Playoff baseball is exhausting, isn’t it?
But it sure is fun … especially when your team has a flair for the dramatic.
This is what legends are made of. This is why we watch. This is why we cheer. This is why we idolize.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The bullpen was supposed to be the Dodgers’ strength. Sherrill, Broxton, Kuo, Troncoso, Belisario. They were supposed to be unhittable.
But that thinking was disproved in Game 1, when Raauuuuuuuuuul became the first lefty to put Sherrill in his book in 2009. And it was thrown out the window last night when Jimmy “caught” a Jonathan Broxton fastball on the barrel, ripping it into right-center … the one spot on the field from which Senor Octubre – who followed a Matt “In Case of Emergency Walk” Stairs walk by getting hit by a pitch – could score from first.
(Author’s Note: Yes, I called Carlos Ruiz “Senor Octubre.” I liked Mr. Choctober, but the People have spoken, and Senor Octubre has won out. I admit when I’m a beaten man – in fact, it happens so often, I’m quite good at it.)
It was an improbable, remarkable, exasperating win. Don’t believe me? Listen to Scott Franzke’s call. You tell me when he came up for air … and every fan in Philadelphia is waking up exhausted right now … because we all made that first-to-home dash with Chooch. We were running right beside him.
And then we were with the Big Piece, chasing down J-Roll. And then we were underneath Jayson Werth, in the pile-on in front of third base.
This win – the most miraculous big-game win in Phillies history (Sorry, Stairsy. But you were a part of this one too) – belongs to all of us.
We’re all a part of this. The 25 men in red pinstripes may be doing the work on the field. But the rest of us, the rest of this soon-to-be baseball town, we’re the ones carrying the stress, the emotion and the pitch-to-pitch roller coaster ride on our hearts.
And now, after we’ve all rolled into work (most of us more than a few minutes late), the adrenaline that comes with the thrill is wearing off. We’re left sitting at our desks, completely spent, enjoying the lasting pangs of euphoria.
Rest tonight, Phils fans.
The celebration will begin again tomorrow.
The Phillies won’t tell you that. They’ll tell you they still have 27 more outs before they finish off the Dodgers.
But they’re lying. This series is over. You know it. I know it. The Dodgers know it. And the Phillies know it (evidenced by their team “Julio” toast immediately following the game).
Sure, we Philadelphians won’t admit that to ourselves out loud. We’re too aware of how fickle the Baseball Gods can be.
But L.A. can’t come back from that. Take a look at Jonathan Broxton, at Randy Wolf, at Joe Torre. This is a team that was one out away from taking over the driver’s seat in the series. And now they’re 27 outs from playing golf.
They know it. It’s written all over their faces.
And that’s no disrespect to the Dodgers. There aren’t many teams that could take a gut shot like that and battle back.
Though, I’ll tell you one team that could do it: Your Philadelphia Phillies.
Have you ever seen a team believe they were going to win –no matter the situation – like this version of the Phightins?
Last night, this lineup was completely stifled after the Howard first-inning homer. The crowd was on edge. Philly fans could feel the ’09 season slipping away. If the Phils lost Game 4, the World Series would have suddenly slipped from a near certainty to less than a 50/50 possibility.
Think about it. The series tied 2-2, with two of the remaining three games in L.A.? Going from an 11-0 win to that would have been a nightmare scenario.
And it almost came to pass (in fact, in its own Dewey Beats Truman moment, MLB.com thought it did).
The impatient, over-aggressive bats many feared would show up against Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3 made their appearance a day later versus Randy Wolf. The only chance Wolf had against this lineup was somehow coaxing Philly batters into trying to pound every ball onto Darien Street.
For eight innings, that’s exactly what Philadelphia decided to do. Wolf had the Phillies off-balance, weakly popping up pitch after pitch.
The eighth felt like the Phillies’ chance. Ryan Howard, baseball’s all-time leader in consecutive playoff games with an RBI, had two on with one out. But George Sherrill shockingly struck out the NLCS MVP with high heat. When Werth followed by flying out to right, many of the Citizens Bank Phaithful thought the game was over.
That was our shot.
But not the men in red.
“We knew we still had a shot in the ninth,” Howard said when I asked him how he felt coming up short in the bottom of the eighth. “With the way our lineup is, anybody at any given moment can get a big hit. Just because they got me out and they got Werthy out, we still had Raul, Pedro and Carlos coming up. Three guys that can definitely get the job done. We knew that if we could get something on, things could happen.”
And when Stairs and Ruiz got on, Jimmy Rollins – who was 8-for-37 in the playoffs, but 3-for-5 in the ninth inning – made sure not to make a liar out of the Big Piece.
Rollins, in the biggest moment of his career, came through with the second walk-off playoff win in Phillies history.
“He likes that,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He likes the moment. He wants to be there, and he can control his adrenaline and he can handle the moment. Those are things that are very important when you get in the postseason and also in any big game.
“Jimmy Rollins, he thrives, the bigger the stage, the better he likes to play. The more people watching him, he likes the mike, he likes to talk, that’s the way he is. … When he goes up to the plate, he goes up there to hit. And believe me, this guy, he’s always wanting to be up there at a big moment in the game.”
J-Roll got his way. He got his shot. He made the most of his opportunity.
And we Phillies fans were right beside him … sharing in the ecstasy of the moment … finally basking in the incandescent glory of being winners.
Email me at email@example.com; 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.