After Saturday night’s authoritative 11-6 thumping of the Cardinals (which really should have been 11-3 but for three meaningless runs scored in the top of the 9th), I had high hopes for Game 2 of the NLDS on Sunday.
The Phils jumped on Chris Carpenter for four early runs, and I was liking the chances of going up 2 games to none on the Cards. But then the unthinkable happened – Cliff Lee blew a four run lead. Granted, he didn’t seem to be at his sharpest last night – he allowed a leadoff triple in the first, and a leadoff double in the second, but managed to wiggle out of those jams. Things would start to unravel in the fourth, when the Cards pulled to within one run, and go further downhill from there.
In the meantime, Carpenter was yanked after three innings, and the parade of relievers must have lulled the Phillies into one of their all-too-frequent offensive stupors.
The Cardinal bullpen yielded only one hit the rest of the way, a single by Jimmy Rollins, which was quickly nullified when Rollins got picked off to end the seventh.
I should have known better than to get too optimistic. After all, the Cardinals are the only NL team to have a winning record against the Phils this year, so I certainly shouldn’t expect this series to be a cakewalk. Also, I’m a Phillies fan – a member of a group of people known for their pessimistic tendencies. I’m pretty sure it must be a chemical they put in our water ;-).
Today is an off day, so let’s hope the Phillies snap out of it, and get back to hitting (and winning) tomorrow in St. Louis. Especially you, Carlos Ruiz, and you, Placido Polanco, both hitless thus far! Let’s get to work!
They say that “hitting is timing”.
According to Warren Spahn, “pitching is upsetting timing”.
Thanks to Cole and Heidi Hamels, we now can surmise that “timing of wife going into labor is upsetting pitching”. Cole was not sharp in yesterday’s 5-4 loss to the Rockies, giving up four runs in five innings.
Ah yes, timing. Cole Hamels, who seems to already have his whole career planned out, was certainly not thinking ahead when he and Heidi decided to engage in some baby-making, presumable back in January. Would it have been that hard to realize that January plus nine months equals new baby smack in the middle of playoffs? Maybe he was assuming the Phillies wouldn’t make it to the postseason?
(alright, yes that last paragraph was typed with tongue planted in cheek, but still…)
As for Baby Hamels, I haven’t been able to find any confirmation this morning that the baby actually arrived. Nonetheless, congrats to the new parents.
Which leads me to wonder why Charlie even decided to have Cole start this game, if labor was that imminent. Sure, we can say that professional athletes should be able to set their personal lives aside while on the field, but who knows how much that might have affected his concentration?
And then there’s Cole’s abysmal record in day games this season: 0-6 with a 5.44 ERA. What’s up with that? His performance in night games is markedly better, at 10-5 with a 3.95 ERA. No wonder he was whining to the press earlier this week about the ridiculous start times of Games 1 and 2.
So why not start Happ or Blanton? Okay, Happ had pitched two innings in the final regular season game on October 4th, but Blanton had last pitched on October 2nd. As it turned out, both Happ and Blanton were used out of the bullpen, so now the Phils have burned through three starters in one game.
That would seem to leave Pedro Martinez as the Game 3 starter, though Charlie has not yet made his decision, saying Blanton is still in the mix, according to phillies.com. Happ says he would be ready too, even though he took a liner off the leg yesterday from the first batter he faced.
Now the series moves to Denver, where the forecast for Game 3 includes temperatures in the 30’s and snow showers (!). That’s football weather, not baseball. At least I’ll be watching from the cozy comfort of my home.
Some quick thoughts on yesterday’s game, before I settle in to watch Game 2 on TV. No visual aids today.
The “August” version of Cliff Lee was in the park yesterday, going the distance as the Phils beat the Rockies 5-1. Thank goodness it wasn’t “September” Lee that showed up! Today Cole Hamels takes the mound – let’s hope we get “2008 Postseason” Cole, and not the inconsistent 2009 version.
Though it looked like a nice sunny day, the gusting, swirling winds made for some entertaining fielding. On one pop-up, the ball must have taken a U-turn while in flight, as Jimmy Rollins first ran out to short left, then abruptly ran back towards third base before making the catch. The wind also robbed Jayson Werth, and possibly Ryan Howard, of homers.
I can breathe a little easier with the Phillies victory yesterday, but if they can win today I will definitely feel more comfortable.
Speaking of TV, I despise the coverage by TBS. They seemed to be having some sort of technical difficulties yesterday, as the sound kept cutting out. I also have it on good authority from Jenn of Phillies Phollowers, who was there in person, that the crowd was REALLY LOUD. You would not have known that from the broadcast – the crowd sounds were buried in the mix, leaving the announcers all too easy to hear. Maybe I should try muting the TV and listening to the local radio broadcast :-).
The Phillies will face the Rockies in Game 1 of the NLDS on Wednesday afternoon. Quite frankly, I would rather see them face the Dodgers, but of course the recently-hot Rockies had to go and lose the final two games of the season to the Dodgers. Otherwise, the Rockies would have been the NL West champs, and the Dodgers would have been the wild-card team.
Of the four NL playoff teams, the Rockies seem to be the only one with any momentum. The Phillies, Dodgers, and Cardinals all seemed to go pretty flat after clinching their divisions. So I’d rather play against an equally flat team – despite winning the last two games, the Dodgers had lost 5 straight prior to that, while the Rockies had won 5 straight before the final two losses.
Also, if the Phillies were facing the Dodgers, we (hopefully) would not have this ridiculous 2:30-ish start time. The fans in the L.A. market don’t want to watch a game that starts before their lunch! But I guess the powers-that-be must think that the Phillies-Rockies matchup is the least desirable, therefore we get the crappy start times.
Besides, the Rockies bring back unpleasant memories. I’ve only seen the Phillies play the Rockies in person twice, and both games had outcomes that I would prefer to forget.
The first time was in 2007, and the Rockies were in town on my birthday. So we went to the game. The Rockies’ starter that night had an ERA hovering around 19 (!) at the time, which would seem to be a good thing, but that usually means the Phillies will make him look like the reincarnation of Cy Young.
After loading the bases with no outs in the top of the first, the Phillies managed to pull off a triple play, which was really cool, but things went downhill quickly from there. They ended up losing 12-0, in one of the most uninspired performances by a baseball team I have ever witnessed.
The second time was Game 2 of the NLDS later that same year. We managed to get standing-room tickets (which I will never do again – my feet were absolutely killing me by the end of the game), and this was our view:
Though the Phillies led briefly, for all purposes the game was over after the fourth inning, when Kyle Lohse gave up a grand slam to Kaz Matsui (!), not exactly a power hitter, who had hit a grand total of four home runs all season. The Rockies went on to sweep the Phillies in three games.
Which brings us to the present. The lineups are not the same, the Phillies now know what it’s like to win in the postseason, but nonetheless I still have my doubts. Just the natural Philadelphia pessimism that seems to be impossible to get rid of.
I’ll be watching on TV, back to holding my breath again, and hoping I can exhale happily later this week!