In Philly, when the inexplicable occurs, it’s inexplicably bad.
In Philly, when your manager and first baseman try to give away the game, they give away the game.
In Philly, a 40-year-old has-been (or never was) can’t catch up to a professional fast ball and a 5-foot nothin’, 100-and-nothin’ guy from the Pacific is only useful when pointing out “De Plane” to Ricardo Montalban.
So when Charlie Manule pinch hit Pedro Feliz (his defensive replacement) for Greg Dobbs (his offensive juggernaut) and Ryan Howard tossed a Rafael Furcal sacrifice bunt onto the 110, you’ll have to forgive me for thinking the game was lost.
After all, the Phils didn’t really deserve this one…and they never win games they don’t deserve. The Phillies were in one of those flat funks from the second to eighth innings, and L.A. took advantage, building up a 5-3 lead.
Then something amazing happened. The Phils caught a break.
They’ll be a lot of talk about the two two-run homers in the top of the eighth. But the play of the game came an inning and a half before. The Dodgers had just taken a two-run lead and were threatening to break the game open.
With the bases loaded, Matt Kemp hit a shot off Ryan Madson. Chase Utley took two steps to his right, made a diving catch, and then dove again for second base to double off Furcal. If that ball gets through, this is a 2-2 series.
But it didn’t get through. Chase made the play to keep the game within reach.
Joe Torre pulled a Charlie Manuel. He lifted Hong-Chih Kuo because he didn’t look good in warmups. (I swear. That was his post-game reasoning. You think I could make that up?) Sure, Kuo was dominant when it mattered—sawing off Rollins and striking out Werth and Utley back-to-back. But apparently Joe didn’t like the way Howard squibbed a ball up the middle, so he pulled him for Corey Haim…I mean Cory Wade.
Thank you, Joe.
After a Feliz flyout (glad you pulled Dobbs, Charlie) Victorino laced Wade with a line-drive dinger and Matty “Professional Hitter” Stairs followed three batters later with a Mannyesque blast off closer Jonathan Broxton.
Suddenly, the Phils had turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead.
The Dodgers had six more outs left, but the game (and likely the series) was over. You don’t recover from an eighth-inning Matt Stairs game-losing haymaker.
When Stairs—the fourth or fifth bat off the Phils bench—is making contributions, it’s hard to bounce back.
Phillies fans, few and far between at the Ravine, were in absolute shock. Monday night was unfathomable.
None of it—not the huge double plays, not the dominance of Ryan Madson, not the fact that the Phils are doing all of this without any significant contribution from Rollins or Howard—made sense.
What makes less sense: Victorino’s blast gave him 11 RBIs in the playoffs—a new Phillies record—BREAKING LENNY DYKSTRA’S OLD MARK.
Step aside, Nails. The most clutch postseason player in Philly history (sorry Mr. Rose) is now the Flyin’ Hawaiian.
Slide over, Inky. The guy willing to do a midgame cycle just to launch a ball in the opposing bleachers is now the Circadian Canadian (What’s the nickname mean? Nothing…but it rhymes.)
Step to the left, Fregosi. The manager you can count on to get outcoached in a big spot is now the Cowpoke from Norfolk.
Is this team perfect? Of course not. Can it be maddeningly frustrating to watch? You betcha. Do they even know what small ball means? Not a chance.
But the Phillies are now five games away from breaking Ivan DeJesus’ grasp on this city and it’s time to embrace the madness. We haven’t been this close to a Broad Street parade since Donovan McNabb threw up on T.O.’s shoes.
A city can only lose for so long. Bad breaks can’t last forever. Eventually, the City of Brotherly Love will get another ring.
So why not here? Why not now? If a 40-year-old Canadian who wasn’t even on the roster for the first five months of the year can be the Game 4 hero of the NLCS, anything is possible. Right?
It’s starting to feel like destiny…
(Oh God…I can’t believe they have me “believing” again…this can’t end well. I hate myself.)
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/leerussakoff.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.