SportsProf

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Phillies 11 Dodgers 0 (Notes from Citizens Bank Park)

I sat upstairs in rightfield (on the foul territory side of the foul pole last night) for the Phillies-Dodgers game. To paraphrase Keith Jackson, "It was a wonderful autumn evening for football, I mean, baseball." As I said to a ticket taker as my son and I walked into the stadium, "This is the baseball life we chose, living in the Mid-Atlantic region."

Most of the day we thought about what we would wear, and we had sufficient layers on. My son wore his cold weather Under Armour under his Ryan Howard jersey, and atop that combo he wore a Phillies' sweatshirt. Atop that he wore his winter jacket, had a wool cap underneath his Phillies' hat and wore gloves. He also wore a red-and-white scarf, and by the middle of the game, when the temperatures dropped a few degrees, he had a Phillies' fleece blanket over him (we also put the outdoorsman's toe warmers in his sneakers). Needless to say, this was the coldest outdoor event he's attended. Dad dressed similar, but without the wool hat beneath the Phillies' cap and without the fleece blanket. I wore L.L. Bean hunting shoes with wool socks (9 year olds don't usually have wool socks available for purchase, so perhaps my feet were a little wawrmer). Oh, and one more thing, we sat on old Barron's newspapers, which are thick enough to provide some decent insulation against the cold from the plastic seat. In addition to the scarves, fleece blanket, warmers, woold hats and newspapers, our backpack also held two portable umbrellas and some rain gear (thankfully, we didn't need to deploy that stuff).

Preparation, of course, is much of the effort, and last night the Phillies came into the game very well prepared, so much so that they came out of the starting gate smoking. Starting pitcher Cliff Lee showed why he's a #1 starter, mowing down Dodger after Dodger, going eight strong innings, striking out ten, walking none, and dazzling the Dodgers. On the other hand, the Dodgers' pitching wasn't strong, and after a triple from Ryan Howard and a two-run home run from Jayson Werth, the Phillies led 4-0. They added two in the second, and unless Cliff Lee was going to combust, the ball game seemed all but over after two innings. As a Philadelphia sports fan, rare is the occasion when you can go on autopilot so early in a game, but somehow last night was as much the Phillies' night as yesterday afternoon was not the Eagles'. (As an aside, it would have been hard to predict that the Phillies would have scored more runs last night against a formidable Dodger team than the Eagles scored against an undistinguished Oakland team, but that's precisely what happened).

It was a very fun night, high-fiving people you don't know, eating peanuts (as always), cheering loudly and booing on occasion, happy to see Jamie Moyer get a rousing ovation when introduced, waving the white towels and getting caught up in the moment.

But that's just one game, even if, as with every game in a post-season, an important one. Tonight the Phillies have a great opportunity to close the vise on the Dodgers even tighter, with Joe Blanton on the mound against former Phil (and lefty) Randy Wolf. Win tonight, and the Dodgers will be fighting for their post-season lives on Wednesday. Win tonight, and winning on Wednesday means that clinching the NLCS in L.A. is not a possibility -- you'll get to win it at home. Joe the Pitcher has a great World Series effort to draw on, and he's been the consummate team player in the post-season despite being relegated to the bullpen even after having been -- perhaps outside J.A. Happ -- the Phillies' most consistent starting pitcher for much of the 2009 season.

Wolf is a cagey lefty, formidable, pitching against a team that is not as good against lefties (particularly Ryan Howard) as it is against righties. Yet, Wolf is a bit like Jamie Moyer, as he must paint the lines well in order to have a chance against a good-hitting lineup. If Wolf fails to do that, falls behind and locates as well as Kuroda did on Sunday night, he, too, will have an early exit. Something tells me, though, that he'll have a good effort in store for his former team, and that his teammates will be especially charged up after their poor outing.

But something also tells me that the Phillies will be ready. And that's why they play the games -- anything can -- and in baseball, usually does -- happen.

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