October 29, 2008

Because the Night Belongs to Us

They stole our perfect night.

Who is "they"? Major League Baseball. Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria. Bud Selig ("they" doesn't have to be plural). Mother Nature (or, a physical being of any sort).

They is everyone. They is no one. It doesn't matter.

The point is, the Philadelphia Phillies had a clinching game, in Citizens Bank Park, with Cole Hamels on the mound. And they didn't win.

The celebration, the euphoria, the game itself, were put on hold. It was going to be the greatest moment in recent Philadelphia sports history, and now it's just the punchline of what Peter Gammons has correctly dubbed "the worst World Series ever".

But it can be redeemed. They plan to play baseball tonight. We have 12 outs, they have nine. We have the best bullpen in baseball, and theirs is merely acceptable. They do have "Superstar" David Price, but something tells me that if he offers up a repeat of his "otherworldly" 2.33-inning, two-run performance that earned so much unwarranted praise in Game Two, the city of Philadelphia will be on fire (in a good way) by 10 PM.

There is no reason to assume that the momentum has swung towards Tampa Bay. While the Phillies failed to capitalize on many, many more opportunities in Game 5 Part 1, it took some extreme effort, luck and talent just for the Rays to tie in the game in the half-inning-that-should-never-have-been-played. The Phillies may have lost Cole Hamels and the lead, but they haven't forgotten that they're still the better team, that they still have four more offensive go-arounds to win it all in front of their home fans.

While Joe Buck and Tim McCarver sobbed about the Rays' poor fortune in being "forced" into playing those three outs that could end up saving their season, the Phillies waited, then steamed, then recalibrated themselves. No one has ever played a World Series Game, Part Two like the one that is coming up tonight, but in my opinion, it's going to be fitting, it's going to end up being the final bit of purgatory that Philadelphia fans have to suffer through before making it to the promised land.

I'm not nervous about tonight. I'm anxious. As per ESPN.com, the Phillies have been in a tie game, batting at home, 11 times this year. They've won 7 of those games. The odds are in our favor, and while the Rays claim to "love" being the underdog, someone should remind them that the house always wins. As Brad Pitt says in Ocean's Eleven, "You play long enough, never change the stakes, the house takes you." The stakes are the same. One more game to the World Series, and this house, Citizens Bank Park, is going to be as ready as ever.

And that other part of the quote? The part that goes, "Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house." Well, the Rays got nothing big left to bet. Their wad has been shot. They're on their heels, because they have nine outs left, and we have 12. Play ball.

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