You have to be wary of celebrating a single game too much when it only puts your
team up two to one in a best-of-seven championship series. At a certain point you can even get a mite self-conscious over a blowout, so you can only wonder how your team's hitters feel when they have to keep going to the plate those last couple of innings on such a tear — sure, they might not try as hard for extra bases when ahead by double digits, but they can't outright stop swinging. That being said, I found the Phillies'
11-0 rout of the Dodgers tonight to be a hoot.
Cliff Lee, the Phils' starting pitcher, had complete control of the ball and struck out
ten, which tied the club's postseason strikeout record set by Steve Carlton (and first matched by Curt Schilling).
Ryan Howard arrived at spring training back in February having slimmed down considerably and this entire season he's been surprising us with better defense, more speed, and better selection at the plate. When a guy like that starts cutting down on his strikeouts while remaining just as powerful a home-run hitter, it's a match made in RBI heaven; the perfectly located run-scoring doubles he's been hitting lately add a whole new dimension of danger. So watching the jolly lean giant leg out a triple like he did tonight ionizes the air that much more.
Carlos Ruiz, mostly known for his rock-solid performance behind the plate, has
become one of the Phils' most dependable clutch hitters in the postseason, batting an astounding .538 in the past seven games.
I get that there's an art to boxing, but it's still too brutal for me to appreciate. The
sport with the sweetest science to me is baseball. Golf, bowling, and billiards are almost too on-the-nose in their applied physics, and basketball mixes up disciplines admirably yet — although there's no denying the excitement, particularly at a live game — it demands constant attention to what's largely repetition.
What sets the table for the grand variety of baseball, I'll happily concede, stems from
a cornerstone of George Carlin's brilliantly funny breakdown of baseball vs. football: The opposing teams take turns.
So many other sports basically boil down to pong. With baseball you can marvel at
the precision of the pitcher, the patience and the power of the hitter, the athleticism of the outfielder's outstanding catch or the infielder's amazing application of a tag, and
the scrappiness of the stolen base, all the while knowing that if you have to step away from your seat (to, for instance, put more money in the alliteration meter) the game is leisurely enough even at its most exciting to allow for plenty of replays.
The 11 unanswered runs tonight are the largest margin of victory in the Phillies' postseason history, which is a pretty meaningless stat since all that really matters —
for any baseball game, actually, but most distinctly in the playoffs and championships — is how many games are won, not by how much. Yet it's good to shake off Friday's disappointing loss, to whip up enthusiasm among the hometown crowd, to have a feeling of momentum going into tomorrow's game. And there's nothing like an after-show breakdown that's essentially one big highlight reel, especially in the playoffs.
When manager Charlie Manuel, the fella whose experience and gut instinct are a if
not the defining factor in the team's last few years' worth of success, spoke to the press after tonight's game, he reiterated (and not for the sake of platitude) that his players take each game as it comes, play the right way, don't let the highs or the lows carry over to the job to be done next time out beyond a healthy confidence that this team is capable of beating any given opponent on any given day. He added noticeably that his guys love to play baseball, which might sound like a ridiculously superfluous statement but I believe that it was genuine and pertinent.
Some of us might have felt bad on a human level for the Dodgers' starting pitcher,
who got yanked in the second inning, and been just the slightest bit embarrassed about running up the score towards the end — some of us, but knowing Philadelphia fans, certainly not all of us. First, however, came the relief at putting up early numbers, and then the sheer glee of seeing the Fightin' Phils settle into an all-tools-on-the-table groove. This is after all a sport, a game... an utterly inconsequential, obscenely commercial, ridiculously tribal, gravely and thrillingly important game.
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Composite Image: Brian Saner Lamken for Blam's Blog.
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