(Editor’s note: The Pundit is back from his unexplained and lengthy hiatus. He offered absolutely no explanation for his lack of material. I offer sincere apologies to the 10-15 people who actually read his work.)
After last night’s win, I know that one moment will be discussed and praised more than any other from the Phils 5-2 win over C.C. Sabathia and that team he has been carrying on his back for the past two weeks. The Brewers, right? Yeah, that’s it, the Brewers.
The moment I am talking about, of course, was the Brett Myers nine-pitch walk in the second inning. The walk that preceded another walk to J-Roll and then the Grand Salami by Sugar Shane Victorino (Editor’s note: He earned a second nickname after the swing he put on Sabathia to hit the grand slam – he’s always flying, but that swing was oh so sweet). The walk that almost literally catapulted the Phillies to what seems to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead on the Brewers (Editor’s note: As everyone reading this instantly knocks on wood and curses The Pundit).
Every angle of this will be covered, and for good reason. Brett Myers was down 0-2 in the count against the guy who was the best pitcher in the National League after getting traded from the Indians. Myers is terrible behind the plate. And yet, he started fouling off pitches he had no business getting his bat on. He took the balls just off the plate. Suddenly, there was something in the air.
Next angle – the crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park sensed it. They sensed a chink in the armour of Super Sabathia, exposed by the least likely of protagonists. And as Myers took pitches and began fouling off others, they became louder and louder. They saw Sabathia grow frustrated and began to wildly implore Myers to keep on fighting, keep on scrapping, to continue to channel Tony Gwynn or whoever it was that in the moment had possessed him. They changed the stakes – they made Sabathia painfully aware of the fact that he was in a dogfight with a terrible hitter, one he had no business being in, and after every pitch, they roared to let Myers know that he could do it, he could crack the ace. Brett Myers, the often maligned head case, had done the impossible – he had gotten into C.C. Sabathia’s dome. And everyone in the stadium knew it, because they had facilitated it. One of the truly great moments in the history of Philadelphia fans, and one far more indicative of the type of fans we have in this city than that of the negative rap we always are given by outsiders who just don’t get us.
Sabathia was in trouble. Four straight balls to Jimmy Rollins, and the fans could suddenly smell blood. And then, Mr. Victorino blew the whole thing wide open. The moment was so surreal, and yet, as I watched it happen, I wasn’t even surprised, at least not as much as I would have expected to be. I don’t know what it was, but I’m fairly sure I stood as he made contact and only was able to say “Oh man, he just did it.” There was just something in the air.
Next angle – Charlie Manuel, the visionary. Manuel decided to flip Victorino and Werth in the order, putting Sugar Shane second and Werth sixth. The result – Victorino finished the game 3-4 with arguably the biggest hit of his career, and Werth went 2-4 with two doubles. Was this another one of Charlie’s famous baseball hunches? I mean, honestly, what are the odds that this moment happens? It’s just unreal.
Another angle, and one covered by Jayson Stark here – baseball is a funny sport. Sometimes, the baseball universe turns everything on its head without feeling the need to let its inhabitants know it just changed the rules. It’s like the old philosophical mind twist about God – if God had created all of the rules and principles that ran the universe, what was stopping Him or Her from suddenly reversing them? Would we even know what had happened? Well, it seems as though the baseball universe did just that tonight. C.C. Sabathia was the savior of the Brewers; surely, he would turn water into Miller Lite one more time and even the series. Surely, he wouldn’t lose his composure against the opposing team’s pitcher, the pitcher who was infamous for his own meltdowns, and fall victim to such painful irony. And yet, there was Sabathia, shaking his head in disgust from the dugout after four paltry and ineffective innings. Baseball is cruel and it is giving, and what makes it such a fantastic sport is how unpredictably and delicately that balance tips from night to night.
Final angle – There is something in the air (Editor’s note: The Pundit has made that abundantly clear, no?) It’s more than the Victorino grand slam, or the Brett Myer’s at-bat. It was in the air the final weekend against the Nationals, and it was in the air during the rather subdued celebration after the NL East had been clinched. This team is focused and confident, and the fans have sensed it. The ballpark is electric, and the players are absorbing the energy. Last year, we were all so damn happy to be in this position; this year, we aren’t satisfied. And I don’t think we will be now unless this team makes it to the World Series. The experience of last year has been priceless for this team. I don’t mean to get ahead of myself; after all, this series isn’t over yet. But unless something drastic happens, the Phillies are going to beat the Brewers. I’ll take my chances against the Cubs or the suddenly torrid Dodgers, especially if we can get the kind of gems we’ve gotten from Cole Hamels and Myers, and if Jamie Moyer continues to sip from the fountain of youth, and if Brad Lidge keeps on being so damn perfect, and if unlikely heroes keep getting timely hits, and if we continue to play solid in the field, and if the fans keep knowing exactly when to cheer, and keep cheering with such unbelievable energy, and if Charlie Manuel keeps playing the part of visionary. I believe. I’m not just saying that in spirit of fake optimism that so many fans employ despite the fact that they actually doubt that their team can win – this team has the look. We’ll wait to fry up the chicken until the eggs have hatched, but I’m feeling good, and the Phils seem to be as well.
Maybe this time, when the baseball universe turns everything upside down, it won’t crush our city in the process. Maybe this time, the baseball universe will throw us a big ol’ hanging slider.
And maybe, just maybe, our Phils will hit that sucker so hard it won’t land until it falls into a throng of people dancing and singing on Broad Street.