Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Round One

Good teams make their own luck

The Phillies’ nine-game winning streak is alive following a tense and dramatic ninth inning comeback win over the Mets and the kudos should be spread around the roster liberally.

Bobby Abreu, who is struggling at the plate, got the game-winning hit (though it was ruled an error) when he topped the ball in front of the plate with the bases loaded and was safe when pitcher Aaron Heilman fielded a ball catcher Paul Lo Duca would have had the better chance with and through wildly to first.  

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  These late game heroics would not have been possible without starter Brett Myers, who pitched like the staff leader he is becoming.  Myers worked quickly, as is his habit, and mixed up his pitches very effectively yielding two runs and five hits over eight innings.  And that isn’t even the good news.  The best parts of Myers’ performance were matching and out-pitching Pedro Martinez step-for-step, remaining relatively calm when things got tight, and working with a brand new rookie catcher.  In the past any one of those things might have thrown Myers off his game but not this night.

Speaking of rookie catchers, Carlos Ruiz, a long-time Beerleaguer favorite, looked like a veteran behind the plate in his second big league start.  Close-ups during the game showed Ruiz glancing up constantly to see where the batter was positioned in the box. Harry Kalas and the color analysts all gave him credit for setting a great target and framing the pitches like a seasoned pro.  To top off his night, Ruiz got his first big league hit off Martinez and scored a run.  If the kid can hit in the big leagues the Phils’ future catching questions will be solved.  Heck, if he can hit in the big leagues their present catching problems could be solved.

Every night a different hero

Then there was David Dellucci, who hasn’t had the easiest transition from nearly full-time player in the AL to infrequent part-time player in the NL.  Dellucci kept the Phillies’ ninth inning hopes alive with a two-out triple and eventually scored the winning run.  If Dellucci had been feeling like the odd man out on this club, his place and role are now secure.

You want more?  How about part-time outfielder Shane Victorino who looked like a dead duck on a play at the plate until he decided now was the time to lower his shoulder and try out his best tight-end imitation.   Victorino bowled over Lo Duca and gave the Phils a two run cushion.  The run and the collision proved crucial when an inning later Carlos Delgado smoked a two-run homer off of previously invincible Flash Gordon to knot the score at four all and set up the dramatic ninth inning victory.

For the first time in recent memory the Phils scored all their runs without aid of the long ball.  In the other dugout, all of New York’s scoring came on home runs.  The Mets lineup is intimidating.  Throughout the late innings, every time batters three through seven came to the plate one had the feeling the game’s complexion could change on a single swing.  And twice it did!!

Yesterday I wrote that on balance I thought the Phillies’ lineup was superior overall to that of the Mets and commenter kuff6 disagreed on a few of my points.  After watching last night’s game I am inclined to agree with him.  From top to bottom the Mets have a potent lineup with few holes.

But as a long-time Orioles fan before moving to Philadelphia nearly 28 years ago, the 1969 World Series always serves to remind me that the better team doesn’t always win.


Rev. Smokin Steve said...

Last night was far and away one of the best Phillies wins I have seen in years. That was a true battle between two heavyweights slugging it out, with the puncher getting in a bunch of early shots, the knockout artist fighting back with huge knockdown blows in later rounds, and then the puncher getting off the mat and outwitting the knockout fighter to score te victory.

When the Phillies put their minds to it, they are capable of greatness.

The problem is, they need to put their minds to it 162 games out of the year. Since we don't have the bangers that the Mets and Cardinals have, it would take an unbelievable amount of focus through the whole season to maximize our talents and compete with them.

It can be done, but it will be extremely tough. But after last night, I don't doubt this Phillies team's capabilities. We will have to see how they sustain things.

kuff6 said...

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting we just roll over and hand the division to the Mutts. I thought they were going to have starting pitching depth problems when they decided to unload both Benson AND Seo, and that was before Bannister and VZambrano got hurt. You have to figure Pedro will miss some time, and likely Trachsel as well. So they could be in some serious trouble unless the old men in their rotation defy the odds and all hold up.

Tom Goodman said...

kuff6: I agree they could have pitching problems, but frankly they have the money to go out and solve them. And their offense is awesome, especially when you consider Floyd has not gotten untracked.