pitcher with a big lead struggle in the 5th inning? (The insinuation he was making is that it is common). So a three run lead is nothing, yet it is a big lead. Riiiigggghhhhhtttt.
- And my favorite topic of the postseason. The strike zone. Argh. Home plate umpire Tom Hallion called a conservative strikezone. I do not ever recall a series (regular season or postseason) having this many consecutive games with such a small strike zone. I think both teams were hurt by it, but the Dodgers more so than the Phillies. I also think that if Jamie Moyer had been on the Phillies’ roster for some reason he would have never had a chance. Saying the umpires were calling a conservative strike zone does not even do it justice. If the strike zone were an Anabaptist denomination it would be Old Order Amish, more conservative than the Mennonites, Brethren, or Hutterites. I prefer the Evangelical Mennonite strike zone.
- I’ve made a very disturbing observation about Ryan Howard during the NLCS. Before Game 4 he spoke at a press conference wearing a hat cocked slightly to one side, which I consider an abomination. I had not seen him do this before. After Game 5 he did it again. This grieves me. I have always appreciated that the Phillies do not have players on their roster who wear crooked hats. A backwards hat is fine, but crooked hats are just wrong. Thankfully Howard still wears his in a respectable manner during the game.
Congratulations to the Dodgers on a fine season. They had the best record in the NL and are a good ball club. I’d love to see the Phils tangle with them again next year in the NLCS. That’s a distinct possibility considering the nucleus of young talent they have.
So now I get to look forward to the World Series for the next week. I’m hoping we get to play the Yankees.
On Monday I spent several hours weighing parts of dead firs in the lab. While I did this I listened to Philly sports radio (610 WIP) via the internet. The mood was joyful and optimistic (as long as the Eagles weren’t mentioned), and the consensus was that the NLCS was all but wrapped up.
I am prone to be cautious, so all this talk of the series being a walkover didn’t sit well with me. As the day progressed I began to develop a foreboding feeling. By the time I sat down in front of my television I was expecting Randy Wolf to pitch well and the Phillies to lose a close game (I’m not saying this is what I wanted; I’m saying this is what I thought was going to happen).
Here are a few thoughts on the game:
- Ryan Howard knocked in a run in his eighth consecutive postseason game, tying the MLB record held by Lou Gehrig. When he hit the ball out in the first inning I began to feel my fears about Randy Wolf might have been ridiculous.
- The strike zone Ted Barrett called bothered me all night. I am a strong proponent of a liberal strike zone. If a pitch so much as grazes an edge of the zone I want it to be a strike. Both teams suffered from the micro strike zone that existed. One example of this occurred in the 3rd inning, when Jimmy Rollins took three straight pitches that were called balls that should have been strikes. Three in a row!
The strike zone (yellow) that I like; the one that was called (red).
- Randy Wolf did pitch very well. After the Howard home run he mowed through the Phillies’ line up for four innings. I was happy to see Torre pull him in the 6th.
- Ron Darling, TBS color commentator, annoyed me again. In the bottom of the 5th Joe Blanton was up with two outs and Ruiz on first. It was a classic second-guess-the-manager moment. Should Blanton hit or not? Charlie left Blanton in. I feel this was the right move. In the top of the 6th Manny led off with a ground ball that should have been an out. Instead Pedro Feliz made an error. After two weakly hit singles the Dodgers had another run, which prompted Mr Darling to make this remark (paraphrased): Charlie Manuel decided not to hit for Blanton and it cost the Phillies a run. The Dodgers have made the better moves and they have the lead for it. What! Blanton pitched well in the inning. The run was unearned. How can you blame that run on Blanton? What if someone had come out of the bullpen and allowed three runs? Would Charlie have been criticized for pulling Blanton? Ron Darling and Buck Martinez have driven me to the point where I miss the commentary of Tim McCarver, how sad is that?
- Going into the 9th I had hope that the Phils would win, but I felt the game was unfolding just like I feared. And then the rally happened.
- I think Jonathan Broxton will always hate NLCS Game 4. Last year he surrendered a dramatic home run to Matt Stairs to blow the game; this year he gave up a game winning double to Jimmy Rollins to blow the game.
- Carlos Ruiz continued to be Dodger kryptonite. This time he was hit by a pitch, then scored the winning run from firstbase on a double.
- The Comcast SportsNet Philly Phillies Postgame Show is always very good. Michael Barkann is a wonderful anchor, and I really like hearing what Ricky Botallico has to say (as opposed to Ron Darling). I miss Mitch Williams (he’s on the MLB network now), though for the postseason Darren Daulton has been added. Dutch went through an extended period after he retired as a player when he was certifiably crazy (talking about aliens and all sorts of weird stuff). Now he seems stable. After this game he was so excited he almost dropped a few F-bombs while discussing the 9th inning highlights.
I’m thrilled the Phillies won the game, it will certainly go down as a memorable one. Right now it is 2:17am as I type this and there is no way I will be falling asleep anytime soon. I suspect I might have had nearly toxic levels of adrenalin in my system, and it is taking its time breaking down or dissipating (or doing whatever adrenalin does when the party is over).
A popular baseball adage opines that good pitching beats good hitting. In NLCS Game 2 Pedro Martinez pitched seven shutout innings, but the Phillies’ defense blinked and the offense came up small. The end result was a 2-1 loss. It was one of the most frustrating games I have ever watched.
Tonight in Game 3 the Phillies got another spectacular start. Clifton Phifer Lee threw eight shutout innings. But this time the defense was stellar and the offense was clicking. The Phillies scored early and often, which made the game a very enjoyable and low-stress contest.
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Here are a few observations from the game:
- In the first inning Ron Darling made a comment about Citizen’s Bank Park (CBP) on the TBS broadcast after Raul Ibanez made a catch. I wish I had the exact quote, but it was something very close to this: You could spend an entire summer here and never see a leftfielder come in. That is a stupid statement. I watched many, many games played at The Bank this season and a leftfielder coming in was a common sight. Darling was making a lazy comment about the ball carrying well at CBP. But this does not mean every ball hit to left is deep. I refuse to let this comment slide. It was stupid.
- Ryan Howard is seriously locked in right now. His trip-trip-triple in the 1st inning really set the tone for the game.
- Carlos Ruiz continues his postseason heroics. Against the Dodgers he becomes Carlos Bench-Campanella-Fisk-Munson-Berra Ruiz. In the 5th inning when he was at the plate with Pedro on third and two outs I looked at my television and said: Is there any doubt that Chooch will knock in Pedro? He is totally going to get a base hit to right. And so it was.
- The Eagles should be very grateful to the Phillies. After an epic stinkbomb in Oakland this afternoon the Eagles needed something to divert attention from their loss. And the Phillies provided just that. The largest margin of victory in franchise postseason history.
Hopefully the offense stays hot tomorrow. Go get ’em Joe B.
The 2009 NLCS is a rematch of the 2008 NLCS, the Phillies and Dodgers meet again. It is a good match-up. Most oddsmakers had the Dodgers as a slight favorite going into the series.
As I watched Game One many things ran through my mind. Here are a few of them:
- Cole Hamels did not regain my confidence. While he pitched well for a few innings, his control seemed to abandon him at times. I’ll be nervous when he makes his next start. I also feel Cole showed up Jimmy and Chase in the 5th with his reaction to the botched doubleplay. Sure it was disappointing, but it did not warrant that type of response.
- Home plate umpire Randy Marsh called a very small strike zone. Clayton Kershaw struck out Ryan Howard twice in the same at bat, then ended up walking him. I miss Eric Gregg’s big strike zone.
- Carlos Ruiz further solidified his reputation as a postseason hero and general Dodger menace by going 2 for 3 with a big three run homer.
Chooch arrives at the plate after hitting a three run home run.
- I’ve never disliked Manny Ramirez, but his bat flip and response after he hit his homer in the 5th inning did not impress me. After seeing the highlight for the third time I referred to Manny as a punk.
- J.A. Happ impressed me. He only faced two hitters, but he looked sharp and poised. I expect good things from him in this series.
- Chan Ho Park pitched a solid inning.
- Russell Martin made one of the best plays on a foul ball by a catcher I’ve ever seen in the 1st inning. That was a sweet catch.
- Brad Lidge has looked like a new pitcher in the postseason. In the 2009 postseason Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, and Ryan Franklin suffered painful blown saves. Lidge has been perfect. Tonight when Lidge came into the game I actually felt quite confident he was going to get the job done. That’s a good feeling.
Back to Lights Out? Good timing.
The Glass is Half Empty:
- It took 7 pitchers to get through the game.
- We gave up 6 runs.
- Ryan Madson had a rough outing.
- Broxton looks scary good.
The Glass is Half Full:
- Winning Game One is huge.
- We’ve got Pedro and Clifton.
- Chooch is a monster.
- The Big Piece is clutch.
- Lidge found the reset button.
Red October continues.