Thursday, October 09, 2008

PHILLIE Phlower Power

That was Manny's problem in his first-ever NLCS AB (post-ALCS ABs) -- he launched that missile to straightaway CF ... and when the ball hit that panel high above the 409 sign, Man-Ram missed by approx. one foot of drawing all that much closer to the all-time record of the projected 84, maybe 89, career homers that Lou Gehrig would've hit had he appeared in the 60 or 70 LDS and LCS that the kids have nowadays* (* -- and had Lou Gehrig not died of Lou Gehrig's Disease).

So, as it turned out, Manny's frighteningly-booming double off of Cole Hamels only registered as a two-base hit -- and not a ground-rule home run -- because Manny didn't pull the ball enough toward the seats located close to the flower bed atop the wall which extends from the 334-foot sign in LF (the LF foul pole is at the 329 mark) to the 384 sign in LCF.

Pat Burrell, on the other hand, DID find that flower bed -- and he accomplished the task by buggy-whipping Derek Lowe's final pitch of the night into a sea of extended arms (which weren't, at the time, whipping Fightin' Phillies rally towels) and gyrating bodies in Section 143, thus, snapping a 2-2 tie.

That's the lesson from tonight's 3-2, Game One win over the Dodjerks ... that The Cit is an allegedly "hitter-friendly" ballpark -- unless you're a hitter who is being treated in an unfriendly manner by Cole Hamels.

A lot of Americans felt as though Lowe was the big-game pitcher equipped to give L.A. the 1-games-to-none lead in Hamels' house, yet, there's almost always the sticky situation of "margin of error" to deal with.

Or the margin of E-6.

Which is what happened when Furcal gakked his throw on Victorino's tapper to SS.

Let's face it: That was a loud crowd at The Cit tonight, but it was a throng which had grown as quiet as a spring-training gathering -- until Chase Utley followed the Furcal E-6 with that jack into the RF seats unoccupied by arrangements of daffodils or chrysanthemums.

Two batters later, Burrell made as though he was teeing off on one of those Mitty Monarch pitchers who he used to victimize back in '94 and '95.

That's about all there was to this contest tonight, which was nailed down economically by Lidge.

Here's what America needs to decide, however: How much tonight's ballgame resembled Game 1 of the 1980 NLCS.

Other than the fact that 28 years ago, there were 65,000-plus, non-towel-waving diehards at The Vet and, tonight, there were 45,000-something enjoying the flora and fauna of The Cit, it was impossible not to notice how tonight felt like that game from yesteryear when the Astros' Ken Forsch took that 1-0 lead to the bottom of the 6th before The Bull went big-bang and parked one for a 2-1 lead.

Get it? Game-deciding homers by popular left-fielders from different generations who each played the outfield the way that a tractor might ...

Those were Luzinski's final days as a Phillie ...

These might be Burrell's final days as a Phillie ...

YUP ... the fallout from this Bull/Burrell mayhem is that, one day, we might be eating Pat's Pulled Pork sandwich.

Sorry ... those are not the only historical connectors between past n' present.

That Hall of Fame manager in the L.A. dugout -- who didn't seem so Cooperstownish when he was manager some really crappy Mets, Braves and Cards teams -- shoulda dusted off his history book.

That's because the last time that a Phillie outfielder homered in an NLCS playoff game against the Dodjerks, it was SIXTO LEZCANO who was goin' yard as tears of joy trickled down our cheeks.

While it may seem like a reach to refer to that unforgettable Sixto shot, there was one person in uniform tonight who remembers it well -- L.A. pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, the leftover from Grady Little's staff who served up that gopher ball 25 years ago.

Torre woulda been wise (after the Utley homer) to instruct Honeycutt to get the hell out there and settle down Lowe with an important trip down Memory Lane ... and how a kid named "Sixto" spoiled 1983 for a Dodjerk team which had beaten the Phils 11 out of 12 times during the regular season [in the obligatory Honeycutt sidebar: He'd gone 5-17 for Texas in '82, but then he was 14-8 for the Strangers and leading the A.L. with a 2.42 ERA when he was dealt to L.A. for little-known Dave Stewart, who didn't do jack for Texas or the Phils ... after beating the Phillies twice within six days (1 ER in 16 IP) in his first two Dodger starts (some of us remember listening to Honeycutt's Dodger debut while driving north outta L.A. on I-5 a week before an eventful fourth year of college), Honeycutt was awful thereafter in his final seven appearances (0-3, 9.40 ERA.)]

As long as we're connecting the dots, in that Game 1 from 28 years ago, Dallas Green pinch-hit for Lefty w/ two outs in the 7th, Maddox at second and the score still 2-1.

With Forsch still on the mound, Green had several options -- left-handed batters Del Unser (.316 as a PH in '80), Greg Gross (.256 as a PH) and rookie George Vukovich (.244 as a PH), not to mention right-handed rookie bats, Keith Moreland (.412 as a PH) and Lonnie Smith (.356 vs. righties).

Green opted for Gross, which, to most of us, would've seemed like the fourth-best option.

After Maddox swiped third, Gross singled him home for a 3-1 lead which gave Tugger a little more wiggle room.

Tonight, a similar pinch-hitting crisis arose when The Big Yokel (middle name: "Fuqua") -- followed Ruiz's leadoff single in the 7th by allowing So Taguchi to bat for Hamels.

We know what "the book" sez there ... Taguchi gettin' a bunt down vs. Maddux in that situation is a better option than Dobbs/Jenkins/Stairs gettin' all showboatish with one of those flamboyant flyouts.

And, maybe Manuel and Taguchi conversed about the strategy while speaking Japanese instead of reading aloud from the Benihana carry-out menu or bickering as to which of them played for the better Japanese League organization (Yakult Swallows! Orix Blue Wave!), but it just seems like ya <<< KNOCK IT OFF! >>>

No need to split hairs.

For all we know, the Big Yokel was seeking to neutralize L.A.'s #99 with his own #99.

What we'll probably never know is how many Phillies were in the clubhouse at quarter-past-7, watching Versus and fortifying their inner strength by watching the Stanley Cup-champion, banner-raising ceremony at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit (or if Taguchi asked Manuel in Japanese when the NHL will return to the policy of white sweaters for the home teams and dark sweaters on the road).

For those of us who can't decide whether we're next going to add a #51 FILPPULA Red Wings jersey (white, naturally) or a #51 RUIZ Phillies shirt (reminders for America: football/hockey players wear "a jersey"; baseball players wear "a uniform" ... and, McCarver, the catcher wears "a mitt"), we will always remain peeved/pissed when FOX allows Jeannie Zelasko to preside over the pre-game, in-studio slugfest between Mark Grace's almost-goat-tee and Kevin Kennedy's over-groomed Fu Manchu instead of gettin' us out to the field so that we may see the ceremonial first pitch performed by Gary Matthews and Garry Maddox.

Is FOX racist for pre-empting black guys being ceremonial just so America can obtain more white-boy facial growth?

We're not accusing ... just asking ...

Anyway, we've covered a lot of ground tonight and crunched a lot of numbers, but sometimes it's merely a mtter of exploring emotions.

In the past, there were many times when a Dodjerks loss felt better than a Phillies' victory (in the Schadenfreude context of matters).

But, now that we've reconciled our ambivalence and ambiguity, this much is certain: A Dodjerks loss tastes great when it's the direct result of a Phillie victory.

A powerful feeling indeed.

Suck on that, Lasorda ...


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