Phour Wins Away

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Wow. Folks, for the second time in my life my favorite baseball team is officially the best team in the National League (I do not include 1983 since I was just about two years old). The Phillies punched their ticket to the World Series. I have been in love this team for a while now and today I could not be happier. But there is still business to take care of and that means focusing on the World Series, whether it be against the Tampa Bay Rays or the Boston Red Sox, who are entering their game five tonight in the ALCS with the Rays up 3-1.

Today is a deserved day of celebration though.

Cole Hamels, despite my concerns earlier, was terrific in his third start of the 2008 post season. Hamels went seven full innings and only allowed a solo home run by Manny Ramirez to put a number besides 0 on the scoreboard for the Dodgers. Hamels issued only three walks and struck out five before handing the game off to Ryan Madson in the eighth inning. Hamels was given some early run support when Jimmy Rollins hit a lead off home run off of Chad Billingsley.

The Phillies did enough on their own offensively to win but Rafael Furcal's three errors in the fifth inning helped the Phillies score two runs and open up a 5-0 lead. I could not help but feel bad for Furcal, but of course I was elated. Three errors in the fifth inning by one player? Two of those errors were on the same play. Furcal failed to play a ground ball and wound up kicking it towards the stands on the third base side. With Utley running home after the kicked ball Furcal tracked down the ball and attempted to throw Utley out at home, but the throw was errant, scoring Utley. Ryan Howard advanced to third base on the first error and was held there because of a lucky bounce of the errant throw off of the backstop. Howard would score when Carlos Ruiz hit a ball to Furcal and Furcal made another poor throw to first, sending the ball bouncing away from James Loney. Pat Burrell could have scored on an erratic throw home but remained at third base.

With a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning was there ever a doubt that the Phillies and Hamels would win that game?

While the offense actually provided run support for Hamels the pitching of the Phillies in decisive game was outstanding. For starters where did the fastball from Madson come from? Was Madson hiding that ability all year or was Madson so fired up he couldn't help but throw that major heat. Of course Brad Lidge came in to close the game out. In a non save situation Lidge was the man you wanted to see out there anyway. He was brought here to solidify the ninth innings of games and that is exactly what he did. After a lead off hit by Loney, Lidge got the next three batters to fly out, culminating with Nomar Garciaparra popping up in foul territory. Ruiz caught the ball for the clinching out and the Phillies are on their way to the World Series.

Hamels was named NLCS MVP and it would be hard to argue that. With two ace-like starts in the NLCS it was clear that Hamels was the best player in the series. Sure, Shane Victorino may have been the guy behind many key moments in the series, but it was the cool and steady Hamels that set the pace for the Phillies. In game one he dug a 2-0 hole to the Dodgers at home but never panicked and knew his team would rally behind him. He stayed in long enough to earn the victory after Utley and Burrell connected for home runs in the sixth inning. In three playoff starts Hamels has given up three runs and six walks while striking out 22 batters in 22 innings of work.

Congratulations to the Dodgers for a hard fought series. This was a tough one but the Phillies had some breaks go their way when it really counted and, let's face it, the Phillies were just the better team. I am a big fan of Joe Torre and appreciate the way he treats the game. Torre made a trip in to the Phillies clubhouse after the game last night and spoke briefly with Charlie Manuel and offered his congratulations and some words of advice. Manuel's response? He was thankful and told Torre that he was Manuel's idol.

Now it is a much deserved and needed week off. Manuel will move on to his mother's funeral. Victorino's family is actually holding off on any memorial services for Shane's grandmother until the post season is over. Hopefully the Phillies can send Victorino off with a championship.

Much more on this and the World Series as we move forward. For now we watch the ALCS and scout the opposition. Will the Rays finish off the Red Sox tonight? Or will the Red Sox make a run to extend the series. I like the Red Sox tonight but like the Rays to win this series.

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