October 14, 2008

Phuck Yeah

Greg Dobbs's uncensored post-game profanity says it all.

I hadn't turned the game off, but I'd essentially given up. The momentum seemed to have firmly swung the Dodgers' way, and that depressed me. A 2-2 NLCS series tie was going to erase all the hard work the Phillies had put in back at Citizens Bank Park. "At least we have Cole going on Wednesday," I thought. Leaving behind the HDTV in the living room, I laid quietly on my bed for what I thought were going to be the last few disappointing innings.

Ryan Howard's error in the bottom of the 6th sucked the life out of me, to the point where I didn't even see Chase Utley's (essentially) game-saving double play. Rather than watch how that inning would commence, I took the trash out, a chore that brought me more joy than most of the first seven innings had. Joe Blanton didn't exactly pull a Moyer, but he also didn't offer more than the bare minimum. Missed run-scoring opportunities in the first inning were coming back to haunt the Phillies, and Chad Durbin was already being fitted for a goat costume back in the locker room. To paraphrase Terrell Owens, if it looks like a loss and smells like a loss, well....

But I forgot the cardinal rule of following the Philadelphia Phillies - never lose hope. How many times has this team battled back in the late innings, stealing a game they had no business sticking around in? More times than I can count. That's what happens when you have a bullpen that keeps it close and a bunch of mashers who can drive the ball out in the blink of an eye.

Luckily, I did remember the vice-cardinal rule - keep your TV on. Sure, I might as well have curled up with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a glass of pinot grigio while sobbing my eyes out, the way I was acting, but I was still watching. I was watching when Ryan Howard singled (finally!) and I was screaming when Shane Victorino took Cory Wade yard. I started thinking inappropriate thoughts when Carlos Ruiz singled, and I went absolutely berserk when Matt Stairs punished that Jonathan Broxton high fastball.

Simply put, I'll never doubt this team again. I'll never doubt what they're capable of, and I especially won't doubt the inescapable thought that this is really something special. Four teams make the Championship Series each year, and two make the World Series, but they don't all do it this way. Their centerfielder doesn't suddenly acquire the power stroke of their monstrous first baseman, their Mendoza-esque catcher doesn't remember how to hit in the nick of time, and their softball-slugger backup outfielder doesn't casually smack the biggest homer of his career (in Phillies postseason history?). This is the stuff that you watch over and over on World Series Champions DVDs. I'm not saying they're producing that particular item just yet, but let's just say they've already got most of the content they'll need.

Now, the Phillies are playing with NLCS house money. They've got three games to close out the Dodgers, one started by their ace and two in the safe confines of Citizens Bank Park. Unfortunately, they'll still be staring down Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and the other pesky Dodgers that have pecked (or bashed) away at them all series. But right now, that doesn't matter. Last night was the kind of win that breaks hearts, even the wacky, child-like heart of Manny's. Teams don't just bounce back from such a devastating turn of events like that.

Of course, if anyone can get them back up again, it's Joe Torre. His biggest problem might be that it's too little, too late. What seemed like a dead-even NLCS a week ago now seems like a treacherous climb up a tall set of Stairs for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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