Livebloggin’: Game Five of the World Series (Pt. 2 of ?)
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 29, 2008
If this is it, please let me know
After sitting through what could most accurately be described as an inauspicious Sixers season opener (rebounded and d’d fairly well, but that’s about it, and Brand didn’t anchor the team so much as just sort of weigh them down), it’s good to remember that one of my city’s other sports teams is still potentially three innings away from a World Championship. This week has been maybe the most surreal I’ve experienced in my brief tenure as a sports fan–baseball is drawn out enough as it is, without having to spend two days in between innings contemplating pitching match-ups, momentum swings and possible dramatic storylines (like how if the Phillies somehow ended up losing after this, it would have to mark the blackest moment in the city’s sports history, right? Yikes, maybe I did choose to follow Philly at just the right time)
That said, I still like our chances a pretty good deal tonight–good though David Price has been, I’m not convinced he can handle four scoreless innings by his lonesome, and as long as we don’t have to resort to Durbin at some point, I trust our bullpen guys fairly implicitly. And ultimately, this might be a good thing for baseball–this was gearing up to be a fairly anonymous Series, and at least this mishap has given the match a little personality. Of course, it’s a much better story if the Rays win tonight, so let’s hope things don’t get too interesting. In any event, it’s going to be hard for me to resist flipping intermittently to the Spurs-Suns season opener (watching Game Five of the ’05 Western Conference Finals on NBA TV today reminded me just how easily this is my favorite rivalry in pro sports), so forgive an interjection or two from that game.
Anyway, opening pitch approaches. Can Lidge keep history on his side? Can Cholly outmanouever Maddon after 48 hours of labbing behind the both? Who gets to be the hero tonight? Should be one for the ages, no matter what.
8:38: Geoff Jenkins announced as the pinch-hitter for Hamels. I don’t like it–yeah, maybe he matches up better, but I don’t think he’s actually come through in any important capacity since the summer, and I’d be shocked if he broke that streak tonight. But with an unstable Balfour on the mound and a record-enthusiastic Philly crowd behind him, I’ll be willing to suspend disbelief for a couple of pitches.
8:42: HOLY FUCKING SHIT GEOFF JENKINS. A leadoff double over the head of BJ Upton that looked like almost as much of a bomb as Stairs’s NLCS clocker. Jenkins, you fucking prince. Charlie Manuel, you fucking genius.
8:43: Rollins bunts Jenkins over, and the dreaded RISP cloud moves back over Citizens Bank Park for Jayson Werth. Can he put bat to ball and get Not-Favre 90 feet over?
8:45: Somehow, yes. Werth works his patented “Runner on Third With Less Than Two Outs Pop-Up” magic, but with the infield playing in to nail Jenkins at the plate, Aki fails to pull a Rollins and make the backwards shallow-outfield catch. Jenkins scores, Werth safe at first, so long Grant Balfour.
8:49: Earlier today, I realized how much I missed those “Where Amazing Happens” NBA commercials. A few hours later, I wondered how the hell I was ever going to an endure an entire season’s worth of them again.
8:50: J.P. Howell in for Balfour. So much for Price going the distance, although McCarver & Buck helpfully point out that doing so would necessitate the Rays’ having to hit for him too soon. Doesn’t matter, since Utley goes down on three pitches to Howell, causing me to wonder if the Phils aren’t instilling the “hurry-up offense” they so often do once they get a league in big games, seemingly uninterested in providing further offense at the risk of unnecessarily delaying victory.
8:54: Howard pops up, inning over. Down to Madson, Romero and Lidge nail down a glorious anti-climax.
8:57: Hey, forgot that Hamels can still win this thing! A record-setting 5-0, just another reason why winning tonight might not be the worst idea (Reason #1: Not stretching this thing to the very end of the month getting in the way of my Halloween plans).
8:59: Madson freezes Navarro, and we officially start the Outs to Go countdown. (8)
8:59: Uhh, scratch that, as Rocco Baldelli somehow fights off a high and inside fastball…INTO THE LEFT-FIELD STANDS??? I don’t know how that mitochondrial motherfucker managed that one, but we got ourselves another tie game, and Hamels loses his shot at a historic 5-0. Goddamn it.
9:02: Bartlett singles and gets bunted up. Madson out, Romero in, and the chances that we can finish this game without resorting to Condrey or Durbin start to dwindle past the point of comfort. Would it maybe not be the worst idea to let the well-rested Myers come out of the bullpen if necessary, and have Moyer and either Blanton or a three-days’-rest Hamels pitch the potential Games 6 and 7? Well, given the fact that he always gives up two runs in his first inning, maybe it wouldn’t be so advisable. But soon it might be time for a little out-of-the-box thinking.
9:07: Another game-saving play from Utley, who gloves a hot grounder from Aki, realizes he has no play at first, and has the presence of mind to fake the throw, hold on to the ball, and gun down the overzealous Bartlett heading for home. Said it before, say it again–whatta crew.
9:11: PAT. THE. BAT. Burrell comes inches away from a game-breaking homer but manages a lead-off double anyway (anyone else would’ve gone to third or possibly home on the ricochet, but whatever). Sometimes, 1-14 just looks so much better than 0-13. Incidentally, where was that Battle of the Bullpens we were promised?
9:19: Vic advances the pinch-running Bruntlett to third, and then Feliz knocks in Bruntlett with a shot up the middle. Looks like all the momentum the Rays were supposed to get from the days off and from Hamels being out of the game has yet to properly transfer to their bullpen. Still, I guess we should see if ours’ll start holding up before I start gloating too unapologetically.
9:22: Ruiz forcefully grounds out, and then in a move that he damn well better justify with his pitching next inning, Romero is not lifted for a pinch-hitter, and grounds out somewhat less forcefully. In any event, time to start the Outs to Go countdown again (7, 6).
9:25: With every new season, the gap between between 24 and an 80s Schwarzeneggar movie closes a little bit. Not that I’m complaining, mind you–I’m especially looking forward to Jack’s climact knife fight with Bennett in the season finale.
9:28: Crawford singles up the middle, but as has somehow become his trademark this World Series, Upton grounds into a double play (5, 4). Why does this guy seem so fast when he’s stealing second or rounding third (even winning America free tacos in the process), but becomes positively Burrell-esque when running out potential DPs? This has got to be the most frustrating thing in the world if you’re a Tampa fan (and yes, I think we’re going to have to get used to the phrase “Tampa fan” in the years to come, no matter what happens here tonight).
9:32: Pena lifts one into left a little too far for comfort, but it lands in healthy playability for Bruntlett (3). No matter what, the Phils are going to have the lead going into the ninth, with Lidge on the mound to turn the lights out for the 49th and last time this season. Are we getting excited yet? Inversely, can we possibly picture a more terrifying Worst Case Scenario if the Phils don’t pull this out? Actually, let’s stick to the excitement part for now.
9:35: And heeeeere comes David Price. The more I hear about this guy and the more I see him pitch, the more I’m convinced that he’s the baseball Tim Duncan. He sorta looks like him, facial hair aside, they both were #1 picks that were thrust amidst huge hype into extremely high-pressure post-season situations their first years and they both look to be the franchise players for a potentially dynastic team. But most importantly, neither look like they feel anything except fear, adrenaline and sullenness, their perpetually hagdog expressions looking jarringly ill-fitting for such a championship-calliber player and leader. Maybe next year Price grows a goatee, dates a reality TV star and does a Sprite commercial, but more likely I think he chills at home with his phone on silent, wondering why everyone always wants to talk to him so much.
9:39: Rollins flies out and Werth strikes out. Hard not to question Maddon for not putting his No-Longer-Particularly-Secret Weapon in the game as soon as they were lucky enough to tie it against Madson, no?
9:43: Utley walks and steals second, and for the first and last time in history, Howard continues to get pitched to For Fear of Eric Bruntlett on deck. Of course, Howard justifies their decision by whiffing.
9:45: BRAD LIDGE TIME. Goddamn this blog for making it too confusing for me to figure out how to write that in the humongous, screen-shattering size it deserves. CAN YOU FEEL IT PHILADELPHIA?????
9:50: Eva Almighty pops up, and boy is it starting to feel real. Sorry for the shitty series, MLB, but I think we just needed to get this one out of the way. They can’t all be evenly-matched epics like Boston-Colorado and St. Louis-Detroit, I guess. (3)
9:52: Uh-oh, broken bat bloop single for Navarro. Lidge never did do things the easy way. Fernando Perez pinch-runs for Navarro in a way that is in absolutely no fashion reminiscent of Dave Roberts in 2004…right?
9:54: Perez steals second. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK. Zobrist and Hinske, Brad. You’ve done it all year. Do it one more fucking time, please.
9:55: Zobrist lines a beauty to right, that somehow manages to stay up long enough for Werth to get glove on it (1). Holy shit is that a little too close for comfort. And as we always knew it would, the World Series comes down to 2003 Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske. Can he provide the big-game support for the Rays that he did for the Red Sox last year? I’m cuing up the McFadden and Whitehead, just incase.
9:56, 23 seconds: Foul grounder to first, strike one.
9:56, 48 seconds: Hinske can’t check his swing, strike two. Hope you’ve been practicing your McGraw leap, Brad-Brad.
9:57, 20 seconds: Lidge slider, Hinske swings, and
AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN’T NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO STOPPIN’ USSSS NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
WE’RE ON THE MOVE
10:50: About an hour, a ridiculous amount of texting and IMing, six shots of tequilla and a whole lot of Hall & Oates and Gamble and Huff later, the incredulity of the situation has started to strike me somewhat. The Phillies have won the 2008 World Series….how about that? No weaknesses came back to haunt the team, no brutal ironies surfaced to sap the team of its life and enthusiasm, no holes opened up in the middle of the earth under CBP to swallow the team whole. And as soon as Lidge got that third strike on Hinske, I completely forgot all about all the rain delays, as I imagine the entire world will within the next 24 hours. This will not go down as one of the great moments in sports history. This will go down as very potentially the great moment in Philadelphia sports history. Holy shit am I lucky to have started following this team when I did.
And once again, they did it all as a team. There are no goats on this team. Pedro Feliz and Eric Bruntlett were not exactly on the shortlist of the team’s prospective post-season homers, but Feliz got the game-winning hit, and Bruntlett got the game winning run. My boy Moyer got shelled in his first two series outings, but he redeemed it all with his Game 3 performance, and now fans are chanting his name as he gets interviewed by Peter Gammons. Hell, even Mitch Williams, the guy who give Philly fans ulcers whenever his name was mentioned for a decade and a half, got to throw out an opening pitch. Lidge got the save, Hamels got the MVP, and Phils fans got ammo over Mets fans for years and years to come (IITS friend Andrew Weber on the occasion: “I am not even talking about this. This is too depressing. This is it for six months.”) It’s unreal that it’s as uncomplicated as it all is.
It’s a better story if Tampa Bay wins, sure. But the early-90s Braves needed to lose before they could win, too, and it’s the Braves that turned out to be the team of the 90s, while the Twins were pretty much never heard from again. I don’t cry any tears for the Rays–it would’ve been amazing if they won, sure, but they’ll only get better, and they’ll have their chances soon enough. The Phils, on the other hand–this was their year, and they might not have another. Burrell and Moyer might be on their way out, while Howard, Utley, Rollins and Victorino are not nearly as young as you might think for a group that hasn’t even been playing together for a half-decade. It was a year where just about everything that could’ve gone right did–some minor dips in production, but no major injuries and no major catastrophes, and a post-season where the team did not lose a single game at home. For a team who has had a notoriously tempestuous relationship with its fans, this last month was a gift that should buy them credit for years and years of heartbreak to come.
So will it be another hundred seasons before the next Philly championship? Maybe, but maybe not. I’m hoping this could be the break in city psychology that Boston got with those first couple Pats championships, opening the floodgates for an oncoming period of prosperity and dominance. And if not, well, it’ll take a whole lot to start complaining again. This was as special a season as they come, and the memories–Victorino’s 9th-inning assist against the Braves to save Lidge’s save streak, Howard’s incredible long-balling September to get the Phils back in the playoff hunt, Rollins and Utley’s amazing double play against the Nats to seal the division, Myers’ huge walk-draw against CC to help chase the best pitcher in baseball out of the NLDS, Stairs’ incredible 8th-inning blast against the Dodgers to help seal the NLDS, and Lidge’s strike-out of Hinske and the ensuing pile on as the Phils won their first World in a quarter-century–will last my whole life.
Shine a light, Philadelphia.