Speaking of momentum (see last post), the concerns that Jim Thome would lose his edge once he reverted to occasional pinch-hitting appearances disappeared into the left field stands last night as the big guy stroked a walk-off home run against Tampa Bay, leading the Phils to a comeback 7-6 victory.
The homer, his 609th, tied Thome with Cheatin' Sammy Sosa for seventh place on the all-time list. It was also manager and good friend Charlie Manuel's 900th career win. In the short run, it was also the Phils second late-game comeback of the week, a hallmark of previous clubs' in recent glory years, but markedly absent most of this season.
Their mini-resurgence coupled with word Chase Utley is about to join the club, have many observers urging the Phils resist the temptation to sell at the approaching trade deadline. If anyone has been scrutinizing Utley's performance in Florida against a bunch of newbies, hopefuls and haven't-been-yets, I wouldn't get too excited. (Reverse curse alert!!)
In other random news, Jimmy Rollins has been on a tear lately. Only recently many observers including yours truly have lamented the slip in J-Rolls defensive game and, for most of the season, his fall-off offensively as well. Isn't it just like Jimmy to rally when we've all but given up on him? And isn't it a familiar and welcome feeling to muse "as goes Jimmy...."?
Cliff Lee was apparently pissed off he had to warm up Friday night, throw 30 or so pitches in the bullpen, and then watch the inevitable rain-out be declared. Cliff has been pissed off a lot lately. First, at Shane Victorino's defense, then at his teammates in general for a lack of support, and finally at unnamed management and coaching staff, for having him prepare for a game everyone but the weatherman knew was going to be called. A win today would smooth his ruffled feathers; a loss would make him wonder why he ever came back to town.
Jonathan Papelbon hasn't exactly be lights out lately. After getting little opportunity to show his stuff during the last few weeks, the Phils' closer has been coming into tight games and pitching like, well, the rest of the bullpen; that is to say, not so good. Last night he coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth inning only to see Thome save his bacon. Apparently, however, the victory didn't save Papelbon $5000. Apparently, Papelbon offered to cut a check immediately to anyone who bailed him out with a walk-off hit. When Thome rounded third base last night and approached home plate for the traditional walk-off hero's pounding, Papelbon grabbed him by the neck and for all appearances looked like he planted a big fat kiss on the big guy.
Speaking of those walk-off celebrations at the plate, I love to look at the individual expressions and gestures of the gathering. Half of the guys always seem to be looking down at the plate to make sure the conquering hero touches it. The other half are caught in frozen moments of glee and preparation for various assaults on the hero's body. I am always amazed there aren't more injuries during the festivities. I know one thing: half of the guys in the spotlight run for their lives as soon as they touch the plate.