Saturday, October 1, 2011

One Swing

In the sixth inning of tonight's NLDS Game One, the hometown Phils were down 3-1 to the visiting Cardinals. A 3-run home run by Matt Holliday in the first inning staked the Cardinals to an early lead against Roy Halladay, and Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse sailed through the early innings with little trouble. After a double by Chase Utley and a single by the lucky Shane Victorino (extra life from an error by the iron gloved David Freese on a pop up) got them off the deck, two men got on for Ryan Howard.

Lohse was able to gets strikes with the change up, missed with the fastball, and the count went deep. The TBS telecast went into the double play data, and had that happened, you had to think that the next best chance for the home team would have been late, against the suspect Cardinals bullpen. No matter how you tell that story, the chance for the home team winning aren't good.

Which is when Lohse missed, and Howard absolutely crushed it, dropping the bat with confidence as the ball started its very rapid journey to the second deck in center field, for a 4-3 lead. A few minutes later, Raul Ibanez woke up the echoes of his fine career with a laser to right that made it 6-3, and with Halladay on cruise control, Game One more or less ended then and there. The bats stayed alive and turned the game into a laugher, and maybe that's always going to happen with the Cardinals' bullpen, but still. The shot that breaks the wall is more important than the pile-on afterward, and it says something about my confidence that I'm filing this in the eighth inning, with zero concern that pre-filing will come back to bite me on the ass.

If the Phillies go on to do what they were favored to do -- and with Chris Carpenter on three days rest in Game 2 against a rested Cliff Lee, it's more than even-money that the favorites will have the maximum number of chances to end it -- you can put it all on Howard, and I can't say I'm not happy for the man. It's not his fault that the team signed him to a big contract, or that he is what he is... a borderline platoon player who can be handled by plus pitchers, who generally doesn't deliver full value unless RBIs are your sole method of judging a man.

He is what he is, and tonight, he might have won a playoff series with one swing. Do that in a World Series while limping, and the highlight is shown forever; in an NLDS, it gets forgotten. But not this week.

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