Bill Lyon: Savoring a night of triumph
Clinch night. Blood on the moon night. Fightin' Nation all aquiver. The lamp posts are greased, the bridges closed. The city, acutely mindful of its mostly undeserved reputation, is taking no chances.
Blood on the moon night.
Fightin' Nation all aquiver.
The lamp posts are greased, the bridges closed. The city, acutely mindful of its mostly undeserved reputation, is taking no chances.
Savor this. It comes along like, well, never.
The professional baseball team of Philadelphia, so put-upon for so long, finds itself on the cusp of a second consecutive World Series. Big inhale here. And the night goes like this:
At 7:54 in the East, on a balmy night fraught with giddy promise, the only two Phillies managers ever to win World Series titles combine as a battery to deliver the ceremonial first pitch - Dallas Green, silver-maned and still looking like the John Wayne you'd want on your side in a bar fight, and Charlie Manuel, who has made that delicate transition from perceived bumpkin to validated genius.
The Fightin's have borrowed the Flyers' good luck talisman for the national anthem. Lauren Hart: little lady, big, big voice.
And on the subject of sound, there are the fans of the Fightin's, who are capable of rousing a cacophony. In full throat, they can resemble a chorus of howler monkeys. Opposing pitchers have been reduced to such distraction that their control deserts them and the strike zone bounces about like a carnival tilt-a-whirl.
This is what appears to have infected Vicente Padilla, once a Phil and now the only pitcher standing between his former employers and the World Series. Staked to a 1-0 lead by Andre Eithier's screamer into the right-field seats, Padilla promptly gives it back.
With the howlers amped, Padilla walks two and, unsettled, serves up a tantalizing full-count offering that Jayson Werth turns into another one of those right-center howitzers of his, and thus an 0-1 deficit is transformed into a 3-1 lead, and the Fightin's growing reputation for their bounce-ability is further burnished.
The night's second disquieting moment is another Dodgers home run off Cole Hamels in the second inning by James Loney. So now Hamels has yielded two bombs, both of them against lefthanded hitters, who, at least theoretically, are supposed to be pretty much at his mercy, and both of them when he has them buried in a 1-2 count. Students of his body language note that Hamels has a gliding stride, almost as though walking on air, when he is pitching well and coming in off another brilliant inning. But when struggling with location, he tends to trudge off bent in a semi-slump. At such times, the Fightin's counsel him about trying to be too fine, too perfect. He is a victim of both talent and expectations, some unreasonable. His is a continuing education.
Meanwhile, the Phillies are swinging potent bats. Pedro Feliz, who is laboring through a Bond-like .077 average, cracks an opposite-field solo homer into the right-field seats in the second. Feliz is a notorious first-ball fastball hitter. Padilla apparently has not read the scouting report.
He can read it at his leisure now because he never makes it out of the fourth, driven to cover by an RBI double by Raul Ibanez, stretching the Phillies' lead to 5-2. And then 6-2 as Shane Victorino is hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The crowd, in a dress rehearsal for what it senses is coming, amuses itself by vocally tormenting Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers' showboating leftfielder was suspended for 50 games earlier this year for pharmaceutical indiscretions. His game makes it difficult to muster sympathy - he treats each at-bat as a 10-minute self-aggrandizement. They should put him on a shot clock.
We now rejoin Hamels, who seems to have found his groove and is mowing them down. With a four-run lead, you can pitch free and easy.
Oops. Hamels serves up a plump one to Orlando Hudson, who is pinch-hitting, and that is home run No. 3 off the lefthander. A scorched double follows and a leather-lung in the second deck behind home bellows: "Charlie. Get him, Charlie." Manuel does not hesitate. Only the fifth inning but he is willing to spend his entire bullpen to win this one. As for Hamels, the pitcher who was the ace a year ago is now mostly ordinary.
Then, just about the time you were asking, hey, where's Victorino these days, he was clubbing a two-run shot to left, the sixth home run of a pyrotechnic night. It also means the Dodgers are now down by five and thus unable to tie things up even with a grand slam.
Manuel's bullpen roulette is working and the Fightin's have made the most of a limited offense - eight runs on only five hits at that point.
Make that nine runs on six hits - Jayson Werth having just swatted another one of those moon balls, this one to center, threatening low-flying crafts.
And thus is Clinch Night, well, clinched.
All clear now. Exhale.