This was an important slice of Phillies baseball.
We are the twice repeating champions of the National League. We have enough All-Stars in our lineup to form an effective jazz band. We aren’t just a bunch of slobbering, lard-ass drunks with our fingers down our throats, feverishly picking between hopping onto the field and scampering around like a panicked lizard or barfing all over a preteen girl sitting next to her father.
We’ve got starters with trouble finishing and relievers with trouble relieving; former heroes with their arms under a microscope, trying certainly to nail down the form that had once carried them so high.
And tonight, Cole Hamels picked up the ball. By the time he put it down, there was only one run across. For a guy who can’t seem to avoid that one horrific inning, he threw over eight beautifully, tacking eight K’s to the board as well.
And when he finally got into trouble, Charlie called for Brad.
When he put down the ball, no runners had gone across, and Brad had even struck somebody out on three straight sliders. By the time Sarge was interviewing Chooch post-walkoff, two pitchers had each taken a step toward redemption, after an uneven slide from the grace of the baseball gods.
And, yeah. Some asshole jumped onto the field again.
Phillies 2, Cardinals 1
… and he didn’t even get smacked around or anything. If we’re going to taunt CBP security, I expect them up the ante as well and take somebody’s leg off in front of a horrified crowd of 45,000 spectators. Instead, they listlessly slap a pair of cuffs on him and wander off the field.
Now, we don’t jump to conclusions too often here on TBOH, which is to say, we haven’t done it yet during this post. But if someone had predicted that Cole Hamels would have gotten himself into a pitcher’s duel vs. Adam Wainwright, I would have hurled a brick through their front window, with a note attached reading, “I disagree.”
But that’s exactly what happened. Watching the recap, the Phils had–I can’t remember the actual number so I’ll just make an educated guess–about 80 chances to score without capitalizing. Not to mention the Cardinals, who brought Albert Pujols to the plate with the bases loaded and it somehow ended without a bunch of runs scoring and nobody had to shoot Pujols in the neck with a dart or anything.
Finally, the Phillies squeezed in a run via Raul Ibanez legging out a triple (???) and the adjacent Carolos Ruiz sac fly. This was a mere shadow of the heroics Carlos was to perform, but none of that really mattered, because jesus christ, Brad Lidge is coming into the game and there isn’t even a 17-run lead.
Everybody just sort of sat there and watched, like we were all collectively babysitting and just watched the child charged to our care fall down a flight of steps, walk back to the top of the staircase, and fall down again. It was that same aura that’s washed over the stadium during a Lidge appearance for the last year, where everyone thinks that maybe, just maybe, this will be the time he learns to hold the hand rail on his way down.
With two strikes on the hitter, Brad threw him the third straight slider and got him swinging for the second out–a big one. The crowd went wild. Charlie Manuel went wild (on the inside). And I dug my teeth out of the coffee table for the second time that evening (the first being Pujols’ at bat with the bases loaded, the third would be just after Chooch’s foul ball home run).
Let’s not set ourselves up to be hurt again. As I explained to people on the subway unprovoked after Monday night’s loss, “It’s baby steps with Brad.” Now, in the safety of my apartment, I don’t have to deal with looks of confusion/concern, but it’s true–with Cole, too. It was alleviating to see them pitch closer to championship form, but I can’t in good conscience sit here and tell you my faith has returned.
I’ve just been burned too many times to be open to that just yet.
I love that we are the fans who, after watching a teenager get electrocuted in front of 45,000 screaming fans and having the story populate every national sports program, podcast, and blog, plot to do the exact the same thing the following night. No wonder we’re the best fans in baseball.