Thursday, September 27, 2007

Getting Closer

Last night's taut 5-2 win over Atlanta came courtesy of the kind of starting pitching the Phillies have mostly dreamed about this season. Kyle Lohse, whom the Phillies coveted when he was still a Minnesota Twin, delivered seven strong innings precisely when his teammates needed him and the offense, led by Jimmy Rollins (of course!), chipped in with just enough hitting to get the job done.

J-Roll led off the game with his 19th triple of the season and scored on Ryan Howard's single up the middle. Gregg Dobbs, who has had a superb season as a super-sub, knocked in two more and Shane Victorino, who has accepted his part-time role without complaint, smoked a pinch-hit homer in the second deck.

It never gets monotonous to write about Jimmy. Indeed, on more than a few occasions this season I have reminded myself not to take him for granted. One day, many years in the distance we hope, he will hang it up and we will no longer have the pleasure of watching one of baseball's best all-around players. This year four or five players in the National League merit serious consideration for the MVP award but none has had a better season than Jimmy and none has ever flashed that grin as widely or taken such obvious pleasure in playing the game.

Meanwhile, back at the pennant race, the Mets continue to stumble and bumble their way towards possibly one of baseball's legendary late-season collapses. It couldn't happen to a nicer team. (On occasion I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, sit up straight and ask myself, "How in the hell did the Mets beat the Orioles in '69??!!") The Phils are only a game out of first with four games remaining. If they manage to overtake NY, they should award the Washington Nationals a full share of whatever post-season bonus awaits them, provided, of course, that the Nationals further cooperate and lose all three of their games in Philadelphia this weekend.


David said...

How did the Mets beat the Orioles? Momentum. It can happen. A team gets hot late, it can carry all the way over. The '03 Marlins also come to mind.

It doesn't always happen, though. The Cardinals entered last year's post-season ice cold, and *then* got hot. Same with the White Sox in '05, and the Yankees a couple of times in recent years.

Tonight's game is probably the key. They could carry a huge wave of confidence over to the final series, or they could be under a cloud of must-win desperation pending the results tonight. I like their chances against Smoltz, though; there's enough left-handed thunder to hurt him. And Kendrick has yet to make a bad start.

Tom Goodman said...

Actually, it wasn't momentum exactly. The myth is the Mets' good young pitching beat the Orioles but if one looks at the tapes, the real reason was that Ron Swoboda made a career catch on a line drive by Brooks Robinson, Al Weiss hit his first home run since kindergarten and a couple of other unlikely plays saved the day for the Met.

David said...

Don't forget those catches by Tommie Agee. (...or hadn't you?)

That was when the Mets were actually a lovable, underdog, innocent team (if you weren't from Chicago, Atlanta or Baltimore). That'll never happen again.

I know it's never as simple as 'momentum' but sometimes this can be a contributing factor. Some say it's a total myth, and it often is too easily and inaccurately applied. But it exists within games, and sometimes or stretches of games. Sometimes for a whole season.

Tom Goodman said...

No, I hadn't forgotten the Agee catches but the Swoboda catch will always linger in my mind whenever the word "injustice" occurs to me.