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Thursday, September 28, 2006

All Hands on Deck

The Phillies beat the Nationals last night, 8-7, in 14 innings to keep their Wild Card hopes alive. They trail the Dodgers by 1 game.

I listened to the game when they were down 4-3 and watched it from the 7th on after they took a 5-4 lead, only to have the Nats come back and tie it in the 9th and 10th. It was a flat-out great baseball game, and you wouldn't have known that the Nats are out of contention or that manager Frank Robinson is in danger of losing his job from the way the home team played last night.

It was a night where both closers pitched badly, Tom Gordon for the Phils (who threw twice as many balls as strikes) and Chad Cordero for the Nats. It was a night where Ryan Howard was walked intentionally 3 times late in the game, only to see the guy hitting behind him, Jeff Conine, go 0-7 for the game. It was a night where of the 25,000 in attendance at the game's beginning, those who were there at the end favored the Phillies and were most vocal about it. It was also a night where bunting was paramount (Nook Logan for the Nats and Michael Bourn for the Phillies), where the Made-for-Disney career minor leaguer (Chris Coste) kept on getting hit after hit late in the game, and where a career AAAA player (Clay Condrey) pitched outstanding relief for the victors while one of the last men standing in the Phillies' bullpen, Rule 5 pick Fabio Castro (who usually only pitches when the team is about to ten-run rule the opponent), got an iffy save thanks to a great turn of a double play by Chase Utley and Rollins in the bottom of the 14th.

The managers combined to make more moves than Bobby Fischer did against Boris Spassky in Rejkjavik over thirty years ago. 47 players made their way into a contest that lasted almost 5 hours. The Dodgers' game in Colorado, which started about one and a half hours later, ended before the Phillies-Nationals contest did. My guess is that the Dodgers' players were a little delayed in leaving the clubhouse, prone in all likelihood to watch the end of the game at RFK Stadium to see whether they'd have a one- or two-game lead after the night ended.

Frank Robinson managed as though it were his team who was desperate to grab the Wild Card berth, and his players reflected his intensity. In the end, it was Jimmy Rollins' two-run triple in the top of the 14th that proved too much for the gritty Nats. Somehow, Fabio Castro had enough to preserve the Phillies' lead (and avoid a third blown save in the game for the visitors).

It was a great game.

Kudos to the diehard Phillies' fans that made their way to DC and proved to be a vocal presence for their beloved team. I do agree with Jimmy Rollins, though, in that the fans should lay off Pat Burrell, who has had a woeful September and has probably played his way out of Philadelphia, even if the Phillies will have to pay the Pirates, Expos or any other MLB equivalent of a certified diamond landfill to take him off their hands. Look, Burrell is trying, and he doesn't want to hit majestic pop-ups or strike out with the frequency that he has in September. On the very bright side for an acquirer, he has a good on-base percentage and an excellent ratio of total bases plus walks and net steals over total plate appearances, right up there with his more heralded teammates Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins (Ryan Howard is a galaxy of his own with this statistic). It sends the team a weird message -- you're manic about their prospects but very down on one of their own. My request -- be kind here, show magnanimity and cheer everyone.

They deserve it.


Anonymous stephen Baker said...

Nice post. I listened to the game from North Jersey and nearly died a dozen deaths. It was a great game, though poorly played.
It sounded from Pat Gillick's remarks before the game that he's looking to replace Burrell and Nunez. He mentioned Nunez's weak bat and said the team needed more speed in the outfield. He said it would have to come from free agency, since the team doesn't have much trade bait. I'm wondering whether they'll hold onto Rowand. The big question is whether they can get someone to hit behind Howard.

7:08 PM  

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