In a nail-biter, the Phils staved off getting swept in the opening series for at least the third season in a row (I am not up to checking if they did it in 2005). Certainly, they didn’t make it easy. A quick recap:
Old Man Moyer takes the mound for the Phils, and promptly got shellacked to the discordant tune of 5 first inning runs at the hands of just about everyone on the Nationals. It’s always a treat when the hometown fans get to see the opposing pitcher batting before they see him pitching. According to Tom McCarthy, one of the horses on the Phillies’ carousel of game callers, after the inning, Mr Thursday favorite Pat Burrell could be heard encouraging his teammates: “No worries, plenty of time left. Plenty of time.” Of course, by the time he finished those words, the Phillies had already gone down in order, and Pat hat to grab his glove and head back to the field.
The second inning, though without additionally scoring from the Nationals, was terrifying enough as Moyer reloaded the bases, and reached down into wherever Crafty Wizened Veterans reach when they need a lot of damn luck. He escaped the jam. The Phils did nothing in the 2nd, and the Nationals did likewise in the top of the third.
In the bottom of the inning, Chris Coste lifted the spirits of Philadelphians everywhere, ever so slightly, as he slapped the first pitch he saw in the 2008 season over the left field wall. The Legend of Chris Coste continued, but everyone thereafter found their way to some quiet outs.
In the forth, Moyer found himself in trouble yet again, and this time Charlie Manuel gave him the hook, bringing in one of the Flying Durbins (JD? Chad? Does it matter that I don’t know which one?), who miraculously kept things from getting any worse. Two innings go by quietly, with the only thing changing were the chances that the Phils would make a comeback.
And then came the sixth inning, when the the Phillies and their mighty power hitters strung together half a dozen sissy singles to kill the Nationals lead, leaving themselves on top, 7-6. In the 8th, the Nationals tied things up on their own string of soft hits. The Phils threatened again in the bottom frame, eventually leading Luis Ayala to intentionally walk both Utley and Howard–loading the bases–to get to Jayson Werth, who, disappointingly, couldn’t capitalize on the bizarre strategy of giving free passes to two guys in a row to bring up a hitter who is still pretty good.
The game went to extra innings, which, of course, brought about one of the more bizarre and fabulous game endings in recent memory. Jimmy Rollins, who is, apparently, irresistable with the game on the line, grounded to second base, but screamed up the line and managed to reach when Ronnie Belliard’s throw pulled Nick Johnson from the first base bag. Next up, Shane Victorino dropped a bunt right in front of the plate. Third basemen Ryan Zimmerman, who already has 2 game winning home runs this young season, fielded the ball and made a strong and clean throw to first to out the Flyin’ Hawaiian. Rollins, meanwhile, didn’t even pause at second base, and advanced from first to third on a bunt. Recalling Harry Kalas’ wild declaration when Chase Utley scored from second on a bunt, let me say: “Jimmy Rollins, you are the man”. With two bases left open, the Phils two best hitters, Utley and Howard were intentionally walked. Both of them. For the second time. This time, the strategy made more sense, as any run ends the game, and it’s easier to have a force at home than a tag play. However, Jesus Colombe couldn’t recover from throwing ball after ball, and couldn’t find the strike zone at all with Jayson Werth. Werth made up for failing to capitalize on a bases loaded situation earlier, and he didn’t even have to take the bat off his shoulder to do it. Four pitches, all balls, and Werth jogged to first while Rollins jogged on home to claim victory.
Really, if you’re going to wait 3 games to get your first win of the season, you can’t do it much better than that. Lots, and lots of fun, even as we ignore the possibility that Jamie Moyer may be thoroughly washed up.
Coming very soon: Mr Thursday makes his first foray into Major League Baseball’s Pitch F/x data. We’ll talk about Cole Hamels’ first start, with some interesting charts and half baked observations. For tonight, we enjoy pizza, and winning.