Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'64 No More

Last night's win for the Phillies was huge.

First, combined with Atlanta's loss to the Marlins, it lowered the Phils' magic number to 1 and soothed the nerves of millions of fans who were starting to experience the recurrence of PTSDD (Post-Traumatic Stretch Drive Disorder) with flashbacks to the infamous 1964 collapse of our local nine.

Second, the offense returned. Most of the runs came on grand slam by Feliz and the two-run homer by Werth, but seeing the bats come alive again is always good, and there's nothing wrong with home runs.

Third, the Phillies punished an inferior team and a weak pitcher. The loss to Yorman Bazardo on Monday was so galling because Bazardo (and many of the pitchers they'll be facing this week) are just getting a chance to show top management what they've learned this year. Almost none of them will be on a major league roster next year, but for teams just playing out the string, it's a chance to see how the youngsters face the pressure of a major league outing and get a measure of how much farther they have to improve. When facing these pitchers, a line-up like the Phillies should destroy them and make top brass reconsider their call-up, not turn them into the second coming of Greg Maddux.

Fourth, the Phillies didn't look bored. The past few days, this team just seemed to need a long nap, and unfortunately, they decided to take it while still wearing their uniforms and standing on the ball diamond. Last night marked the return of a ball club with some giddyap in their step.

Fifth, and most importantly, following his impressive 4-out save on Sunday, Ryan Madson came in to shut the door with a 6-out save against the Astros last night. More than anything, the Phillies have needed someone out of their bullpen to step up and simply become the guy. The guy who refused to let another game be blown. The guy who didn't care that it was September. The guy who said, Trust me... and had the rest of the team believe him.

With a fastball that is now regularly traveling in the 98 mph range and a change-up that ranks among the best in baseball, Madson has the stuff to be the guy. He's had it for more than a year. But every time he's taken a step toward becoming that guy, he's followed it up with two steps back. Perhaps these two outings will convince the team...and convince Madson himself that now, he is the guy.

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