With These Phillies, Anything Can Happen
That’s it. I give up.
Trying to figure out this Phillies team is like forecasting the next allegation against suspended FHA chief Carl Greene. Or predicting the next nutty move by the Kardashian family. In other words, it’s impossible.
When the team fled town Thursday afternoon, it did so after absorbing an ignominious four-game sweep by the fetid Astros, who celebrated their good fortune in Philadelphia by losing two of three to the odious Mets over the weekend. We’re talking about a team whose GM has decided the best way to chase the pennant is to accumulate so many jettisoned Phillies that the team now sports the Tastykake logo on its jerseys.
The Phils limped into San Diego with Swiss-cheese bats, cramped brains and a pair of stars whose comebacks from their latest injuries had been as successful as the DRPA’s business practices. So what happens? The Phils sweep the Padres, who boast the NL’s best record. They gain ground on the Braves and separate themselves — slightly — from the Giants in the wild-card race. A team that looked Pirates-awful gathered some momentum and headed to Los Angeles on a high. Fans who had averted their eyes during last Thursday’s sweep-concluding embarrassment had emerged from their hiding places, ready to believe again. [SIGNUP]
Since these are the Phillies, the revival was not accomplished in a traditional manner. In fact, the three-game run of prosperity was downright goofy. Friday’s triumph came in 12 innings and was accomplished in spite of a two-out based-loaded balk in the ninth by closer Brad Lidge and because of a now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t slide by Jimmy Rollins. Afterward, Lidge confided that if he hadn’t balked, he would have fallen on his face. And Rollins was so convinced he would be out at the plate in the 12th that he was probably more surprised than anyone he eluded Yorvit Torrealba’s swing-and-a-miss tag with a hyperspace move straight out of Space Invaders.
The Phils followed up Friday’s Follies by scoring eight runs during the next two games on a total of eight hits. Clutch hitting, San Diego gaffes and a rare alignment of Jupiter and Mars produced the rare feat. You get the impression that this team would like to win a game later this year without registering any hits.
Now, it’s on to Los Angeles, and anything can happen. Really. The Phils might use the momentum from the sweep to pile-drive the Dodgers, who are trying to decide whether to trade Manny Ramirez to the White Sox while their owners are slugging it out in divorce court. They might use their psychological advantage, gained during NLCS wins the past two seasons.
Or, they could blow all three games, torpedoed by continued awful performances at the plate, an avalanche of baserunning gaffes and a shaky bullpen.
Who really knows?
It’s as if this team has so much confidence in itself that pays little attention to what’s going on. The Phillies seem to be convinced the NL East title is their birthright, and as such, they can’t be bothered by fans’ reactions to debacles like the Astros’ sweep or worry that Lidge might reprise his slapstick routine against the Braves. Jayson Werth was picked off second again? No big deal. The top four hitters in the lineup go a collective 1-for-16 Sunday against the Padres? So what.
September is coming, and that’s when the Phillies do their best work. They specialize in comeback jobs, breaking the hearts of those in front of them — usually the Mets — and gathering the steam necessary to tear through the rest of the league’s best during the post-season. Perhaps in two days, the team we recognize will leave behind the surreal events of the past several months and get down to business. Gone will be the unexplainable slumps and illogical performances. The lineup that was supposed to be the National League’s scourge will pound helpless pitchers. The Phillies will end the Braves’ dalliance with NL East supremacy and send creaking Atlanta manager Bobby Cox into retirement with the beat-down he deserves.
For the first time all year, a healthy club will show what it has at just the right moment. The bats will boom. The starting rotation — yes, even Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick — will pitch deep into games. And the bullpen will tie it up into a neat bow.
Yeah, that’s how it’s going to happen. You just know it.
Unless it doesn’t. If the past week has taught us anything, forecasting this Phillies team is impossible. For some, that’s the fun of baseball. For others, like me, it’s a little too much to take.
Bartender, give me a double Maalox, straight up.
And keep ’em coming. There are still 32 games left.
• NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s performance Sunday on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” was deplorable. He talked about how the league’s efforts to “limit injuries” justify two more games of high-speed car-crashes for already-battered players. Stop lying and admit that it’s all about the dough, Rog.
• How ‘bout that Eagle offense Friday night? We now get to wait two weeks to see Kevin Kolb and Co. again. Let’s hope they make the most of the time to develop some timing, learn how to pass protect, catch the football, stop committing dumb procedure penalties…
• There is no better way to start the Labor Day weekend than by attending the Mayor’s Cup game between Temple and Villanova Friday at the Linc. College football is upon us, and all is right with the world.