DÉJÀ VU can come in the strangest forms.
Like mascot birthdays, Sunday getaway games and no-hitters.
Almost exactly 4 years ago, on a sunshiny Sunday afternoon at Veterans Stadium, Kevin Millwood pitched the ninth no-hitter in Phillies history, when he silenced the San Francisco Giants. Before that game, the team staged its annual Phanatic birthday promotion. Afterward, the players boarded a chartered flight to begin a road trip in Los Angeles.
Yesterday, there were eerie similarities as veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer began setting down the Marlins, one after another, at Citizens Bank Park.
It was, once again, a sunshiny Sunday afternoon. Before the game, camels and belly dancers took over the field as the Phanatic celebrated another birthday with an Egyptian-themed party tied to the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Once again, the Phillies left immediately afterward, this time heading to Atlanta.
The difference was that Marlins All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera doubled to left with two outs in the seventh to break the spell in a game the Phillies went on to win, 6-1.
"I was aware of it but I knew I had to stay focused on making my pitches," said Moyer, who struck out five and gave up just two hits in 7 1/3 innings.
The thought of pitching around Cabrera, whose extra-base hit came on a 3-1 pitch, never crossed Moyer's mind.
"I don't tend to do that. A hit is a hit," Moyer said. "When you start pitching defensive, you find yourself getting in even more trouble. The most important thing is that we got the win and it was a good win."
Had Moyer, 44, who is 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA against the Marlins in his career, completed the no-hitter, he would have become the oldest pitcher to register one. Nolan Ryan was 44 years, 3 months he tossed his seventh no-hitter on May 1, 1991. Moyer is 44 years, 5 months old.
Entering the game, the Marlins had been swinging the sticks well recently. In the first two games of the series, which the teams split, the Marlins had 32 hits.
However, with Moyer on the mound, the Marlins' streak of recording at least one hit in every inning during the series came to a screeching halt in the first inning when Moyer retired the side in order.
"When he gets in the sixth inning, you're saying to yourself, 'Geez, let's just get a hit, something.' The last thing you want is to be no-hit," said Marlins leftfielder Josh Willingham.
"He just finds a way to keep you off balance and miss your barrel. That's the best way to describe it."
Once Moyer began to dig deeper into the game, the likelihood of the no-hitter began to look a lot more promising. While Moyer and the season-high crowd of 45,107 were well aware of what was happening, Jimmy Rollins apparently had no idea.
Rollins said he first realized Moyer had a no-hitter going in the top of the sixth.
"I looked up at the scoreboard to see who they had coming up. And I said, 'Oh, they don't have any hits.' Then [Joe] Borchard hit a ball that almost ate me up. It was the first grounder hit to me and since we didn't take infield [because of the Phanatic birthday promotion] you're never quite sure how the field is going to play," Rollins said.
Abraham Nunez, who was making his second consecutive start at third base in place of Wes Helms, said with Cabrera coming up in the seventh he looked over and saw Rollins and Utley talking about moving back. He said if he had been playing a little farther back, he might have been able to make the catch to save Moyer's no-hitter. He said he thought Cabrera's line-drive double went about a foot over his glove.
"But I was playing back as far as I could," he said. "If [the no-hitter] was going to be broken, I'd rather have it be like that than on a slow roller or something."
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez compared Moyer's pitching style to that of a knuckleballer.
"He's a tough pitcher. He never gave in. He was outstanding,' said Gonzalez.
Inside the dugout, players said there wasn't anything out of the ordinary taking place. Moyer, who said he likes to remain in his own zone between innings, didn't shake hands with any teammates but continued to root for the Phils to score runs.
"That's just me. I don't need to feel isolated or anything. I just need to be in my zone," Moyer said.
It was obvious that he definitely achieved that on the mound. *