Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Is Getting Silly

Today in Los Angeles, the Phillies finished up a 10-game road trip, the last two stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles. These trips never go well; those teams are usually good, enjoy a considerable home field advantage, and cross-country extended travel just has a way of taking all of the life out of a man. I know when I do it, I'm kind of a zombie for 1-2 days, and the most physically strenuous thing I do for a living is carry a laptop through airport security. The Phillies, of course, have to go compete against other baseball players, in front of hostile fans (although less of them every day, it seems -- this team is starting to get the same Road Fan Phenomenon that the Yankees and Red Sox have enjoyed forever), with body clocks that aren't adjusting and hotel beds that are never as good as the ones at home. Small wonder then, that in the mostly sordid 129 year history of the franchise, they had never had a 10-game road trip go as well as 9-1.

With fifth starter Vance Worley on the mound and looking like the magic had finally dribbled out of the tube, they fell behind by six runs to plucky Dodgpos, who are not nearly as bad as you might imagine a flea market team to be. (Hell, if baseball were just a game where you used your top 6 players, the Dodpos might make the playoffs, and if MVPs came from also-ran flophouses, Matt Kemp would be a favorite. But they don't and won't, so, alas. Doesn't stop Kemp's fantasy owners from loving him long time. Moving on.)

Anyway, down six, getaway day, 8-2 trip in the books, 8-game lead in the division, day game after night. Hit the snooze button, pull the regulars, get a jump on the traffic and rest on your laurels. No one would blame you.

Except, of course, their own damn selves.

So Worley singles up the middle to drive in some of the runs he gave up. Ryan Howard, in the midst of one of those summer hot streaks that seems to possess the man annually, goes opposite field for a two-run bomb. Hunter Pence, who plays the game with more joy than a border collie on meth now that he's been freed from the Houston Gulag and dropped square in the middle of the NL's dominant team, goes yard himself. Chase Utley, looking for all of the world like the spring's serious health scare never happened, knocks in another. The bullpen gives up nothing for four innings (honestly, have you ever heard of a team where four different guys have closed, almost all of them perfectly), and that's just your biggest comeback win of the year. Another day at the office, really.

They are now an absurd 37 games above .500 - a mark they have not reached since, gulp, 1977. Since the end of June, they are putting over 5.3 runs a game across, which makes them the best offense in the National League. That surge has coincided with the team getting healthy (well, OK, everyone but Placido Polanco, but so be it), the bench guys coming through in a big way, and...

Well, it's time, I think, to start noticing this. Jinxes be damned; this is a behemoth, a crusher of worlds, a team that won't let the opposition even be spared the ignominy of a sweep at home. They are not to be reasoned with, or spoken to. They might not even be human.

And their winning number, as I write this... is 37.

Kind of absurd, don't you think?

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